The Time Has Come For d’Arnaud

After the 1974 season, the Mets – sensing their catcher Jerry Grote was starting to show his age – needed to find a younger option.

Without any in the organization, the team shipped popular but quirky pitcher Tug McGraw to the Philadelphia Phillies for catching prospect John Stearns, among other players.

Although McGraw went on to pitch in Philly for nine more seasons, the trade worked out as Stearns went on to become a four-time All-Star for the Mets over the next seven years and his tough play made him one of the few reasons to watch the club during those lean years of the late 1970s.

Sandy Alderson is hoping history will repeat itself.

Because this past off-season, the organization shipped popular but quirky pitcher R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, among other players.

D’Arnaud is supposed to be the real deal, a player that will fit right in with an organization with a history of All-Star catchers. And coming into the year, he looked like he was ready after hitting .333 and 16 homers in Triple-A during the 2012 season.

But after breaking his foot the first month of the year, questions started popping up about d’Arnaud’s health and if he may not be the next big thing for the Mets.

It’s now time, though, to find out. After John Buck came back from paternity leave, the Mets decided to keep d’Arnaud on the roster, optioning Anthony Recker and having their prize in the lineup every day.

“There are six weeks left and we have games against the Braves, Washington, who is still fighting and Cincinnati,” said manager Terry Collins. “We have games against a lot of teams still in the hunt. So we are going to learn a lot. We are going to see a lot of people who player (in the majors) every day. So we will get a nice sample here to see if Travis can handle it.”

In his first four games, the 24 year-old didn’t embarrass himself. Defensively he seems very comfortable behind the plate, and after going 0-10 to start the season, he finally got his first hit tonight.

“The job he did yesterday with Dillon [Gee], and the job he did today, I think his pitch selection is outstanding,” Collins said. “Now that he knows he’s going to be here, I think he’s relaxed more behind the plate, he’s receiving the ball better and, yes, I think that hit is going to make a huge difference.

“He’s got a quick bat, he’s had some good at-bats, but I know that one means a lot to him and I’m really glad he got it.”

That doesn’t mean the kid is embarrassing himself. D’Arnaud also walked five times his first three games, the most in team history and some of those outs were just by a step.

And the Mets know that, which is why they kept d’Arnaud and made Buck his backup, which is fine because Buck has some wisdom when it comes to the National League.

“(Buck) knows this league, especially this division after being in it for the past few years,” Collins said. “He’s here to be a teammate and when he is in the lineup, he will produce.”

No one knows if Buck will be back next year. That’s another decision. The Mets, though, need to find out now if d’Arnaud is the real deal or if he will need more seasoning in the minors.

Posted under Anthony Recker, Four Games, Homers, Jerry Grote, Joe Mcdonald, Lean Years, Mets, Month Of The Year, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Tug Mcgraw

The Time Has Come For d’Arnaud

After the 1974 season, the Mets – sensing their catcher Jerry Grote was starting to show his age – needed to find a younger option.

Without any in the organization, the team shipped popular but quirky pitcher Tug McGraw to the Philadelphia Phillies for catching prospect John Stearns, among other players.

Although McGraw went on to pitch in Philly for nine more seasons, the trade worked out as Stearns went on to become a four-time All-Star for the Mets over the next seven years and his tough play made him one of the few reasons to watch the club during those lean years of the late 1970s.

Sandy Alderson is hoping history will repeat itself.

Because this past off-season, the organization shipped popular but quirky pitcher R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, among other players.

D’Arnaud is supposed to be the real deal, a player that will fit right in with an organization with a history of All-Star catchers. And coming into the year, he looked like he was ready after hitting .333 and 16 homers in Triple-A during the 2012 season.

But after breaking his foot the first month of the year, questions started popping up about d’Arnaud’s health and if he may not be the next big thing for the Mets.

It’s now time, though, to find out. After John Buck came back from paternity leave, the Mets decided to keep d’Arnaud on the roster, optioning Anthony Recker and having their prize in the lineup every day.

“There are six weeks left and we have games against the Braves, Washington, who is still fighting and Cincinnati,” said manager Terry Collins. “We have games against a lot of teams still in the hunt. So we are going to learn a lot. We are going to see a lot of people who player (in the majors) every day. So we will get a nice sample here to see if Travis can handle it.”

In his first four games, the 24 year-old didn’t embarrass himself. Defensively he seems very comfortable behind the plate, and after going 0-10 to start the season, he finally got his first hit tonight.

“The job he did yesterday with Dillon [Gee], and the job he did today, I think his pitch selection is outstanding,” Collins said. “Now that he knows he’s going to be here, I think he’s relaxed more behind the plate, he’s receiving the ball better and, yes, I think that hit is going to make a huge difference.

“He’s got a quick bat, he’s had some good at-bats, but I know that one means a lot to him and I’m really glad he got it.”

That doesn’t mean the kid is embarrassing himself. D’Arnaud also walked five times his first three games, the most in team history and some of those outs were just by a step.

And the Mets know that, which is why they kept d’Arnaud and made Buck his backup, which is fine because Buck has some wisdom when it comes to the National League.

“(Buck) knows this league, especially this division after being in it for the past few years,” Collins said. “He’s here to be a teammate and when he is in the lineup, he will produce.”

No one knows if Buck will be back next year. That’s another decision. The Mets, though, need to find out now if d’Arnaud is the real deal or if he will need more seasoning in the minors.

Posted under Anthony Recker, Four Games, Homers, Jerry Grote, Joe Mcdonald, Lean Years, Mets, Month Of The Year, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Sandy Alderson, Stearns, Top Story, Tug Mcgraw

Davey’s All-Star Game Memories

With the All-Star game at Citi Field fast approaching, it felt like a good time to stir the memories of former Mets manager Davey Johnson, who was in town herding his Washington Nationals this weekend. Johnson, a four-time All-Star himself (1968-70, ’73), was, of course, the skipper of the 1986 World Champion Mets when the longtime tradition tabbed him to helm the National League squad in 1987.

Johnson’s NL squad in ’87 found runs hard to come by, but they held firm until they were able to push two scores across the plate in the 13th inning and secured an All-Star shutout, 2-0. In fact, Johnson has always been associated with All-Star victories, as his NL teammates won all four games when he was on the roster in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“Back then, just like it is now,” Johnson said proudly, “is always a great honor.”

Johnson’s best recollection of that game in ’87 naturally involved his pitchers. “I remember the game was out in Oakland, and the last guy to pitch for us was Sid (Fernandez) at the end of the game (who got the save).

“I had used the great Cubs closer, Lee Smith, for three innings (the longest stint by any NL hurler that night), and I guess I didn’t care about him (picture Davey smiling broadly as he said this). I needed Sid for the second half (of the Mets’ season).”

Hey, a win is a win, no matter how you get it. “We won the game, so that was pretty good.”

Johnson’s memories of his All-Star appearances are a little fuzzy, perhaps purposely, as he collected only one hit in his times at-bat, often filling in for Hall of Famers such as Rod Carew late in the game, and in ’69, he didn’t even make it into the game, which is a fate that befell many All-Stars in the days when sometimes a Willie Mays or a Hank Aaron would play the entire game.

Interestingly, Johnson’s teammates in the ’73 included eight future Hall of Famers. The AL squad placed nine future Hall of Famers onto their boxscore.

It’s always a juggling act for any All-Star manager these days of trying to win and trying to place every player into the boxscore.

“I remember I had Pedro Guerrero, just about the best hitter in the league at the time, and I didn’t start him. I gave him only one pinch-hit. I was trying to do him a favor cause I knew he had a little knee problem. But he was mad at me for a long time after that.”

Guerrero lined out in the tenth against Tom Henke in his only at-bat, pinch-hitting for Steve Bedrosian.

“Managing the game is very difficult cause you’re trying to win the game and trying to get everybody into the game,” Johnson emphasized. “They made the trip, so you want to get everybody in, but at the same time you want to pay service to your league and to the team.”

Putting the roster together is also a way to get yourself into trouble.

“There’s always going to be guys who deserve to be there and who you just couldn’t squeeze onto the team.”

As it turned out, Johnson ended up managing six future Hall of Famers – Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Mike Schmidt, Gary Carter, Ozzie Smith, and Tony Gwynn. The AL team featured six future Hall of Famers as well – Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Dave Winfield, Cal Ripken, Jr., George Brett, and Kirby Puckett.

Johnson, 70, will join Mets manager Terry Collins as the two baseline coaches for this year’s All Star game at Citi Field on July 16.

Both staffs will have a definitive Mets flavor. As is the custom, the managers of the World Series the previous year run the squads, and have choice over selecting two other current managers as coaches. San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy, himself a former Met (1982), went with Collins and Johnson. AL skipper Jim Leyland, chose ex-Mets Robin Ventura and John Gibbons.

“I’m looking forward to just being on the bench and helping out Bochy,” added Johnson, “and watching him squirm trying to win and trying to get everybody in.”

Posted under Andy Esposito, Boxscore, Four Games, Future Hall Of Famers, Lee Smith, New York Mets, Pitchers, Rod Carew, Sid Fernandez, Star Appearances, Teammates, Top Story, Washington Nationals

Davey’s All-Star Game Memories

With the All-Star game at Citi Field fast approaching, it felt like a good time to stir the memories of former Mets manager Davey Johnson, who was in town herding his Washington Nationals this weekend. Johnson, a four-time All-Star himself (1968-70, ’73), was, of course, the skipper of the 1986 World Champion Mets when the longtime tradition tabbed him to helm the National League squad in 1987.

Johnson’s NL squad in ’87 found runs hard to come by, but they held firm until they were able to push two scores across the plate in the 13th inning and secured an All-Star shutout, 2-0. In fact, Johnson has always been associated with All-Star victories, as his NL teammates won all four games when he was on the roster in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“Back then, just like it is now,” Johnson said proudly, “is always a great honor.”

Johnson’s best recollection of that game in ’87 naturally involved his pitchers. “I remember the game was out in Oakland, and the last guy to pitch for us was Sid (Fernandez) at the end of the game (who got the save).

“I had used the great Cubs closer, Lee Smith, for three innings (the longest stint by any NL hurler that night), and I guess I didn’t care about him (picture Davey smiling broadly as he said this). I needed Sid for the second half (of the Mets’ season).”

Hey, a win is a win, no matter how you get it. “We won the game, so that was pretty good.”

Johnson’s memories of his All-Star appearances are a little fuzzy, perhaps purposely, as he collected only one hit in his times at-bat, often filling in for Hall of Famers such as Rod Carew late in the game, and in ’69, he didn’t even make it into the game, which is a fate that befell many All-Stars in the days when sometimes a Willie Mays or a Hank Aaron would play the entire game.

Interestingly, Johnson’s teammates in the ’73 included eight future Hall of Famers. The AL squad placed nine future Hall of Famers onto their boxscore.

It’s always a juggling act for any All-Star manager these days of trying to win and trying to place every player into the boxscore.

“I remember I had Pedro Guerrero, just about the best hitter in the league at the time, and I didn’t start him. I gave him only one pinch-hit. I was trying to do him a favor cause I knew he had a little knee problem. But he was mad at me for a long time after that.”

Guerrero lined out in the tenth against Tom Henke in his only at-bat, pinch-hitting for Steve Bedrosian.

“Managing the game is very difficult cause you’re trying to win the game and trying to get everybody into the game,” Johnson emphasized. “They made the trip, so you want to get everybody in, but at the same time you want to pay service to your league and to the team.”

Putting the roster together is also a way to get yourself into trouble.

“There’s always going to be guys who deserve to be there and who you just couldn’t squeeze onto the team.”

As it turned out, Johnson ended up managing six future Hall of Famers – Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Mike Schmidt, Gary Carter, Ozzie Smith, and Tony Gwynn. The AL team featured six future Hall of Famers as well – Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Dave Winfield, Cal Ripken, Jr., George Brett, and Kirby Puckett.

Johnson, 70, will join Mets manager Terry Collins as the two baseline coaches for this year’s All Star game at Citi Field on July 16.

Both staffs will have a definitive Mets flavor. As is the custom, the managers of the World Series the previous year run the squads, and have choice over selecting two other current managers as coaches. San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy, himself a former Met (1982), went with Collins and Johnson. AL skipper Jim Leyland, chose ex-Mets Robin Ventura and John Gibbons.

“I’m looking forward to just being on the bench and helping out Bochy,” added Johnson, “and watching him squirm trying to win and trying to get everybody in.”

Posted under Andy Esposito, Boxscore, Four Games, Future Hall Of Famers, Lee Smith, New York Mets, Pitchers, Rod Carew, Sid Fernandez, Star Appearances, Teammates, Top Story, Washington Nationals

Collins says it’s inexcusable about miscues that cost Mets another game

One word from New York Mets manager Terry Collins explained their latest loss to the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night at Citi Field. “Inexcusable,” he said after his team dropped their second consecutive game to the Rockies, 6-2. Like the night before, when it looked like R.A. Dickey would get his 16th win, Chris young pitched perfect baseball for five innings before things imploded on the field.

Young retired the first 15 batters he faced before D.J. LeMahieu singled to start the sixth inning. And then the implosion of mistakes that caused Collins to meet with his team after the game, in what he described in a “professional tone.”

Young cased a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by Rockies’ starter Jhoulys Chacin that led to a four-run sixth inning. New York could not surmount any type of threat against Chacin, (1-3) who made his first start since May 1st after going on the disabled list with inflammation to his right shoulder.

And to young, (3-7) who struck out his first four batters, the loss was just as frustrating to him.

“That bunt cost us the game,” he said. “It’s frustrating. “We’re here to win.  “I’m certainly frustrated because I helped contribute to a loss.” It was the Mets third straight loss, losers in 13 of their last 16.

Collins’ team has the second worst record in baseball since the All-star break, and it is almost assured this will be the fourth consecutive year of a second half collapse for New York.

Before the Mets try to take one of four games in this series with the Rockies, they also await word Wednesday morning as to the result of an MRI that Johan Santana had Tuesday on his lower back. As of late Tuesday night, Santana was still scheduled to make his start in the series finale Thursday afternoon.

“He has an appointment in the morning, we will have an answer in the morning,” commented Collins.”

However there seems to be no answer as to what Collins is describing as inexcusable play.  In the ninth the Rockies got another run on a ball that first baseman Ike Davis threw home. Andrew Brown retreated back to third and was chased by David Wright. But the run scored on a high toss, another botched play that Collins saw from his office after being tossed from the game on a disputed play in the fifth.

“When you talk about effort, I’m not sure it’s lack of effort. Its lack of execution, it’s lack of preparation, it’s lack of thought,” said Collins. “I saw some things tonight where pitchers were standing in the middle of the infield with the ball being thrown around. That’s inexcusable.”

He mentioned how pitchers are taught to make proper plays during rundowns in the infield. Collins says he will take the blame for the lack of preparation, as he did last season when the Mets had their second half adventures.

“We have not packed it,” said Collins when asked if his team has quit on him. “But, as I told the guys perception is a reality.  And when you sit on the outside and watch a game like tonight perception is they packed it in and I won’t stand for it.”

“I believe in accountability. I believe in playing the game right. I’m the manager here and when you have a game like that it looks like they’re not prepared, that’s my fault. And that’s where I come in.”

He told his team the right pieces will be found. Collins said again, “My teams play the right way.”

“I don’t think we’re a bad team we just need to execute better,” claimed David Wright who has become the spokesperson for the coaching staff. He says they prepare the team well.

The Mets certainly played the right way for Collins in the first half. It is the dog days of August, and more so appearing more like players that need to be accountable for their miscues on the field.  Playing for their jobs next season seems to be the case, with payroll tied up only with Santana and Jason Bay, who has become a platoon outfielder.

But accountability is one thing and inexcusable play is another. Two more games with the Rockies and Collins may have to start thinking about who returns next season.

Email Rich Mancuso; Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Batters, Chacin, Collapse, Colorado Rockies, Four Games, Fourth Consecutive Year, Game One, Implosion, Johan Santana, Miscues, New York Mets, Professional Tone, Rich Mancuso, Sixth Inning, Top Story

Mancuso: Mets End A Bright First Half

Four days from now for the New York Mets to think about what is ahead for the remaining 75 games. At the All-Star break they are 48-40 and four games back of the second place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.  They will take it, so will their fans.

An accomplishment because last season at the break the team was 42-45, in fourth place trailing first place Philadelphia by 6-1/2 in the standings. The Mets know they are contending, and know extra help is here with Carlos Beltran coming off the disabled list and making his season debut in San Francisco Thursday evening,

Though Beltran, out since surgery on his right knee, does present some type of dilemma for manager Jerry Manuel. Well sort of, four outfielders and three spots. Someone will have to sit among Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur.

The plan, according to Manuel is to bat Beltran fourth, a spot currently held by the rookie Ike Davis who will be dropped to the sixth spot. And you can’t sit Pagan down, the Mets most consistent hitter who got another three hits Sunday as New York took the final game over Atlanta salvaging their three-game series.

So what will be the situation when the Mets reconvene Thursday for an 11-game three- city trip that also takes them to Arizona and Los Angeles, a trip the Mets say is crucial as the second half begins. The Mets proved to be a good team at home, 30-16 but their fortunes away from Citi Field not as good at 18-24.

“We didn’t want to go onto the break the way we played the past few days,” commented Manuel after another pitching gem by his ace Johan Santana, which ended the first half on a positive note. New York looked lethargic at the plate the past two games against the division leading Braves, and their other pitcher with first half success, Mike Pelfrey, on Saturday once again could not get past the fifth inning.

But Beltran passed through the Mets clubhouse prior to the finale Sunday, afternoon and Santana gave the team an added lift, more so optimism for a good second half. Nothing but a spot for October baseball is what the Mets want. And they believe with Beltran healthy, and the usual second half success of Santana will get them there.

Francoeur was told by Manuel that he would most likely be regulated as a bench player. Occasionally he will get the start in right, that is, if Pagan hits a tailspin and all indications are that’s not going to happen. Pagan is healthy and shows continually, he is a key offensive cog at the beginning of the lineup.

“It’s not my decision,: commented Pagan about the lineup decisions Manuel has to make, He finished the first half with a string of four consecutive multi-hit games and batted .484 with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs since July 4th in a seven game span.

Pagan added he would like to stay in the lineup. Manuel only indicated that Beltran will get the start and Francoeur will probably sit for the moment, but there is every reason to believe that there will be a platoon of Francoeur and Pagan. Jason Bay, who sat down Sunday, on his bobble head give-away day has been an offensive disappointment but his multi-million dollar contract leaves him in the lineup.

It is no problem for Francouer, He will go with the plan, and the return of Beltran will not disrupt a Mets clubhouse that has good chemistry and has looked forward to his bat back in the lineup.  You heard the comments from the players and realize how important it is to win.

“We’re not satisfied to be three or four games out of first place,” said David Wright who entered Sunday tied for the National League lead in runs batted in with 65 and starts at third base for the NL all stars.  “Our goal is to win the division. There is need for improvement.”

Santana has improved and has thrown shutout baseball the last two starts. The fastball is back and it is helping his other pitches. Now the Mets need to get Pelfrey back into form and with R.A. Dickey and Jonathan Niese having good first halves, perhaps GM Omar Minaya will try and get another starter,  to, compliment them before the trading deadline.

There is the possible return of pitchers Oliver Perez and John Maine from the disabled list, one or the other could be going to the pen. It has been the pitching that has put the Mets in this position of contention and they would like it to stay that way.

With or without Francouer in the lineup, they know what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months. Jose Reyes also is a part of the plan and needs to stay healthy as that catalyst in the lineup.

“Obviously it’s a good problem we have, it’s a good thing to see,” said Francoeur about Beltran. A good problem for this clubhouse if indeed, Beltran stays healthy and shows signs of once again being the run producer that the Mets have lacked since April.

Francoeur said he will do his part when he is in the lineup to make sure “this team wins.”  So do the rest of these New York Mets who feel they are on the footsteps of their first postseason since 2006.

Beltran won’t hurt their chances and neither would a platoon of Pagan and Francoeur. Now if Bay can finally find his home run swing the way Santana rediscovered his fastball.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Carlos Beltran, City Trip, Fifth Inning, Final Game, Fortunes, Four Games, Game Series, Jason Bay, Jeff Francoeur, Johan Santana, Mancuso, Mets Clubhouse, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Nl East, Outfielders, Reconvene, Rich Mancuso, Season Debut, Top Story, Two Games

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 12, 2010