Feb 01

Report: Mets Considering Valverde As Closer

Maybe Sandy Alderson believes the Mets might be ready to compete this year.

That was my first impression – perhaps wishful thinking – after reading an ESPN report they are considering signing former Detroit closer Jose Valverde to replace Frank Francisco. No problems there. Actually, I have no problem with anybody replacing Francisco, who was a bad signing.

Valverde saved 35 games last year for the Tigers before unraveling and was replaced in the postseason by a committee pen. Valverde’s agent is Scott Boras, but the Mets say they need this on their terms, with a reported $4 million base plus incentives. Valverde earned $9 million last year, but with how he finished nobody will bite on that figure.

With spring training less than two weeks away – my, where did the winter go? – Valverde falls under the category of beggars can’t be choosers. If he’s signed and does well, he can try the market again. There are always a multitude of relievers every winter.

Reportedly, the Mets thought of asking Roy Oswalt to convert to closer like John Smoltz, but he was cool to the idea. He might have second thoughts if he doesn’t get any offers. Actually, if the Mets are in a spending mode, why not invite Oswalt and give him a minor league contract to start? They signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal as the fifth starter, but does anybody believe the Mets will make it through the season with only five starters? Not happening.

As Alderson attempts to build a bullpen at the last minute, he should not consider bringing back Francisco Rodriguez, who punched his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field, hurt himself and was traded to Milwaukee. The Mets don’t need that headache.

Evidently, this does not bode well for Bobby Parnell’s future with the Mets. He’s had several chances but spit the bit. It was thought he could get another chance if Francisco – who was injured at the end of last season – faltered again.

Parnell pitched well in place of Francisco, but there was admittedly no pressure on him. If Alderson thought the Mets could not be competitive this year, it would have been the perfect opportunity to force-feed the role to Parnell. If I’m Parnell, I’d be wanting to leave town.

By adding Valverde, Alderson believes the Mets could make something of the summer, but even with an improved bullpen there remains an enormous hole in the outfield, a thin bench and several questions in the rotation.

Oct 28

On Cheering For The Giants Or Tigers And If Lincecum Gives The Mets Any Ideas About Mike Pelfrey

When covering an event, I pull for good storylines and fast games. I don’t cheer for the teams I have covered. Never have; never will. Instead, I want good things to happen to good people. When you are around a group for nearly nine months, you get a feel for how hard these guys work and how much they care.

Even so, there are those who feel differently. When covering the Orioles, a nationally known columnist stood up in the pressbox and railed at third base coach Cal Ripken Sr., when a Baltimore runner was thrown out at the plate.

PELFREY: Could new role change his career? (AP)

I can’t tell you how many times when covering the Yankees or Mets when I saw radio reporters and those from the smaller papers wearing team colors or caps.

But, that’s just me. What about you guys with October again without the Mets? I know most relished the Yankees getting swept. Lot’s of people root for the underdogs, hence there was a following for the Orioles and Athletics.

What about this World Series?

I’d like to see the Giants because I respect how they play the game. They hustle, play good defense and pitch. Boy, do they ever pitch. The Giants are proof positive a team can succeed without power if they play the game the right way. Conversely, the Tigers also pitch, but they have mashers in the middle of their line-up, and we all know power is the great eraser. In that respect, the Tigers are much like the Yankees.

Only this time great pitching shut down their offense.

I’ve always been a great fan of pitching and defense. It makes for tighter, more intense games. To me, 2-0 is far more compelling than 9-6. It just is. Every once in awhile and 11-10 game can be interesting, but it isn’t a clean game.

Continue reading

Oct 14

Can Yankees Recover Without Jeter?

Regardless of your stance on the Yankees, there had to be a twinge of sadness seeing Derek Jeter helped off the field with a fractured ankle. Say what you will about Jeter, but the man always plays hard and carries himself with dignity on the field.

He’s milquetoast in an interview, but always Tabasco between the lines. To do what he did this season at his age, at the plate and on defense, was remarkable. You have to admire the way he plays the game. He never gives an inch.

Andy Pettitte was right in that you knew something was wrong the way Jeter tried to flip the ball to Robinson Cano despite his obvious pain and stayed on the ground. Funny, the first thing I thought of when I saw it was how Santanio Holmes threw the ball in the air when he was injured. The difference is in football the opposing team can recover and take it in for a touchdown.

Here, Jeter had the presence of mind to try to continue the play while Holmes, well, he is what he is. Jeter will go into the Hall of Fame when he’s done; Holmes will disappear and won’t be missed.

Can the Yankees win without him? Sure they can, but it will be extremely difficult. While others around him falter, Jeter keeps on going, hit after hit, play after play.

The Yankees looked dead in the water last night until Raul Ibanez’s game-tying homer in the ninth. While he’s been a stunning playoff story, trying to win without Jeter makes the odds more difficult.

The Yankees can still win because their starting pitching has been superb and the bullpen has been solid, enough to compensate for the lack of offense. The Yankees aren’t getting anything from Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher. Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson have also underperformed, and for that matter, so has Cano.

All that marquee talent and they can’t score. It’s like how the Mets’ offense was in the second half, only this time the whole country is watching instead of a handful at Citi Field.

I don’t like their chances because of how they’ve been hitting, Jeter’s injury and that the Tigers are pretty good and can smell it after last night. Many teams can be devastated after blowing a four-run lead in the ninth, but the Tigers regrouped.

One thing working in the Yankees’ favor is Detroit’s porous bullen. The Yankees, when clicking, can win a slugfest.

However, I don’t see it any more for them.

 

 

Sep 17

Mets’ Fade Makes One Yearn For A Pennant Race

Every morning I take a glance at the standings and the pennant races. There’s nothing like the drama and intensity of a pennant race. It is the essence of the sport.

For the record, this morning the Mets are 14 games under .500 and 23 games behind the Nationals with a schedule that could plummet them to 20 below.

So much for a pennant race involving the Mets. Even the collapses of 2007 and 2008 gave those Septembers more meaning than this excruciating month. Of course the remaining schedule is of importance to the Phillies, Pirates and Braves, all in wild card contention. There are six games left with the hated Marlins in the battle to stay out of last place.

Major League Baseball added a second wild card in the hope of creating spice and interest in more cities. So far, it has worked in both leagues.

Sort of.

In the American League there are eight teams – including the three division leaders – that could end up with a wild-card berth. In the AL East there is a dogfight between the Yankees, Orioles and Rays. But, what kind of fight is it really if all three were to qualify for the playoffs? Mathematically it could happen.

In the National League, seven teams are in serious wild-card contention with all three division leaders having comfortable margins.

For all the drama – is it really manufactured drama? – in the wild-card races I think of perhaps the greatest pennant race in history, that being 1967 in the American League when five of the then 10 teams in the league were alive in September, but only one would survive.

For much of that tumultuous summer, the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Tigers and Angels were all packed at the top. The Angels were the first to drop out, then with over a week remaining the White Sox’s woeful offense finally wore down their marvelous pitching staff led by Gary Peters and Joel Horlen.

I remember it vividly because I spent that summer in New England and started following the Red Sox on the radio at night. My Indians, of course, were like the present day Mets and well on the outside.

The Red Sox, Twins and Tigers were alive heading into the final weekend. Carl Yastrzemski’s Sox and Harmon Killebrew’s Twins would eliminate one of those teams. All three were alive the final day. Boston eliminated the Twins early, then had to wait until the Tigers lost the second game of a double-header before clinching.

There have been many great pennant races, but for the amount of teams involved, that one had the most.

It’s not the same intensity when so many are involved for a play-in game.

If the old, no-division format were in place today, the Nationals and Reds would be having a great race, with the Braves and Giants on the fade.

The American League would have a spicier race with the Rangers, Athletics, Yankees and Orioles within five games of each other. That combination would give 1967 a run for its money.

Perhaps, because I was a kid and was just developing my passion for baseball

the 1967 race stands out. But nearly four decades later, it is still special reading about it.It is one for the ages.

Mar 17

Santana on course

So far the brightest light in spring training has been Johan Santana’s return from shoulder surgery.

His numbers weren’t impressive in his last start, Thursday against Detroit, but that’s not what’s important three starts into spring training.

Santana’s recovery between starts has been pain free and he’s been able to maintain the five-day rotation. Also,  his velocity is gradually getting better. However, he’s still not satisfied with his control, but that will improve with his arm strength.

Santana was mostly at 87-88 mph. in his first start, but was a consistent 89 against the Tigers, and topped out at 91 on his 65th, and final, pitch of this outing.

“I’m feeling good,’’ Santana told reporters. “It’s a process and I’m building up.’’

The Mets are aiming for four innings or 75 pitches in his next start.

The Mets need a lefty hitting outfielder to come off the bench and are more likely to choose between Adam Loewen and Mike Baxter than scan the waiver wire at the end of spring training.

The Mets’ thinking is with so many more pressing needs, why invest in an area with so little potential payoff.

Jenrry Mejia, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, is reportedly on schedule for a May return. I’d bet the over.