Apr 14

Mets Try To Keep Rolling

Tonight is one of the few times I wish the Mets could use the designated hitter. Damn, after the last two games I’d love to see d’Arnaud starting, but not after catching 16 innings. He might even rest again tomorrow.

SYNDERGAARD: Mets going for six straight. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Mets going for six straight. (AP)

The Mets will be seeking their sixth straight victory tonight in Miami behind their best pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, going against Edinson Volquez.

The Mets crushed four homers last night – d’Arnaud hit the game winner, plus two from Yoenis Cespedes and one from Wilmer Flores – but credit also needs to go to a bullpen that threw 11 scoreless innings.

The Mets have homered in nine straight games and lead the majors with 20, with Cespedes the individual leader with six.

While it is way too early to make projections, it isn’t too soon to make some assumptions about this team, especially after last night.

The Mets came in at 3:30 in the morning and their No. 5 starter was torched, several of their starters were sputtering, but they rallied from a four-run deficit and behind their power, d’Arnaud – who sparked the comeback with a bases-loaded triple – and their bullpen, the came up with a signature victory.

Much has been written about how this could be a make-or-break season for d’Arnaud, but the same can be said of reliever Hansel Robles, who pitched two scoreless innings in his fourth straight game.

They don’t win last night without Robles, or d’Arnaud, or Cespedes, or Michael Conforto, or several other guys.

That’s what being a team is all about.

Here’s tonight’s starting lineup:

Curtis Granderson, CF: Speculation is if the Mets keep Conforto, the player whose time will be reduced most will be Granderson. He is homerless with three RBI on the season.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: Is batting .304 and taking an eight-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. Hit 23 homers last season.

Jay Bruce, RF: Moves up to third with Cespedes getting the night off. Bruce needed a good start and he’s getting one, hitting .300 with four homers and eight RBI.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He’s another who is having a good start, hitting .250 with three homers and six RBI. Has shown no signs of back injury that limited him last season.

Michael Conforto, LF: He finally gets a start. He needs at-bats. If Conforto is to stay up with the Mets, manager Terry Collins needs to come up with a rotation system, and that includes resting Cespedes in left.

Wilmer Flores, 2B: Starts tonight in place of Neil Walker. Is hitting better against right-handed pitching.

Jose Reyes, 3B: Is a career .323 hitter at Marlins Park. Got a hit last night as a pinch-hitter and batting just .079 on the season. Needs to wake up.

Noah Syndergaard, RP: Is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA lifetime against the Marlins. Perhaps as a tribute to Tony La Russa, Collins has him hitting eighth.

Rene Rivera, C: Gets the start for two reasons, 1) to put the brakes on the Marlins’ running game, and 2) because d’Arnaud caught 16 innings last night. Has thrown out two of three potential base stealers.

 

Feb 11

Suggested Mets’ Batting Order

Spring training is for a lot of things, but I thought I’d save Terry Collins time and suggest a batting order for him. Several slots will automatically fall into place, but where Collins will do his most head scratching will be over the leadoff position.

Juan Lagares, CF: He has the speed and at the end of last season proved he could steal a base. However, he needs to get on base to utilize that speed which is why he must cut his strikeouts and raise his on-base percentage.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Willing to take a pitch, which should help Lagares. Was the Mets’ best hitter last season and his ability to drive the ball in the gap could give the Mets an early first-inning lead.

David Wright, 3B: Theoretically, third is where the best hitter should be, which is the combination of power and average. Injuries sapped Wright’s production the past few years and the Mets are hoping for a bounce back season. If he has one it will solve a lot of problems.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Gave the Mets 30 homers last year and they aren’t expecting anything less. When he gets hot he should offer Wright protection. Still strikes out too many times, but is showing improved plate discipline.

Michael Cuddyer, RF: He should hit here to separate the left-handed hitters. How sweet would it be if he returned to the form where he lead the National League in hitting.

Curtis Granderson, LF: Even with the fences moved in, nobody expects him to hit 40 homers again. But, 30 should be reasonable along with a boatload of doubles in the gap. If Lagares falters, Granderson could get another look at leadoff, but he strikes out too much to excel there in the long haul.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Another right-handed hitter to give the order balance. Showed glimpses of power, but if he masters things behind the plate the Mets will take what they can get from him offensively.

Wilmer Flores, SS: He’ll have enough pressure as it is, so dropping him to eighth to see what he can do is the best option. Hitting here ahead of |the pitcher should help improve his plate discipline. There’s nothing wrong with a walk to clear the pitcher’s spot.

Pitcher: Unless you’re in Tony La Russa’s world, pitchers bat ninth.

Things will vary according to injuries, days off and slumps. But, this offers a balanced order with the hitters providing the most protection for each other. That is, if they are hitting.

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.