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.

 

Jan 26

Tigers will regret Fielder signing ….

Not surprised at the reaction to Detroit signing Prince Fielder, giving them a formidable pair of sluggers when teamed with Miguel Cabrera. All that power; all those home runs will make the Tigers the team to beat.

Yeah, and I remember all those World Series the Yankees would win after signing Randy Johnson, Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez. At last count, the Yankees won only one Series with Rodriguez and none with the other two.

The Tigers are the latest team to be seduced by agent Scott Boras.

Detroit said it would move Cabrera to third base, which he prefers, but in truth he’s a defensive liability at third and if his mind were clear about it, he’s best suited to be a designated hitter. Fact is, so is Fielder.

All this makes me wonder what the over/under is on the number of years it will be before the Tigers regret signing Fielder for the princely sum of $214 million over the next nine years. I’m guessing four years.

His body type suggests he’s susceptible to getting out of shape or breaking down physically. I don’t know enough about Fielder’s emotional make-up to say he won’t work hard to stay in shape, but history dictates he could get complacent and possibly break down. It also dictates, and strongly, that the deeper the Tigers get into this contract the more the money will become a burden.

Look at the scorecard: Alex Rodriguez with the Rangers and Yankees; Manny Ramirez with Boston; Ryan Howard with the Phillies; Jayson Werth with Washington; Carlos Beltran with the Mets; Barry Zito with San Francisco; and Giambi with the Yankees.

There are dozens more.

Whether it be the money, lack of production, injuries, testing positive for steroids, or in Ramirez’s case, being a boor and quitting on his team, every one of those teams wished they could dump the contract.

The Tigers are going for it this year. They’d better make it because this won’t be a happy marriage.

Jun 28

Tonight’s Mets’ lineup at Detroit.

The .500 New York Mets are in Detroit tonight to face the Tigers behind knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Here’s the lineup:

 

Jose Reyes, SS

Willie Harris, DH

Carlos Beltran, RF

Daniel Murphy, 3B

Angel Pagan, CF

Jason Bay, LF

Lucas Duda, 1B

Justin Turner, 2B

Josh Thole, C

R.A. Dickey, RP

COMMENTS and NOTES: I’d still like to see if Jason Bay can right himself hitting second in the order. There’s nothing to lose. … Tonight is Jose Reyes’ 1,000th career game. The only player with more steals and triples in his first 1,000 games since 1898 is Ty Cobb.

 

Jun 24

Mets Chat Room: Pagan sits vs. Tigers.

Game #72 vs. Tigers

The Mets will be going for the sweep tonight against Detroit without, as expected, without center fielder Angel Pagan, who is sidelined with a muscle spasm in his right side.

Jesus Feliciano will start in center.

Pagan left last night’s game in the seventh inning, and typically Jerry Manuel rests a player the day after taking him out of a game with an injury.

Manuel said Pagan could be able to play tomorrow night against Minnesota.

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