May 08

Josh Thole Injury Tempers Win

Not to be lost in the excitement of the Mets’ come-from-behind victory last night on Jordany Valdespin’s pinch three-run homer is the injury to catcher Josh Thole that could keep him out for at least one week.

THOLE: After collision. (Getty)

Thole, involved in a collision at home plate with former Met Ty Wigginton, complained of headaches and dizziness and returned to New York today to be examined for a possible concussion. Thole has a history of concussions, having sustained one in June of 2010 while at Triple-A Buffalo when he was hit in the head on a backswing.

In all probability, the Mets will place Thole on the seven-day disabled list – new for players suspected of concussions – and bring up a catcher from Buffalo, perhaps Rob Johnson, who once caught R.A. Dickey when both were with Seattle.

Major League Baseball, like other professional sports, are taking the issue of concussions more seriously. The multi-million dollar lawsuit by former players against the NFL has caught everybody’s attention.

The Mets should be more cautious than most with concussions for their handling of Ryan Church’s concussion several years ago. Injured trying to break up a double play in Atlanta, Church flew to Denver after that series. He played sporadically for several weeks before the team finally placed him on the disabled list.

Not surprisingly, the Mets caught considerable flack for their handling of Church, although the outfielder never publicly criticized the team at first and said he was all right to play.

The Church incident was poorly handled by all parties, from the Mets for not being more cautious and simply taking the word of the player initially, to Church for trying to play through the injury, and Church’s agent, for not suggesting, and then arranging, a second medical opinion after the injury.

While the Church injury didn’t occur long ago – it was during Willie Randolph’s tenure as manager – professional sports have since made radical changes in how head injuries are handled.

 

 

 

Nov 21

Valentine had his time.

With Bobby Valentine interviewing with the Red Sox there’s been a lot of chatter on the blogs and message boards things would have been different with the Mets if he was still in charge.

I dealt with Valentine several times and always found him engaging and informative, but did not have the consistent dealings other NY columnists had that have them drinking the Kool-Aid suggesting he is infallible.

The chemistry was right in 1999 and 2000 when the Mets reached the postseason, but things between him and then GM Steve Phillips deteriorated, and so did his relationship with several players. There were factions in the clubhouse, as there was with Willie Randolph.

The discipline some are writing Valentine would bring to the Red Sox conveniently forget the card playing during games while on his watch. They also forget there were times when Valentine lacked discipline of his own, such as wearing a false mustache and glasses after being ejected.

The point isn’t whether Valentine should get the Red Sox job – I hope he gets it – but he had his opportunity with the Mets and did well. However, things fell apart and changes were made.

Had the Mets showed patience and stuck with Valentine he might have pulled them out of their post World Series funk. We’ll never know. But, I don’t think the odds of success with Valentine coming back for a second tenure would have been good.

The chemistry, front office, players and economics changed after Valentine left and that would have worked against him. Valentine had his time with the Mets, but a second chance after leaving wouldn’t have guaranteed he would have duplicated the success of his first tenure.

 

Aug 02

Today in Mets’ History: The formula that was 2006.

Part of the signature of the 2006 Mets was their ability to strike quickly and a reliance to go deep into their bullpen.

TRACHSEL: Usually good for five innings, until the playoffs.

The Mets scored four runs in the first inning, tacked on a couple of more and hung on for a 6-5 victory over the Florida Marlins in Miami.

Run-scoring hits by Paul Lo Duca, Cliff Floyd and Endy Chavez off Ricky Nolasco staked Steve Trachsel to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Trachsel, as was his reputation let the Marlins get back into the game.

Trachsel gave up three runs on two homers and didn’t make it out of the sixth before turning the game over to Roberto Hernandez, who worked one inning before the parade of relievers – Pedro Feliciano, Chad Bradford, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner – shut down the Marlins.

The Mets did not have an extraordinarily deep rotation that summer and manager Willie Randolph adeptly used match-ups over the last three innings.

General manager Omar Minaya did not keep the bullpen intact in the offseason  – he let Darren Oliver and Bradford get away – which contributed to the dramatic collapse in the final weeks of the 2007 season.

BOX SCORE

 

Jun 02

Collins rant rings hollow.

It was humorous and a little sad to listen to Terry Collins’ post-game rant last night in the wake of another seventh-inning meltdown. He sounded desperate and out of control, much how his team is playing.

First, he praised the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen for his hustle and hard play and said that’s how his team should be playing, then stopped short and said effort isn’t the issue.

Well, is it or not?

COLLINS: Where's that smile now?

He said his team played hard, but lacked execution. Passion, but poor performance … kind of like his speech.

Collins railing in front of the Mets logo wasn’t quite Patton in front of the American flag. You remember … Americans love a winner.

The problem is his Mets aren’t winners.

They are losing again and the problems are many beginning most recently and significantly with the bullpen, which imploded again. Over the last ten games the pen has given up 32 earned runs.

Last night a strong performance by Chris Capuano was wasted. Last night also featured several defensive lapses, two from Willie Harris, and the Mets’ first homer in 11 games.

Poor pitching, defense and no power won’t win you many games.

Clearly peeved, Collins ran over the same litany of issues that have burned and burdened the Mets for years. Lack of timely hitting; giving away too many at-bats; that no one player is to blame, that this is a team thing; not making the right pitch at the right time.

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Nov 23

Some issues for Collins

The thing that stood out most in listening to Terry Collins this morning is his emphasis in “playing the game the correctly.’’

Collins promised an accent on fundamentals with a team that too often disregarded them in the past. This is a team that gives away too many at-bats, both at the plate and on the mound, and loses focus.

That is the culture Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins vowed to change.

One thing apparent in Alderson’s comprehensive search and handpicking of Collins as manager is the continuity between the front office and field staff. There will be no more players taking their issues over the manager to the general manager.

That was the chemistry in Anaheim when the players revolted against Collins, and with the Mets when Tony Bernazard sabotaged Willie Randolph, and the last two years when Jerry Manuel managed without the respect of his players.

Collins said the right things, but there’s more I’d like to hear from him:

THE CORE: Collins wants the game played correctly, but hasn’t elaborated on what he doesn’t like about David Wright and Jose Reyes.

Wright put up decent numbers last season, but they were somewhat deceiving because of his strikeouts. Wright still gives up too many at-bats to kill rallies. The right way also means increasing Reyes’ on-base percentage. Injuries have limited Reyes from running and if he’s healthy will Collins turn him loose?

CARLOS BELTRAN: Collins mentioned how badly Beltran wants to win. The team will keep Beltran because of his contract.  Collins hasn’t said yet whether he wants Beltran to move to right field to make room for Angel Pagan in center.

THE BULLPEN: The Mets will offer arbitration to Pedro Feliciano. If he accepts the Mets will have a proven lefty specialist. With the assumption Francisco Rodriguez is back as closer, the next order of business in the pen will be designating a set-up man. Presumably, that will be Bobby Parnell. The Mets must now fill four spots in the bullpen. How many could be filled from the minor league system Collins oversaw last summer?

THE ROTATION: With Johan Santana on the shelf indefinitely, the Mets have three starters heading into the winter meetings: Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey and Jon Niese.

With the Mets not expected to be free-spending in the free-agent market, their options are from within, trades and middle-tier arms in free agency.

Collins must operate on the assumption there won’t be any significant additions so his thoughts on Dillon Gee are important. As it is now, no matter how healthy the Mets are with Jason Bay and Beltran, it means little without a strong rotation.

Alderson wants to unload Oliver Perez, but that’s a monumental task. Assuming the worst, that Perez is still here in the spring, how does Collins envision using him?

SECOND BASE: There are three candidates: Luis Castillo, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy. If Murphy can handle the position defensively, he offers the best bat.

Collins knows Tejada from the minor leagues and probably has an idea of his ceiling.

JENRRY MEJIA: As of now, the Mets regard Mejia as a potential starter.  With Collins’ background in player development he likely has his ideas of how he was used last year and what his timetable might be.