Nov 12

Mets Rookie Of The Year Winners: Seaver, Matlack, Strawberry And Gooden

SEAVER: When it all started (TOPPS)

In explaining part of the Mets’ problems over the years, consider they haven’t produced a Rookie of the Year in nearly three decades, which is a substantial drought.

(Sorry, but I can’t resist: Jason Bay won it while with Pittsburgh in 2004.)

The Mets have produced four Rookies of the Year: Dwight Gooden (1984), Darryl Strawberry (1983), Jon Matlack (1972) and Tom Seaver (1967).

All four played in a World Series for the Mets.

Seaver, of course, is the Crown Jewel of Mets rookies. After winning in 1967, Seaver went on to be a 12-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner.

Seaver is the lone Mets’ Hall of Famer and the only player to have his number retired by the team. In the karma that can only be the Mets, Seaver’s no-hitter and 300th career victory were achieved with other teams, Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox.

Seaver remains an ambassador to the Mets and the most beloved player.

Seaver averaged 16 victories a season from 1967-1986. He ended his career with the Red Sox, but fate wasn’t too cruel to have him pitch against the Mets in the 1986 World Series.

Seaver won at least 20 games five times, three times led the National League in ERA, and finished his career at 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA.

Matlack was an underrated lefty, perhaps best known as the answer to the trivia question: Which pitcher gave up Roberto Clemente’s 3000th and final hit?

Matlack is one of those players who didn’t live up to the expectations, finishing his career at 125-126, but with a 3.18 ERA that indicates a general lack of support. He never became “the next Jerry Koosman.’’

Strawberry and Gooden personified the Mets in the 1980’s, a widely talented team that, like the two players, underperformed. Strawberry and Gooden were to dominate for years, win multiple World Series and individual awards and ride off into the Hall of Fame together.

Gooden finished at 194-11 and a 3.51 ERA, but after the 1986 World Series title, he spun out of control and tested positive for cocaine. He later developed shoulder problems, which some attribute to a heavy workload early in his career.

Labeled, “the next Ted Williams,’’ early in his career, Strawberry was one of the few players you had to stop and watch when he came to the plate. An eight-time All-Star, Strawberry was a lifetime .259 hitter with 335 homers and 1,000 RBI.

In addition to playing with the Mets and Yankees, Strawberry also played with the Dodgers and Giants, the other two teams with New York roots.

Oct 30

Mets Matters: Team To Pick Up Options For David Wright And R.A. Dickey This Week

The Mets have yet to open negotiations with either David Wright or R.A. Dickey, so the published report of a $100 million package for Wright is premature.

One internet outlet claims the Mets have the $100 million offer on the table, but that isn’t true as much as it is conjecture for a reasonable starting spot.

All options for the 2013 season must be exercised industry-wide within five days of the end of the World Series. The NFL trade deadline this week was extended because of Hurricane Sandy, but I have not heard of any extensions for Major League Baseball, so I am figuring they are remaining the same.

So, expect the Mets to pick up Wright’s $16 million option and Dickey’s $5 million option for 2013. Both are no-brainers and will allow the Mets time to work out the appropriate extensions. GM Sandy Alderson said his goal is to finalize both this offseason.

According to Wright’s contract, the Mets have until tomorrow, or three days from the end of the World Series, to pick up the option.

Neither Wright nor Dickey want to negotiate during the 2013 season, and both expressed their willingness to re-sign with the Mets is contingent on the seriousness of the team to build around them. That, presumably, means if the Mets are able to sign the other.

MEJIA HIT: Jenrry Mejia, who prefers starting to the bullpen, gave up three runs on three hits and two walks in 2.1 innings in a start for the Dominican Republic against Escogido in his first winter-ball appearance.

The Mets have not decided what role is best suited for Mejia, but last year’s numbers indicate better success starting than coming out of the pen.

As of now, assuming all their ducks line up, the Mets don’t have room for Mejia in their 2013 rotation, but do have room for him in their bullpen.

MANUEL UP FOR COLORADO JOB:  Former Mets’ manager Jerry Manuel, who arguably set back Mejia’s career by insisting he work out of the bullpen in 2012 when he was clearly not ready, interviewed for the vacant managerial job with the Colorado Rockies.

Manuel was 204-213 for the Mets from midway through the 208 season through 2010, which considering the team’s lack of pitching in that span, isn’t too bad.

Another former Mets coach, Rick Peterson, is interviewing for Boston’s pitching coach job. Considering head case Josh Beckett is gone, Peterson will have a fighting chance if he gets the job.

WRIGHT GOLD GLOVE CANDIDATE: Wright is the favorite to win the National League’s Gold Glove Award, which is to be announced tonight.

 

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.

 

 

 

Oct 12

Thoughts On A-Rod, Washington Nationals And Playoffs

This has been a compelling postseason and it is getting more intriguing with each day. At the start of the season I projected the Giants and Yankees to meet in the World Series, and that’s still in play.

The Yankees’ showing makes them hard to figure out, but one thing is for certain, and that’s things will never be the same for Alex Rodriguez and how he’ll respond to being benched for this afternoon’s game is anybody’s guess what it will do to that clubhouse over the next five years.

Rodriguez played the good soldier when Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for him and ended up homering – twice. He was the same last night when Eric Chavez batted for him. Both had to be blows to his fragile confidence and pride, but being benched is another animal.

Joe Girardi’s actions have stripped Rodriguez of his emotional armor in a far worse way than Joe Torre dropping in the batting order several years ago. Back then, Rodriguez was still a dominating player, but one going through a slump. Torre also had cache in managing four World Series champions.

However, Rodriguez, through the aging process, injuries and it has been suggested the residual effect of his admitted steroid use, is simply not the same player anymore. Whether is year is an aberration remains to be seen, but remember he’s 38 and what player gets better and more productive as he gets older. Other than, of course, one of baseball’s greatest cheaters, Barry Bonds?

And, the beauty of all this is the Yankees have him for five more years, in which they’ll pay him in excess of $100 million. It’s hindsight now, but they should have let him walk when they had the chance. Odds are there were no teams that would have given him Yankee money, but late owner George Steinbrenner ended up bidding against himself. With an increased luxury tax coming, the Yankees will be forced to reduce payroll and they might have a completely different look, and maybe one no so dominant.

If Rodriguez is indeed on the decline as it appears, having him get all that money for not producing will undoubtedly cause a strain among the players. How can it not?

However, Rodriguez was greedy and wanted every last time and the Yankees were smug and arrogant in their free-spending ways. They both got what they deserve.

Another impression about the postseason is the arrogance of the Washington Nationals. I like Davey Johnson, always have, but their GM Mike Rizzo is annoying. I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Joe DeCaro’s post this morning on Rizzo’s decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg. It was beyond arrogance for Rizzo to suggest the Nationals would be back many times to the postseason.

I covered the Orioles for ten years and I remember what Cal Ripken once told me. He appeared the 1983 World Series, and afterward said he thought he’d get back every year. Ripken didn’t play in another postseason game until 1996, a mere 13 years later. There is no guarantees in sports. The Nationals might never get here again during Strasburg’s career, regardless of how good it evolves. Then again, Strasburg has already had an arm injury. What if he has another and his career is cut short?

Above all, I have to wonder about the feelings among Strasburg’s teammates toward management. The pitcher is on record saying he wanted to pitch, so they can’t hold that against him. But, management is sending a bad message to the players. What if they never get here again? How will they feel about Rizzo’s decision?

Meanwhile, the Giants are an interesting story. As they were two years ago, they are pitching reliant. They got by Cincinnati without Tim Lincecum in the rotation, but they won’t be able to get away with that in the NLCS. Lincecum pitched brilliantly in relief, looking like his old self. This is a very good team that is flying under the radar.

Also in that position are the St. Louis Cardinals – they know what to do in October – and Detroit Tigers. The Cardinals could have the chance to defend their title without Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols, something few thought would be possible. The Tigers, meanwhile, have the game’s premier pitcher in Justin Verlander and one-two punch in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Cardinals vs. Tigers in a rematch? That wouldn’t be bad, either.

 

Oct 07

Interesting Start To MLB Playoffs; Intriguing World Series Possibilities

It has been an interesting start to the baseball playoffs. The play-in games put a different spin on things, but I’m hearing a lot of criticism of the single game format and it would be fairer to have best two-or-three. It probably would, but MLB doesn’t want to take the chance of playing in November.

A possible solution would be to incorporate at least one day-night doubleheader during the season among division opponents only. You would still have the same number of games, but a doubleheader a month would eliminate six days from the calendar, which would give MLB a week to tinker with the format.

There are a lot of interesting story lines. The one that stands out for me would be the fallout should the Cardinals run the table again like last season. In 2011, it was a special story because of how they came from behind during the season to make the playoffs and how they rallied in the World Series. This year would be an asterisk because of the “Infield Fly Game,” which will forever be a part of baseball lore.

It was predictable the MLB hid behind the “umpire’s judgment” clause and didn’t comment on whether it was a good call or not. With all this technology that showed it was a blown call, it is a shame a team is home possibly because an umpire made a bad call.

The Cardinals face the Nationals, with the first two games in St. Louis. I don’t like this format. The Nationals had the best record and shouldn’t open on the road. Who can’t see the Cardinals winning at home and stealing one on the road? There should be a reward for having the best record.

At the start of the season I predicted the Yankees and Giants in the Series and it could still happen. The Reds stole one in San Francisco despite losing their ace Johnny Cueto. He’s questionable for the rest of the series, but the Reds accomplished what they needed in getting at least a split.

In the American League, the Tigers and Orioles need to protect their home field and win the first two. Should they sweep the first two, I can see them taking one on the road. However, it is far harder to think they’ll win two on the road.

Just playing out some possible World Series scenarios that would be interesting.

ORIOLES vs, NATIONALS: Two teams horrid for so long are poised for prime time. About 50 miles apart, this has the potential to develop into a real interleague rivalry over time. Washington’s manager, Davey Johnson, used to play for the Orioles. Nobody could have forecast them meeting in the Series. The Nationals have a better rotation, but the Orioles have the better pen. Both hit for power.

ATHLETICS vs. GIANTS: Another potential geographical rivalry. They met before in the Earthquake World Series with the Athletics sweeping. The Giants might have the best rotation in the playoffs, but are already down a game.

YANKEES vs. GIANTS/CARDINALS: The Yankees’ power against the Giants’ pitching would be intriguing. Power vs. power. The New York angle for the Giants is long gone. … A Yankees-Cardinals match-up would feature the two winningest World Series teams in history.

Regardless of the World Series pairings, I’ll watch. I always do. Even when it is the Yankees or Phillies.