Optimism again for NY Mets with another season home opening win

Perhaps when the New York Mets opened the 2013 season at Citi Field Monday afternoon they resembled teams of the past. One could say the 1982-83 teams at Shea Stadium are comparable, significant, because that became the building block to the championship year of 1986.

When the first pitch against the San Diego Padres was thrown the announced sell-out crowd of 41,053 had that optimism, but the Mets are years away from making an impact in the standings, and that was before all-star pitcher Johan Santana went down again with a season ending injury to his shoulder.

Santana has probably thrown his last pitch as a Met, and there are doubts the two-time Cy Young Award winner will resume his career. His highlight in New York was that 134-pitch no-hitter, and first in franchise history last June 1st at Citi Field. And speculation is that outing may have ruined his shoulder.

Regardless, Santana is no longer the ace of what is now a young and promising pitching staff. Jonathon Niese got the Opening Day nod, a task he prepared for weeks ago when manager Terry Collins informed the left hander that the job may be his.

New York scored seven runs in three innings, and the effective start by Niese led to an 11-2 win over the Padres. It was the Mets 20th win in their last 22 season openers at home.

“The adrenaline was pumping, I’m not going to lie,” said Niese who went 6.2 innings, on two runs, striking out four in getting his first career opening day win. Niese also helped himself at the plate tying a career high with two hits. He also had an RBI single in the second inning and scored in a three-run Mets fourth.

It was so reminiscent of the first half Mets of last season. They scored nine runs with two outs, and went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position.  The clubhouse faces have changed, Collins is a lame duck manager, and a full house certainly helped the adrenaline and the rest of these 2013 New York Mets.

The new captain, David Wright had two stolen bases and drove in a run. This was an opening day win that fueled optimism after that dismal second half of 2012 that led to a fourth straight losing season for the Mets.

“So far, so good,” commented Wright who said he was sure to make the Opening Day roster after sitting out the last weeks of spring training with injuries to his rib cage.

Added Wright, “It was good to bust out offensively and get some breathing room for Jon.”

New York also got contributions from Ruben Tejada, who made his second consecutive home start at shortstop. Tejada doubled to left in the second inning, advanced to third on a bad throw and scored on the first single by Niese. The Padres’ Edinson Volquez once again was ineffective against the Mets and his five losses against New York are tied for the most against any team in his career,

“A good start is important, the spring is over,” said Tejada who struggled in 21 exhibition games, going 5-for-52. Collins approached him towards the latter part of the spring campaign and there was talk of not bringing him back to New York and to get extra work at Triple A, Las Vegas.

And the new faces contributed. Marlon Byrd with two RBI singles and the temporary and new catcher John Buck, in the middle of most of the rallies that saw New York put four more runs on the board in the seventh. The acquisitions of GM Sandy Alderson resemble those Mets teams before the 1986 championship season.

They can quickly become fan favorites, but to do so, as in the past, there has to be consistency. Byrd and Buck had RBI singles in the third inning.

“It definitely helped me settle in a little easier,” said Buck who will eventually sit down when the rookie Travis d’Arnaud arrives, a key player in the deal that saw Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey leave town.

Maybe the biggest impact was the new man in center field, 26-year old Collin Cowgill. The leadoff hitter won the job with a good spring and hit his first career grand slam home run off Brad Bach in the seventh.

“Just a humbling experience today,” he said. “This is a good clubhouse and everyone here can contribute to something nice.” Mets fans have heard that in the past, but the unexpected does happen during the long course of a 162-game schedule.

Just ask Collins, who once again said, “It is day one. We have a long way to go. One thing we want to do is establish credibility to our fans.”

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted under Adrenaline, Citi, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Full House, Johan Santana, Lame Duck, Last Pitch, Left Hander, New York Mets, Optimism, San Diego Padres, Seven Runs, Shea Stadium, Top Story

2013 Mets Outlook “Waiting for d’Arnaud (and Wheeler too)

Mets fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years and it’s fairly safe to say that even the most optimistic fans of the Amazin’s cannot picture this team competing for a post-season berth this year.

While the team’s 2013 record will probably be abysmal, there is hope down on the farm. The Mets traded their Cy Young Award-winning pitcher RA Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays during the winter s they did not want to obligate themselves to a long-term, multi-million dollar contract to a 39 year-old knuckleball pitcher.

Normally the fans and media would be up in arms against Mets management for thinking yet again like a parsimonious small market team but the reaction was fairly muted. The key reason that everyone seemed willing to take a wait-and-see attitude were two young players the Mets received in return: pitcher Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

Syndergaard appears to be at least a full year away, and more likely two, from making the big league team. The timetable for d’Arnaud’s arrival in Flushing is more imminent. He would probably have been the Opening Day catcher but the Mets understandably want to delay his ability to demand both arbitration and free agency so they are stashing him away in their Las Vegas AAA team until late spring.

If scouting reports are accurate, Travis d’Arnaud will be the best catcher the Mets had since Mike Piazza served as their backstop from 1998-2006. That doesn’t mean of course that d’Arnaud will be the second coming of Piazza. Most Mets fans will be content if he is as good as John Stearns, a fine catcher who played in Queens from the mid ‘70s until the early 1980s.

Even though he has not played one game in the majors, d’Arnaud must be a pretty good prospect. He came up through the Phillies organization and was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. As mentioned previously, he was the key component in the RA Dickey deal.

Sandy Alderson’s first big move as Mets general manager was obtaining pitching prospect Zach Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants in 2011 in exchange for Carlos Beltran whose contract with the Mets would have expired in two more months anyway. Wheeler is probably ready for prime time right now but he is in the same boat as d’Arnaud. The Mets know that they are not going to be winning anything this year so they might as well have both of those young prospects under their control with less economic rights for them as long as possible.

Mets manager should not have trouble slotting in Wheeler into his starting rotation once he is called up to the Mets from Las Vegas. Johan Santana, who missed all of the 2011 season with shoulder surgery, badly struggled with arm problems following his no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1, 2012. It was the first no-hitter in the Mets’ fifty-year history and it must have angered the baseball gods. Johan was ineffective afterwards as he was pummeled in six straight starts before the Mets decided to put him on the disabled list in August.

Mets executives fantasized that Santana, who would be earning $25.5 million in the final year of his current deal with the Mets, would do what Ponce de Leon couldn’t; namely discover the Fountain of Youth.

Unfortunately that was not meant to be. Santana was understandably treating his left arm, his livelihood, with extreme caution when he reported to the Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida. A frustrated Sandy Alderson groused about his ace not being in pitching shape. Santana, a man of understandable pride, did not take kindly to the criticism and started throwing hard off of the pitching mound probably sooner than he should have.

We’ll never know if Alderson’s stinging comments were to blame but the end result is that Santana reinjured his left shoulder and will probably miss the entire 2013 season. His career is clearly in jeopardy.

The Mets starting pitching staff, while not great is not terrible either. Matt Harvey will be entering his sophomore season and he showed that he was able to dominate hitters with his fastball and curve. Jonathon Niese, who has been basically a .500 pitcher thorough his first three years in the majors. Of course given the Mets’ inept play during that time you can make an argument that Niese has been an All-Star. Dillon Gee missed the second half of the 2012 season with a blood clot in his right arm. Gee was great in 2011 going 13-6 but he struggled in the second half that year, and was mediocre in the first half of 2012. He did inspire confidence in spring training as opposing hitters smacked him around.

Shawn Marcum was a rare free agent for whom the Mets opened their wallets. Marcum has been a very good, though far from dominating, pitcher in his seven-year career with the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers. Marcum was on the disabled list during 2012 with an injured elbow.  During spring training, Marcum’s elbow was fine but his neck wasn’t. Marcum will start the 2013 season where he ended the 2012 campaign–on the disabled list.

If the Mets starting pitching is questionable, their bullpen is even a bigger mystery. Nominal closer Frank Francisco was a disaster last year and this year he starts the season on the DL with an injured elbow. The Mets probably won’t have that many ninth inning leads to protect this year so their bullpen has not received a lot of scrutiny.

Bobby Parnell, who routinely got beaten up like a pinata in the ninth inning, finally showed that he could handle the pressures of the ninth inning late last season and will be the closer for now according to Mets manager Terry Collins. Newly acquired Brandon Lyon, the other “big” Mets free agent signing, should be getting a lot of eighth inning work. The rest of the relief corps are comprised of obscure journeymen such as Scott Atchison, Greg Burke, Scott Rice, and one-time Yankees pitcher LaTroy Hawkins.

Mets fans won’t have to face a summer asking themselves about what will happen to the face of the franchise. In their most significant move of the off-season, the Mets signed David Wright to an eight-year, $160 million contract. Last month, the perennial All-Star third baseman was named to be the fourth captain in Mets history.

Wright has long been the de facto team leader but the official recognition of those skills by Mets management is a smart thing. This year however David may be sounding as if he is auditioning for “Annie” as he will surely spend a lot of time reassuring fans that the sun will come out tomorrow after every loss and there will be a lot of them.

There hasn’t been a lot of good news for Mets with respect to the 2013 season so let me emphasize one very important upbeat note. First baseman Ike Davis is completely healthy. In the past two years Davis has battled both leg injuries and Valley Fever which sapped his strength. Davis is the Mets’ best power hitter in a lineup with little pop so the odds are that opposing pitchers will not give him much to hit. Ike will have to be patient when batting.

Another player who will have to learn the art of patience at the plate is leftfielder Lucas Duda. He reminds many Mets fans of Dave Kingman, a guy who couldn’t field and struck out with great frequency but would occasionally get a hold of a fastball and hit it a country mile. Duda’s lone asset of belting home runs did not make up for his liabilities last season and he was sent down to the Mets’ AAA Buffalo Bisons farm club.

An argument can be made that Daniel Murphy is the best pure hitter in the Mets lineup. He missed most of spring training with a mysterious injury but appears to be OK now. Given the Mets’ puny offense, manager Terry Collins has no choice but to accept Murphy’s fielding errors at second base in order to have his bat in the lineup. In fairness to Murphy, he has worked hard at the position and is not the egregious liability out there that many feared.

There was a lot of anger emanating from Mets fans at the end of 2011 when the team chose not to make their star shortstop and free agent-to-be, Jose Reyes, even a nominal offer to stay in Flushing. The Mets may have been awful last year but no one could fault Reyes’s understudy, Ruben Tejada, who did a fine job both in the field and on offense last season. Tejada struggled at the plate this past spring however.

A lot has been written about the flimsy Mets outfield. Lucas Duda will be in left while 35 year-old veteran Marlon Byrd, who was suspended for 50 games in 2012 for using a substance that Major League Baseball frowns upon, will be in right. Not much is known about centerfielder Colin Cowgill who is a castoff from the Oakland Athletics. At least Whitestone native and Molloy High School alum Mike Baxter is still on the team and he should see a lot of playing time.

The Mets are excited about Jordany Valdespin who can play both infield and outfield positions and who possesses home run power. Valdespin though is frequently guilty of poor decision-making in the field and at the plate. He became an easy joke for comedians during spring training when he was hit by a fastball in the groin and was not wearing proper protection.

The Mets will surely improve in the coming years but the odds are that current manager Terry Collins will not be around to enjoy them. Collins has done as good a job as can be expected with the limited talent that he has had available. Nonetheless attendance and interest in the team has been down and the odds are that Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, and his son, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, will want to have longtime manager-in-waiting, as well as a member of the Mets’ 1986 World Series-winning team, Wally Backman, at the helm next year.

As Terry Collins and most Mets fans know, life is not always fair.

Posted under Aaa Team, Amazin, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Dollar Contract, Knuckleball Pitcher, Late Spring, Lloyd Carroll, Mets Fans, Mid 70s, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Ra Dickey, Roy Halladay, Scouting Reports, Second Coming, Top Story

Dickey the CY Young Award winner and Reyes gone in a fire sale

The R.A. Dickey story continues with his National League CY Young Award that was announced Wednesday evening. The New York Mets pitcher and first knuckle ball recipient of the award, third pitcher in Mets history with that distinction, gets a well deserved honor.

Some will say a knuckle ball thrower is not deserving of CY Young Award status. However, a 20-win season, to go along with taking the ball for a struggling team, is enough to vouch for the landslide first ballot among voters with the baseball Writers of America.

It is a success story. Dickey was on the verge of leaving the game of baseball, adversity on his side, now in an elite group of a few with the distinction of becoming the best at what he does.

The game of baseball is made for a story like this even if the knuckle ball has been made to prolong the career of a 38-year old pitcher. For the Mets, and their fans, a team of disappointment, the award is also for them

Dickey was the first to say, “This is for the Mets organization and for the fans.” In reality, the award is for Dickey who is never one to say “I” and always refers to accomplishments as, “We.”

Tom Seaver and Doc Gooden were previous CY Young Award recipients for the New York Mets. The fastball, curve, and a variety of other pitches were a part of their image. So, it is not unusual for the skeptics to claim that the knuckle ball is not a regular pitch.

Perhaps, to a certain degree the knuckler is not in the class of a fastball or curve, the slider, or changeup. Dickey, as often stated so many times says, “It’s a pitch like a butterfly, coming at you and trying to catch it.”

So forget the notion that Dickey and the knuckle ball are not deserving of the award. That, Geo Gonzalez, and his 21-wins with the Washington Nationals were more deserving. Or that Dodgers’ left hander Clayton Kershaw and his NL leading ERA should have gave him two straight CY Young Award seasons.

Dickey with three shutouts, leader in NL quality starts, (27) with only four poor outings, said his storybook season can also be attributed to what was behind him. The catcher Josh Thole handling the knuckle ball so effectively, the third baseman David Wright handling the plays at third, but leading the league in strikeouts, 230, and innings pitched, 233, are something that should not go unnoticed.

Yes, this is a success story that deserves attention, for a pitcher who left spring training in 2010 without a team. And then, the Mets offered him a contract as he perfected the knuckler to overcome the adversity,

“It brings a real degree of legitimacy to the knuckleball fraternity,” said Dickey Wednesday evening from his home in Nashville Tennessee. “I’m glad to represent them,” he said about Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield and Charlie Huff.

He may not be able to duplicate the season that was, as it becomes more difficult for a pitcher to do so, even if the knuckle ball works to Dickey’s advantage. And there is that distinct possibility, now that he is a good trade commodity, that the Mets could get some value in return with a proper offer.

But, Dickey is not thinking about that, neither are the Mets for the moment. They will make every attempt to re-sign him, an incentive for fans to attend Mets games at Citi Field in 2013.

JOSE REYES AND THE MARLINS FIRE SALE:  An immediate question is, should Jose Reyes have stayed in New York and took the initial  deal of less money and a shorter stint of time instead of opting to take the deal with the Marlins?

Yes and no, because it is sports “Ego-Nomics” as the Miami Marlins have discovered after their last place finish and 69 wins, in a lost 2012 season of spending, a new ballpark and now a fire sale.

There is no guarantee that spending will buy a championship. The Marlins are well aware, the owner Jeffrey Loria is under fire for buying and selling off $163.75 million in contracts with a multi-player deal involving the Toronto Blue Jays.

Toronto becomes an immediate favorite to overtake the New York Yankees in the AL East acquiring the contracts of Reyes, pitchers Mark Buehrie and Josh Johnson, plus the Jays get some cash with other players in the deal.

But the trade brings up any number of questions, one being does this send a message to owners that spending and offering long term deals may be a thing of the past? Ask the Yankees, who may not be able to trade away an aging and declining Alex Rodriguez with five years remaining on a $250 million dollar contract.

As for Reyes, who did his part with the Marlins, is this, his last stop? Probably not, as a player of his value in the game is worthy for any team that is willing to pick up pieces of a contract.

There is a factor for Reyes, who played in 161 games for Miami. He goes to a new league and will play on artificial turf, something that could hinder his hamstrings which caused numerous problems during his tenure in New York.

It is baseball and sports “Ego-Nomics.”  And next to the Dodgers-Red Sox mega trade in September, this one could be sending the message. The era of a huge and long term deal with the players and owners may be over.

E-Mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com  Listen and watch Rich Thursday evening live 8-10pm www.inthemixxradio.com or log on Facebook.com/Keep it in the Ring

Posted under Award Recipients, Baseball Writers, Changeup, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Deserved Honor, Doc Gooden, Elite Group, Fastball, Fire Sale, Knuckle Ball, Landslide, New York Mets, Rich Mancuso, Tom Seaver, Top Story, Washington Nationals, Wednesday Evening

Home Runs Ruin Mets Extra Inning Affair

Men and women of the military were honored by the New York Mets at Citi Field before their game with the San Francisco Giants Tuesday evening and the team wore patriotic hats. And it looked like it would go the Mets way in the ballgame just like it was at Shea Stadium 10-years ago when baseball returned after the events of September 11, 2001.

Carlos Beltran got the Mets off to a good start with a three-run home run in the first inning, his fourth of the year. Mets starter R.A. Dickey struggled with his knuckleball as the Giants scored four runs in the third inning. Ike Davis hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning as the Mets took the lead again, 5-4.

But the Mets could not capitalize later on when they had a chance. Dickey (1-3) allowed six runs and did not get the loss. The bullpen gave it away in the 10th inning, when Taylor Buchholz had his season high 8.2 scoreless inning streak snapped when Aubrey Huff hit a solo home run to right, this after closer Francisco Rodriguez got out of a jam without allowing a run in the ninth.

That was the difference as New York, in their second straight extra- inning game lost to the Giants 7-6 in 10 innings. Brian Wilson, National League saves leader of the Giants notched his ninth save with his only mistake a single by Jose Reyes in the bottom of the 10th.

“I made a mistake with a ball I threw right down the middle,” said Buchholz about the 10th home run allowed by the Mets pitching staff in the seventh inning or later. It was a different ending from that September evening at Shea Stadium in 2001, when Mike Piazza hit the game winning home run that beat the Atlanta Braves.

The Mets were 2-12 with runners in scoring position, 3-for-28 in their last two games and left the bases loaded in the ninth. There was not much to say in the clubhouse afterwards after another disappointing lost. Because the next two games they will see NL CY Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and 2-1 lefthander Jonathan Sanchez.

So it won’t be an easy task for the Mets the next few days as they face two of the top pitchers on the Giants staff that were a nucleus to their 2010 World Series championship.

Mets manager Terry Collins addressed that issue before the game. “If you are going to win you have to face the best,” he said. “You have to take care of business,” he commented about Tuesday’s Giants starter Mike Fontenot who did not figure in the decision. “Worry about Lincecum tomorrow,” he said.

However, Collins has to be concerned about Dickey. Other than the first inning where he retired the Giants in order, it was another start at home where he struggled. “I didn’t have a good knuckleball,” said Dickey. “I wanted to get the team a win. There were some things I regret not doing.”

He commented that the first pitch knuckleball could have been more effective or he could have, went with that pitch more often against a Giants offense that is struggling. They entered the game 28th in baseball in runs scored and their seven runs were the most since scoring eight on April 18th against Colorado.  Dickey went 11-9 last season and was the most effective starter on a Mets starting pitching staff that struggled.

So on an evening when the Mets honored members of the military, also distributing 4,000 tickets to military members and their families, they hoped for a different outcome.   They hope for better results against Lincecum Tuesday evening and send (2-2) Chris Capuano to the mound.

Notes: Jason Bay will not be with the team again Wednesday who is on a paternity leave to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s third child… Angel Pagan, on the disabled list with a strained oblique pull, went 1-for-5 in an extended spring game in Port St. Lucie Florida and could return by Friday when the Mets face the Los Angeles Dodgers….

Jose Reyes reached base all six times at the plate with three walks, a double and two singles, the three walks tied a career high… Beltran with a double also got his 188th as a Met and moved into sole possession of seventh place on the Mets all-time list, one ahead of Darryl Strawberry,

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bottom Of The Inning, Carlos Beltran, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Francisco Rodriguez, Inning Game, Knuckleball, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Scoreless Inning Streak, September 11 2001, Shea Stadium, Top Story

Mets To Play Out String Without Johan

New York – Johan Santana is done again in September. It does not matter for the New York Mets now. They started to play out the string a month ago as their playoff chances continued to fade for one reason or another.

But once again, Santana, the ace will not finish the season. The two-time CY Young Award winner has been shut down after an MRI exam result showed a torn antenor on the front and bottom of his pitching shoulder. It was last September 1st when he was shut down to remove bone chips from his left elbow.

“I just hope to recover and hope this will be the end of it,” he said prior to the Mets 8-4 loss to the first place Phillies at Citi Field Friday night. “Get everything fixed,” he would say.  But this was not what the Mets envisioned when GM Omar Minaya signed him to a six-year $137.5 million dollar contract.

It is baseball, the aspects of injuries and a definite risk when signing players to the long term and lucrative deal. However there is that definite opinion that the Mets organization is beset with a hex and not a miracle. All based of course on a recurring string of injuries, last season and now.

Santana again, Jose Reyes more than once, John Maine shut down, and of course the concussion symptoms that may or may not have ended the season for Jason Bay.

In the case of Santana, blame medical personnel of the Mets organization? Perhaps, or it is the case of a pitcher who had thrown too many innings in Minnesota before coming to New York. Whatever the reason, Santana is done and the Mets once again move on to next year.

“I feel he will fulfill those next three years,” said Minaya about the contract. He observed Santana speaking to the media at the pre game press conference.  Again it is another dismal September for Minaya, the Mets and their fans at Citi Field.” Hopefully, we’ll have him back sooner than later,” said Minaya.

Santana will have surgery soon and hopes to recover by January. That may be pushing the button. He will get a second opinion from famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews.  But we should have known that there was more trouble for the Mets ace when he was lifted after five innings in Atlanta last week because of stiffness.

The Mets said later it was a strained pectoral muscle and Santana would be listed as day-to-day.  Sounds familiar? Have we not heard and seen this before from Mets brass when it comes to the extent of an injury, more so to one of their high profiled players?

So in September again the Mets will show off their home grown talent on the field, and on the mound. In place of Santana is Dillon Gee who made his Major League debut down in Washington D.C. this week and flirted with a no-hitter.

Rookie pitcher Jenrry Mejia (0-4) failed once again to get his first Major League win Friday evening. He remains in the rotation, for the remainder of the string in the stretch of September. A lot to learn and minimal pressure without a pennant race to be concerned about.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel said he has no other options now that Santana has thrown his last pitch in 2010. “At this point we’ll see how he does,” he said about Mejia who observed there needs to be adjustments made when he faces a lineup the second time around.

And for the Mets, adjustments once again in September as they plan for next year with or without Santana on the mound.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Antenor, Bone Chips, Citi, Concussion Symptoms, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Dollar Contract, Exam Result, Game Press, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Last September, Lucrative Deal, Mri Exam, New York Mets, Omar Minaya, Phillies, Playoff Chances, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on September 11, 2010