Dec 09

Joe Torre Goes Into Hall Of Fame; Joined by Tony La Russa And Bobby Cox

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. –  Joe Torre hoped it would happen, but he never dared think it would. The former New York Mets player and manager, who later carved his legacy as four-time World Series manager of the Yankees, was selected to the Hall of Fame today by the veteran’s committee.

The announcement was made at the Walt Disney Swan resort hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Torre will go in with fellow managers Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox. All three won over 2,000 games and World Series titles. All three are incredibly deserving.

TORRE: Former Met goes into Hall of Fame.

TORRE: Former Met goes into Hall of Fame.

Also deserving, but left out were Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whom Torre said, “changed my life for giving me that opportunity,’’ and Marvin Miller, the former director of the Players Association.

As much as friends told Torre – who currently works in the commissioner’s office – his nomination was a given, he never let his mind wander there.

“That’s what they said when we were up 3-0 against the Red Sox, and looked what happened,’’ said Torre of the Yankees’ infamous collapse in the 2004 ALCS. “As much as I would have like it to happen, I never obsessed over it.’’

Torre has little to say about his time with the Mets other than, “I started with the Mets when they weren’t spending anything,’’ and that he wasn’t the manager for two weeks when the club dealt Tom Seaver to Cincinnati.

Torre, a lifetime .297 hitter, finished his playing career and was named manager shortly thereafter.

Torre, who managed the Mets, Yankees, Braves and Cardinals, won 2,326 games, fifth all time, along with six pennants. He wore his 2003 World Series ring.

While he credited Steinbrenner for the opportunity, he saved his greatest gratitude for his players.

“You can’t win the Kentucky Derby unless you are on a thoroughbred,’’ Torre said of the team that won titles in 1996, 1998-2000. “They had so much heart and backbone.’’

Cox, a former Yankee, managed Toronto and Atlanta, and won the World Series.

“When you’re voted into the Hall of Fame, your life changes,’’ Cox said. “Hopefully, two guys who helped get me here – Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux – will be there with me. … They are the guys who got me here.’’

Glavine – a former Met – and Maddux are 300-game winners, traditionally an automatic ticket to Cooperstown.

La Russa began his managerial career at age 34 with the Chicago White Sox, and blossomed to dugout stardom with Oakland and St. Louis.

“The best way to describe the feeling is `stunned,’ ’’ said La Russa. “I’m not sure I will ever feel comfortable in that club.’’

ON DECK: A trade the Mets should make.

Oct 16

2012 Mets Player Review: R.A. Dickey, RHP

R.A. DICKEY, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: R.A. Dickey had been a journeyman with a trick pitch his entire career, winning a career-high 11 games in 2010. Realistically, they had no right to expect more than that from him at age 37 and figured to be third or fourth in the rotation at best. Only injuries or poor performance from others could elevate his status, and was why he was in the Mets’ rotation in the first place. However, he pitched well in stretches the last two years and was a workhorse in 2011 with 208.2 innings. If he could log a comparable number in 2012, the pitching depleted Mets would be happy. Dickey had a solid ERA in 2010 and 2011 with hitters batting .251 and .256, respectively, against him. Since joining the Mets, for the most part Dickey pitched with composure and minimized damage. The Mets hoped he’d be a positive influence.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Not only was Dickey a positive influence on the younger pitchers, he was arguably the team’s most important player. At 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, he was 14 games above .500. Overall, the Mets finished 14 games below, so I’ll leave it to your imagination as to where the team would have been without him. Dickey threw 233.2 innings in 33 starts – he made one relief appearance – and limited hitters to an anemic .226 average, a career best by 30 points. Hitters had a .278 on-base and .640 OPS against him and he registered a 1.05 WHIP, easily his career best. Dickey’s All-Star season – it’s a shame Tony La Russa didn’t see fit to start him – included five complete games and three shutouts with back-to-back one-hitters. Clearly, in a game dominated by hard throwers, splitters and cutters, Dickey prevailed with the toughest pitch of all to control, walking only 54. He did this playing for a team in a free-fall for the second half and deserves the Cy Young Award.

LOOKING AT 2013: For all his numbers, it was only his third since 2001 with a winning record, which could make the Mets wondering if it was all done with smoke and mirrors. Dickey is on the books for $5 million next year, but it isn’t a given he’ll return, and if he does, stay for long. Dickey said his re-signing with the Mets is largely contingent on whether they also bring back David Wright. The two, on and off the field, represent the Mets and they would be taking a dramatic public relations hit if they traded or let them walk after 2013. An argument can be made if the Mets don’t see themselves as contenders next summer they could continue their rebuilding by dealing them for prospects. Any such deal, however, would be contingent on the other team being allowed to negotiate with them before making a trade. It would also be an admission they are a long way from being competitive.

TOMORROW: Jon Niese.

Oct 13

Can’t Turn Off Television When Cardinals Are Playing; Great Storylines In Final Four

Their streak is now six for victories in elimination games, tying a major league record. Both the Cardinals and Giants have been studies in resiliency during these playoffs, and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve done it with pitching, timely hitting and an emphasis on team.

That’s a formula that always works.

Both are fundamentally sound and are compelling examples of how the Mets should model themselves. Both have stars and a healthy payroll, but both have home grown talent and haven’t broken the bank to reach their levels of excellence. The NLCS should be a dandy and I’m betting seven games.

Not surprisingly, they are the last two World Series champions.

The Giants, who don’t have a great offense but the best pitching in the game, and the Cardinals, who simply know how to survive when it counts, are better stories than the Tigers or Yankees.

When I don’t have a dog in the fight, I root for close games and great story lines. Each team faced elimination and won on the road. The Giants’ main story is whether one of their aces, Tim Lincecum, can regain his form after being sent to the bullpen. The story enveloping around the Cardinals is their ability to defend their title after losing their manager, Tony La Russa, and franchise bat in Albert Pujols.

I wonder what Pujols is thinking these days as he counts his millions.

He probably has some demons and regrets, but they are miniscule compared to what’s haunting Alex Rodriguez. Frankly, I’m bored with the soap opera and all that swirls around the Yankees. They bid against themselves to give him over a quarter of a billion dollars, and he, who conceivably could be breaking down after steroid use, is but a shell of his former self. Don’t forget being torn down by age and injury. I don’t give a damn where he bats in the order.

The Yankees’ pitching has been superb, but their hitting has disappeared and it is annoying listening to their fans clogging up talk radio with their sense of entitlement and nipping at Joe Girardi. Then again, I guess I don’t have to tell you about annoying Yankee fans.

Considering their age and injuries this season, Girardi has done a great job getting the most from his team. He’s pressed all the right buttons so far.

The Tigers, meanwhile, have arguably the game’s best pitcher in Justin Verlander. Him against Chris Carpenter or Matt Cain could be a legendary match-up. Pitching duels in the World Series are always thrilling and intense. I was too young to enjoy Koufax-Ford, but I got to see Lolich-Gibson, Seaver-Palmer and Gooden-Clemens. The Smoltz-Morris duel in Game 7 of the 1991 Series might be one of the greatest games ever played.

The one-two hitting punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder isn’t Mantle-and-Maris, but it is the best in the majors. But, it isn’t enough to sustain me this October. Regardless of who comes out of the National League, I’ll go with them.

 

 

 

Jul 06

Reasons Why R.A. Dickey Should Start All-Star Game

There are numerous reasons why R.A. Dickey should start Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Kansas City, so it’s hard to understand Tony La Russa not naming him for the honor. He knows the rotation schedule of the other candidates, so what’s he waiting for? If he wants to screw with New York area fans, he’d start A.J. Burnett (9-2), right?

DICKEY: Should star All-Star Game (AP)

Here’s some of the reasons why he should start:

1. At 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA, he has the best record of any NL starter. Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (11-3), St. Louis’ Lance Lynn (11-4) – the obvious choice if La Russa was playing favorites – Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (10-4) and San Francisco’s Matt Cain (9-3 and a no-hitter) are having the best seasons for a starter. But, Dickey’s recent run is of historic proportions. His recent ten-game winning streak is reminiscent of pitchers like Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson.

2. La Russa’s worry about not having a catcher familiar with catching a knuckleball has some merit, but I’m not completely buying it. If he’s worried about a wild pitch or passed ball costing a run, wouldn’t it be better for that to happen in the first or second innings and not late in the game?

3. Dickey is clearly the pitching curiosity of the first half, in either league. Give the fans what they want. Isn’t that what the game is supposed to be about?

There’s not guarantee of how well Dickey will pitch Tuesday. Recent starts against the Yankees and Phillies have not been good, but he’s always long on guts and his story is both inspiring personable.

He’ll only be in for an inning or two, but it should be the first two.

Apr 19

Looking At The Numbers For The Mets, Wright And Others

We’re two weeks into the young season and I’d like to share some of my first impressions and hear yours. The Mets, despite losing three of their last four games, are among the early surprises, as are several of their players.

WRIGHT: Has reason to smile.

They are playing better than anticipated and on pace to win 93 games. I don’t believe they will sustain that, but who wouldn’t take .500 if it were guaranteed? I would because it is the next step in the franchise’s development.

Ever since I was a kid I loved the early season numbers and projections. It was fun to think of all those players breaking Roger Maris’ 61 homers, but knew nobody would come close. When it finally happened and I learned why, it wasn’t fun anymore.

For example, David Wright’s .500 average leads the majors and is one of six players hitting over .400 and 28 over .340. There won’t be a .400 hitter – and maybe never will again – and I’d be willing to bet there won’t be anybody over .340.

Both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are on track to hit 41 homers and drive in 81 and 68 runs, respectively. They have the strength to hit that many homers, but I don’t think either has the plate presence or pitcher knowledge to do so. At least not this year. Their RBI totals are reasonable.

Wright won’t hit .500 or get the 230 hits projected of him, but I’d take the 28 homers and 108 RBI. The latter two should be worthy of a contract extension.

The Mets would gladly take those numbers from Wright, as they would Frank Francisco’s projected 41 saves.

Pitching wise, the Mets’ 3.69 ERA is sixth in the National League, which is a substantial improvement from last year. Also, their 43 walks allowed are 11th in the league, but ten of those came in one game. That needs to get better. They are second in the league with 101 strikeouts, an average of over eight a game that translates into working out of a lot of trouble.

In addition to the Mets, the surprise teams on the positive are Washington, the Dodgers, St. Louis and Baltimore. The Cardinals, minus Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Chris Carpenter, just keep rolling.

I thought the Nationals would be better, but not this good. They won’t keep playing at this rate, but their pitching is good enough to keep them contending. Their ERA of 1.92 is first; they are tied for seventh in fewest walks and first in strikeouts.

On the negative, the Phillies will climb in the standings, as will the Angels, Boston and the Yankees.

Individually, four players are on pace to hit over 60 homers, which isn’t supposed to happen in the new steroid-free era. One of those players is Carlos Beltran, who hasn’t made the Cardinals forget Pujols, but has softened the blow.

Speaking of Pujols, he hasn’t homered and is on pace for 54 RBI. He’s also on track for 81 strikeouts, which would be the second highest of his career. His 41 walks would be the lowest of his career.

I don’t believe the Cardinals will regret losing Pujols in the long term. Pujols is a future Hall of Famer and will eventually adjust to the American League and before it is over post impressive numbers. The Cardinals can live with that because even if Pujols plays another ten years, they would have gotten the best years of his career.

The most fun stats to project are the individual player numbers. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is on pace to hit .460 with a .500 on-base percentage, 287 hits, 87 homers and 224 RBI.

Incidentally, on the flip side, Jose Reyes is on track to play in 162 games (yeah, as if that will happen), hit .226 with a .276 on-base percentage, with 37 steals, 50 walks and 100 strikeouts.

Neither Kemp’s nor Reyes’ numbers will reach fruition, but on an off day it is fun to tinker with the numbers.