Dec 04

Despite R.A. Dickey And Jon Niese, Mets Still Have Pitching Concerns

Undoubtedly, the outfield is a huge void GM Sandy Alderson will try to fill with scraps. So too, is the bullpen. But, don’t forget the rotation despite the presence of Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, assuming, of course, there will be a Dickey.

I keep hearing how the Mets’ young pitching is a position of strength, but in reality it is a position of potential, and there is a difference. And, I would be hesitant to say vast potential.

There were many mistakes in the Omar Minaya regime, but one of the biggest – and most understated – was the decision to overestimate the team following the 2006 season. “We just missed the World Series by a strike,’’ was the thinking.

How wrong they were. Even had Carlos Beltran done something with that pitch, there were concerns with the Mets’ pitching and bullpen which came to fruition during the collapses of 2007 and 2008.

Despite the flashes and strong showing in 2012, that’s the story today when you big-picture their staff. If all breaks well, then there is a lot to like about the Mets’ pitching. But, if it doesn’t – and we know it all won’t be good – then we are back again faced looking at a team with huge holes.

JOHAN SANTANA: He is once again coming off an injury, which he has done almost annually since signing with the Mets. Santana had a good start in 2012, but hit a wall and was eventually injured. Nobody can say with authority what the Mets can expect from him other than he’ll cost $25 million. Santana will be gone after this year, so even if he has a good season that’s a hole that must be filled in 2014. That hole would be even bigger if Dickey is traded or leaves as a free agent.

R.A. DICKEY: How can the Mets reasonably anticipate anything from Dickey when they are listening to trade offers? Even should the Mets re-sign Dickey to an extension, there’s still the question if 2012 was a one-shot deal. I like Dickey, but it is undeniable he has a short track record.

JON NIESE: If Dickey leaves, then Niese becomes the de facto ace of the staff. Niese has an upside, but how big we do not know. Last year was his best at 13-9, and it was his only winning season. How can you place all your chips on him when the most he’s ever won was 13 games?

DILLON GEE: Gee is coming off an injury, and like Niese has a small track record. Gee hasn’t been projected higher than a No. 4 or No. 5 starter in the first place, so to consider him a stalwart would be a misnomer. Gee is still missing from his resume a full season. Give him that and we’ll have a guess at his ceiling.

MATT HARVEY:  While good things are projected of Harvey, not a career do ten games make. The projections for Harvey are higher than they ever were with Mike Pelfrey and Niese. Harvey made an undeniably strong first impression last year. Now he must build on it. There are a lot of teams that haven’t seen Harvey yet, and those that had will have a book on him.

THE BULLPEN:  As the saying goes, a chain is as strong as its weakest link, then a pitching staff is as strong as its bullpen and we know the Mets’ pen is weak. It was a hole Alderson couldn’t patch together with nickel pieces last winter. Wonder if he’ll do better with dime pieces.

 

Nov 16

Bud Selig Should Void Marlins Trade

The biggest problem I’ve had with Commissioner Bud Selig is he was an owner, but even after divesting of the Milwaukee Brewers, he remained an owner at heart.

He’s a former owner paid by the owners, so, where do his loyalties lie?

WHAT ARE MARLINS FANS TELLING YOU, BUD?

It will never happen without government intervention, but the best way for baseball to be run is have the commissioner paid equally by the owners and players association, with another percentage from the umpire’s union. That formula should eliminate the perception of partiality.

As commissioner, Bud Selig has the authority to exercise his “best interest in baseball,’’ clause, which permits him to act in the best interest of the sport regardless of whom it impacts.

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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.