Nov 13

Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson and Buck Showalter

The Manager of the Year award will be announced this afternoon by the Baseball Writers Association of America. You don’t usually see managers of perennially good teams win the award because they are expected to win. The writers prefer rags-to-riches stories, but sometimes it is harder to win with a bullseye on your back.

I agree with the consensus, which has Washington’s Davey Johnson and Baltimore’s Buck Showalter the heavy favorites.

JOHNSON: As we remember him.

No Mets manager has won the award, which was instituted in 1983, for those wondering about Gil Hodges. San Francisco’s Dusty Baker – who is a candidate – beat out Bobby Valentine in 2000. As far as Johnson in 1986, he probably wasn’t considered after his declaration the Mets “would dominate,’’ that year.

He made no such statement this spring.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: Baker and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy are also under consideration, but both their teams were recently in the playoffs, with the Giants winning the World Series in 2010.

As for the Nationals, they have been traditionally bad since moving to Washington from Montreal.

The expectations for the Nationals heightened this year with the influx of free-agent Gio Gonzalez, return of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and rookie Bryce Harper. The Nationals were considered in some circles to compete for a wild-card, but won 98 games.

Johnson had more to deal with this season than many realized. He’s been more comfortable with veteran teams, but was patient with the young Nationals. And, despite what he thought privately, he handled shutting down Strasburg, which was a controversial decision in the sport.

The Nationals were ousted in five games by St. Louis – Mike Matheny, who replaced Tony La Russa and didn’t have Albert Pujols, should also be considered – but that experience should be something to build on, much like the disappointment of his Mets losing in 1985 to the Cardinals.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Showalter, who won the award in the 1994 strike season, and Joe Torre in 1996 and 1998 won the award for the Yankees.

American League finalists include Oakland’s Bob Melvin and newcomer Robin Ventura of the White Sox, both with Mets’ ties. Melvin worked in the Mets’ minor league system and interviewed for the job won by Terry Collins, and Ventura played for the team, 1999-2001.

The Orioles hadn’t had a winning season since 1997, coincidentally, the last year Johnson managed the team.

Behind the Yankees, Boston and Tampa Bay, the Orioles were given no chance to win and .500 was the goal. Instead, they won 93 games and took the Yankees to five games in the ALDS.

The Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games and went 16-2 in extra innings, including their last 16. In addition, Baltimore had just a plus-seven runs differential.

Did Showalter do it with mirrors? It seems that way as the Orioles made 178 roster moves involving 52 players; had only one starter make as many as 20; and didn’t have a .300 hitter.

They also prevailed down the stretch without their best hitter, Nick Markakis.

As much as Ventura and Melvin did, Showalter is the clear choice.

 

Aug 09

Mets Embarrassed At Home; Should Invite Everybody Back

 Do you remember Terry Collins’ passionate speech about showing a different team and not being embarrassed? Seems so long ago. Maybe he needs to que up the Knute Rockne music for an encore.
The Mets came out of the break five games over .500 and after last night’s 13-0 rout are five games under. They’ve lost nine straight at home, with only 26,000 bothering to show up to witness last night. Chris Young, coming off a strong outing against San Francisco – where the Mets may have left both their hearts and game – gave up seven runs in just 4.1 innings.
“When you get beat like this tonight, it’s one of those games, you just check it off the calendar and get ready for tomorrow,” said Collins, speaking in a classic managerial cliche.
Hell, last night unfolded as if the Mets checked it off after batting practice. Maybe saying that is piling on, I don’t know. What I do know is the team is about to face the Braves, Reds and Nationals.
The Mets talked about showing up, but that’s not enough. All the goodwill from the first half has been eroded as they are 2.5 games out of the cellar. Want to bet Miami and the Phillies will eventually catch them?
During the dog days at Shea when the team was playing poorly the paltry crowds were embarrassing to see in that cavernous ball park. Citi Field is getting that ghost town look, too. As a gesture of thanks to their disappointed fan base, the Mets ought to invite those people who watched last night’s carnage to show their ticket stub and come back again.
There’s plenty of room in Citi Field and it demonstrates goodwill. Actually, there’s no good reason not to do it.
Aug 06

Analyzing Mets’ Road Trip

After winning three of four in San Francisco, dropping a series at San Diego is a let down. But, the flip side is you have to be a little high to get down.

Considering they lost 11 of 12 on their previous homestand, I’ll take the 6-5 and be happy. Who among us was brimming with optimism when they took off for the West?

Obviously, the most important development on the trip was Matt Harvey, regardless of yesterday’s game. The Mets now have an arm they can be hopeful of giving them six. They can build from there.

Ruben Tejada and Ronny Cedeno are playing well, making up in part for David Wright’s slump. Yes, Jason Bay is still on the team, but Ike Davis flashed a glimpse of why we should be excited about him and Bobby Parnell threw an inning in San Francisco that was cause for some optimism. That might be a stretch, but look at the whole bullpen picture.

Sometimes you can get in trouble when you big-picture things, but in that vein, the Mets are giving us reason to hang around and watch. I didn’t say “get excited,” but keep us interested in their development.

Many of us got too excited from the first half and those two weeks in July were deflating. However, considering their inactivity in the offseason and dismal spring training, if you were told the Mets would be knocking on .500’s door a week into August, wouldn’t most of you have taken it?

I mean, given Johan Santana’s uncertainty, not to mention stint on the DL, and losing Mike Pelfrey for the season, I’d venture most would have jumped at it.

We all knew going in this was a building season and we’ve seen some good things. This trip helped remind us of them. I would be interested to see what September brings, and I really never thought I’d write that line in March.

 

Aug 04

Mets Shouldn’t Mess With R.A. Dickey

The Mets lost Friday night in a game they might have won had they had any offense – or anything left over from their last game in San Francisco. Unfortunately, we all know it doesn’t work that way.

DICKEY: Don't mess with him. (AP)

R.A. Dickey pitched well enough to win most games, and that’s the real point. Dickey has pitched well on traditional rest. Going to three days might be a huge mistake. Reportedly, the Mets aren’t sold on it and let’s hope it they don’t buy.

The only answer is more major league arms, of which the Mets don’t have. I’m not saying Derek Lowe is the answer, or any recently released starter. But, the closest thing the Mets have to an option if they are to remain competitive for the rest of the season is to keep Dickey on normal rest.

Yes, he’s a knuckleballer, but not in the conventional sense. Also, it isn’t just taxing the arm, but the entire body. Dickey has developed into one of the game’s most reliable pitchers, and part of his success in his routine.

Don’t mess with it.

Aug 03

Is .500 For Mets Really A Pipe Dream?

Rudy responded the other day and suggested .500 was a pipe dream. Well, is it?

There have been times this season when I thought so. During spring training and after their last horrid home stand. Not a week ago I ripped Terry Collins for saying things would turn around. I saw no indication of it at the time, but this is a good trip.

 

I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon – cable car – just because the Mets had a fun time in San Francisco. Afterall, they’ve had good stretches before. But, all you have to do is go back to last year and St. Louis and Tampa to see teams get hot late.

I wouldn’t suggest playoffs, but .500 is not out of the question. There are several things outside of making the playoffs that would define this as a successful season, and .500 is one of them.

The Mets are 8.5 games behind in the wild card stretch, but after dismantling the Giants they are only two games under .500. You take these things in small steps and two games isn’t much to make up considering all the games remaining.

Five-hundred? It isn’t the ultimate goal of this team, but it is possible and represents significant progress.

Yes, there are holes in their game, notably the pen. But, Bobby Parnell had a strong outing in the SF series and the pen hasn’t done badly on this trip. Let’s see if they can maintain.  It’s not a pennant race, but it is a small step and that’s what rebuilding teams are about.