Dickey gets win Number 20 and Mets end home finale on a promising note

R. A. Dickey heard the ovation from the 31,508 fans at CitiField Thursday afternoon. They cheered when he took the mound, came to bat, and was removed from the game with two outs in the seventh inning with the New York Mets holding a 6-3 lead.

It was the final home game of the season for the Mets and significant because Dickey had his turn moved up with an opportunity to win number 20. He did not disappoint and became the first knuckleball pitcher to win twenty games since 1980.

The Mets took the finale from the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-4.taking two of three games and it was a celebration for Dickey, his manager, team, and the fans. And it looked and sounded like a playoff atmosphere, even though the Mets will conclude their fourth straight losing season.

His manager, Terry Collins, as he has done all season with the knuckleball pitcher asked him an inning before, “I said look this ballpark is filled with energy today use it to your advantage. These people deserve to see you walk off the mound.”

Dickey left to standing ovation and tipped his hat to the crowd in that seventh inning. He was relieved by Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell, and watched from the clubhouse.  Rauch would give up a one-out two run home run to Alex Presley.

Had the Mets eventually lost and if Dickey failed to achieve the milestone, as he always says, getting his team getting a win would be more important.

When it was over, Dickey said, “It’s like a big exhale.” He did not want his exploits to be a center of attention as he got closer to the 20th win. After all, the 37-year-old right hander, who has overcome adversity, had never won more than 11 games in his big league career.

“This was about R.A. Dickey today,” said Collins. “It was about him. It was about his connection with the fans, with the city.’ Collins has this respect for Dickey that was heard all season. He reiterated more than once, before Dickey arrived in the conference room to meet with media, that this was a day for his pitcher.

He told Dickey he had to walk off the mound, just when Dickey knew he was running out of energy. Collins was telling him that the connection had to be used. A connection, because this has been a Mets season of futility that will conclude with the good vibes and memories that now come with the first Mets pitcher to win 20- games since Frank Viola went 20-12 in 1990.

“Had R.A. not done what he did, it’s hard to tell where we’d be,” commented Collins.

Now, Dickey will also be in the discussion for the National League CY Young Award along with Gio Gonzlaez of the Nationals, another 20-game winner and Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds.

“That is a little surreal,” commented Dickey about the top award for a pitcher. “But who doesn’t want to win a CY Young Award. I want to be the best, but who doesn’t want to be the best. I want to enjoy this before I think about that.

He said he was an example of a mediocre pitcher that was signed to a spring training contract in 2010 by prior Mets General Manager Omar Minaya. The true story was told with his best seller book “Where ever I wind up” that hit the stores in March and prior to the Mets giving him an opportunity, the career was just about over.

But the knuckleball saved him.

“But it wasn’t about him, it was never about him, “said Collins who like any manager and opposing player is marveled about a pitch that flutters and tends to constantly fool the hitter.

The Pirates were fooled as Dickey also struck out a career tying 13 that increased his National League best total to 222. It was the seventh time this season he reached double figures, also a league best and the 12 pitches thrown were the second most in his career.

“It’s not an easy pitch to hit and he is so good at what he does,” commented Pirates’ third baseman Pedro Alvarez, a victim of three Dickey strikeouts.” And even if Dickey does not go on and win the CY Young, the players will say what a great story this has been.

Travis Snyder who made the catch of the year in right at Citi Field that robbed a home run from Mike Baxter in the second as the ball appeared to go over the fence, “Congratulations to him (Dickey) on a great year and a great story.”

David Wright continued his strong finish with an opposite field home run to right for his 21st home run of the season that gave Dickey and the Mets a 6-3 lead in the fifth.

“There were times he picked us up and really carried us as a team on his back,” he said about Dickey. “I was happy to provide the hit that made the difference.”

Dickey allowed three runs and eight hits. He claimed, “About the fourth or fifth inning I felt exasperated. I was not myself today for the most part.”  The Pirates would score two runs in the second and another in the fourth.

He said the fans changed his ability to throw the proper knuckler that was clocked at 78. “And then I would come out for an at bat and I would hear this kind of growing surge and it was really neat. I don’t know if I have experienced something like that before.”

“Although I wasn’t distracted from the moment, how could you not be motivated to go out there and give the fans, and well your teammates and yourself all that you have?”

Dickey certainly gave the fans all he had, and something they had to smile about as they went home. A season like this may be difficult to duplicate for him, and in sports that may be asking too much.

And for a season that went well for the Mets in the first half and crumbled in the second, seeing Dickey at Citi Field win Number 20 was good enough for them.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring76@aol.com  or Facebook.com/Keep it In the Ring

 

Posted under Adversity, Center Of Attention, Clubhouse, Energy Today, Exhale, Home Game, Knuckleball Pitcher, Losing Season, New York Mets, Parnell, Pittsburgh Pirates, Promising Note, Rich Mancuso, Right Hander, Seventh Inning, Standing Ovation, Three Games, Top Story

The last day at Citi Field with the Mets had some highlights

Jose Reyes was the major agenda at Citi Field Wednesday afternoon as the New York Mets concluded their third straight losing season with a 3-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Playing his last game as a New York Met, because Reyes is a free agent, he entered the game as the National League batting leader. And it became an interesting story in the first inning, when Reyes, leading off, hit a bunt single and was removed for Justin Turner.

A majority of the slim crowd immediately offered their displeasure at manager Terry Collins. But it was Collins answering for his star shortstop. Reyes asked his manager to remove him from the game if he got a hit in the first inning. So Reyes left Citi Field in the late afternoon as the NL hit leader at .337 and was going to watch how Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers faired later in the evening, second at .335 and would need at least three hits to surpass Reyes.

“I wanted to stay in the game, but Mets fans have to understand, too , what’s going on,” said Reyes who planned to watch the Brewers game against Pittsburgh with a circle of  family and friends at his home in Long Island. If Reyes wins the batting title he would be the first Met to do so, and according to his Major League baseball contract there would be no extra incentives granted.

Reyes, doing what he did, made for plenty of controversy. He admitted after a Mets 13-inning loss, the night before to the Reds, that he would not get much sleep. He said the batting title would be a significant accomplishment and something his people in the Dominican Republic would want. And, Reyes made no reference to his free agency having more value if he secured the batting title.

Collins, who had respect of his players all season, and rewarded with an option on his contract to manage through the 2013 season said, “I heard some comments in the stands. I don’t blame them. People pay a good price to come to these games. “You’ve got to understand that I ask these players to do a lot. We worked hard to get their respect this year and they deserve ours.”

It was an emotional Collins making that statement in his last post game press conference. When asked about Reyes, Collins was obviously holding back tears. His teammate David Wright had no objection to what Reyes did, though some Major League players had their opinion in social media circles and did not agree what Reyes decided to do.

“I guess everybody is entitled to their opinion but in order to win a batting title you have to have a certain number of plate appearances during the course of a year,” said David Wright a teammate of Reyes the past eight years. “I don’t see what the big deal is. I don’t think it’s fair criticism to get one more plate appearance?  He had a great year and we are all rooting for him to win the batting title.”

Reyes was trying to become the 11th different shortstop to win the batting title and first since Florida’s Henley Ramirez hit .342 that led the National League in 2009. As to this being his last game as a New York Met, said Reyes, “A lot of stuff is going through my mind. At the same time, I know what is going on. I am going to be a free agent. So we are going to see what happens in the next few weeks.”

And Reyes heard the fans during the game, chant, “Please stay, Jo-se” They chanted again when Reyes sprinted out of the dugout after Miguel Batista threw the last pitch and got the complete game victory. “I want to stay here,” he said. “We see what happens.”

Alderson said the decision to pick up the option of Collins; contract was attributed to a lot of factors. “The way he communicates in the clubhouse and is appreciated by the players was a large part of it and he is committed to the organization,” he said.  You heard the words from Mets players all season, and most who don’t know where they will be next season were all in agreement that Terry Collins was a player’s manager.

“He is patient, taught me a lot this year,” said Ruben Tejada who Collins has always said was developing into a fine player. Tejada could be a successor to Reyes at short, if not he certainly has earned a spot to be the regular second baseman in 2012. Tejada has one hit in 15 of the last 17 games and finished the season hitting .284. He also showed a flashy glove in the infield and has developed plenty of respect in the clubhouse…

Collins said about his contract, “It’s certainly an honor. I’m very proud of the way the player’s have played. Manager’s we get extended and we get a contract because you team plays well and hard. As I said in spring training we asked them to come out and play the game right, and they have.”  He added the wins and losses could have been better, and enjoyed the experience of his first year in New York and watching young players develop….

Alderson is holding a post season press conference with the media Thursday afternoon at Citi Field. Surely questions will be asked about Collins’ coaching staff and word is all should return including pitching coach Dan Warthen though reportedly third base coach Chip Hale will take a coaching job with good friend Bob Melvin, manager of the Oakland Atheltics. Mets are leaning to returning starter Chris Capuano, a spring training signee who made over 31 starts and was the bad luck starter Tuesday night and did not fair in the decision.

“I am proud of pitching a full season and pitching every fifth day,” said Capuano who enjoyed New York City and finished with a 11-12 record and 4.55 ERA. “That was a big positive for me. The last time I threw a full season was ’06, 07. I threw over 200 inning s in ’06 and had less in ’07. There are some numbers I’d like to improve on. I guess I’d like to get that ERA a little lower….”

One uncertain player in the Mets clubhouse is outfielder Angel Pagan. Team doctors shut him down for the final three games with the Reds after Pagan sustained a mild concussion in the previous series with the Phillies. Though Pagan claimed it was not serious and wanted to play the final games. But there is more.

If Alderson can’t find another outfielder in the offseason there is talk he will be looking to convert Jason Bay into a centerfielder. Pagan, a close confident of the traded Carlos Beltran, fell in bad flavor with teammates on three separate occasions  including a game in July when he asked to be removed from a game in Texas because of the excessive heat.

He had the boxes packed Tuesday evening and was ready to return home to Puerto Rico early Thursday morning. As players packed their bags, hugged each other and said their goodbyes, Pagan quickly got dressed and stayed away from the media. A fan of welterweight boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, Pagan plans to rest for a few weeks, go into an offseason workout plan and attend the Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas in November. It won’t be his last visit to New York this year as Pagan plans to attend the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito fight at Madison Square Garden in December.

“I have seven good years left in me,” he said. Packing two pairs of Nike shoes sent by Pacquiao, he said, “Someone will pick me up if I am not here next year.” He was not petitioning to keep his roster spot, and as players walked in and out of a back room to the clubhouse, it seemed the only communication was Pagan and getting out of town….

Miguel Batista, the 40-year old former Arizona Diamondback pitched the season ending two-hit shutout and was raving about his former team that is headed to the post season for the fifth time in their young history. As to his future, signed as a late season addition when cut by the St. Louis Cardinals, he said, “This is an organization with talent that will win. I felt good, my pitches had velocity and I know I can help these guys next year …

Mets finished the season with a final 77-85 record good for fifth place in the National League east, 25 games behind the first place Phillies… A final wrap up on the season with the Alderson press conference, and more from behind the scenes on the final game of the 2011 season at Citi Field coming tomorrow.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Baseball Contract, Bunt, Cincinnati Reds, Displeasure, Inning Loss, Interesting Story, Jose Reyes, Last Game, Late Afternoon, Losing Season, Major League Baseball, Mets Fans, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Ryan Braun, Top Story, Wednesday Afternoon

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on September 29, 2011

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Mets Season Ends With Omar and Jerry Let Go

NEW YORK – New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel had some extended time in the season finale loss to the Washington Nationals at Citi Field Sunday afternoon.  With all reports pointing to his dismissal at some point Monday, the 14-inning loss may have provided him some time to reflect.

He called on seldom used pitcher Oliver Perez, used four times since August 1st. In the second year of a three-year $36 million contract, Perez hit a batter and walked three that gave the Nationals a 2-1 victory. It was a bad farewell for both Perez and Manuel

“I Felt bad we had to put Ollie in that situation,” said Manuel who still did not know about his status in his final post game meeting with the media. “I feel bad that we had to put in Ollie in a situation that we had no choice with. We had nothing left. That’s tough for me.”

There were nothing more to say. Perez in many ways epitomized the failures of general manager Omar Minaya who was expected to be dismissed or reassigned to another role with the organization. The few fans who remained in the announced crowd of 30,849 also expressed their displeasure when Perez was lifted with one out.

They also let Manuel know that they don’t want him back at Citi Field in 2011. The change in command came. Manuel and Minaya relieved of their duties Monday as the Mets finished their second consecutive losing season at Citi Field with a final record of 79-83.

Attendance at Citi Field declined this season, 2,573,173, a significant decline from the 3,154,262 that went through the gates when the ballpark opened for business last year. That was added ammunition for Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon to hand Manuel and Minaya their walking papers.

Certainly there were some positive aspects to another dismal Mets season. They were a season high 11 games over .500 on June 27th then after the all-star break a 2-9 road trip put the Mets back to reality. The chemistry may have been broken when Luis Castillo returned to the lineup off the disabled list.

Castillo had to play because a muli-million dollar contract granted by Minaya could not stay on the bench. The Mets led the National League in stolen bases, primarily because Angel Pagan was second in the league, led the league in shutouts with 19, were sixth in staff ERA, and won nine more games from the year before again finishing fourth in the NL east.

The perspective of Manuel was about another struggle, and looking at the future as he relied on numerous rookies to do the job in his daily lineup. “We struggled pretty much all year offensively,” he said. “We had some opportunities. One good thing is we have established some good young players.”

“They will be solid foundations for the future of the organization.” he said citing catcher Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, pitcher Dillon Gee and infielder Ruben Tejada, though Manuel said he didn’t know if Tejada was ready to fill the everyday role at second base.

There was Pagan who became the everyday center fielder when opening day starter Gary Matthews Jr. was released. He was perhaps player of the year on this Mets team. He may not be one of the issues that a new GM will have to confront. Pagan earned his role and was respected in the clubhouse.

Manuel in one of his final good gestures as manager gave an appropriate tribute to David Wright and Jose Reyes, two cores of the organization. They took their positions in the ninth inning and were removed so that fans could give them deserved curtain calls.

“I said today that I would try to show them how much I appreciated what they done and how they played and performed,” he said. “I thought it was opportunity to show them some class and I’m glad I did it for their sake.” He also had starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey come out of the dugout and take a bow after being lifted after seven innings.

Pelfrey finished the season with a career best in victories (15), in strikeouts (113) and ERA at 3.66.”If anything I learned from the adversity,” he said about the season. And if the Mets are to win again they need consistent outings from Pelfrey, and another front line starter,

“I’m very appreciative first of all, that Jerry would even think about doing it especially what he has been through the past couple of days,” commented Wright about what his manager did for him and Reyes in the ninth inning. “At the end of the day it’s tough to really enjoy anything talking about we finished under .500 and don’t make the playoffs again.”

Manuel commented that he never lost the team as the Mets continued to slip away after the break, into August, and all of September. He sounded like it had come to an end after 2-1/2 years at the helm. “I have to clean up do all that type of stuff and find out what direction the organization wants to do, then head to Sacramento and pick up the rocks.”

“I would hope that going forward that the Reyes’ and the Wrights’ have become a different type of player,” he answered hesitantly when asked about his legacy, though as of Sunday Manuel still had his job. “I would hope the young players established would become core players, foundation players.”

Now it is official. Manuel won’t be a part of that foundation. And neither will Perez who quickly left and was out of the building before reporters could get to him.  An ugly ending and (0-5) record in a season of futility for Perez.

The lockers were cleaned and bags packed as the Mets went home for the winter.  Who will lead the new regime, set the foundation and make Citi Field a place to be for October baseball?

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under All Star, Ammunition, August 1, Back To Reality, Decline, Displeasure, Farewell, Inning Loss, June 27, Losing Season, Luis Castillo, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Ollie, Omar Minaya, Road Trip, Season Finale, Sunday Afternoon, Top Story, Walking Papers, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on October 4, 2010

Long Day At The Park For The Mets

NEW YORK – There were perhaps less than 1,000 fans in the seats at Citi Field Wednesday afternoon when New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathan Niese threw the first pitch to Milwaukee Brewers leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks at 4:10pm. It was a rare twin bill of baseball in New York City courtesy of a Monday evening rain out that required two games.

Even if the games meant nothing towards post season implications, they had to be played. The Mets are finishing up another dismal campaign, third in the NL east, and the Brewers sitting fourth in the NL central also playing out the string and ready to pack their bags for the winter

Because net receipts from the gate and concessions are so important to the teams, the schedule must be played out. Even if there is a rain out the makeup game gets on the schedule if agreed by the teams this late in the season. With concession stands closed in the upper decks at Citi Field, and the noticeable empty seats it was time to play ball.

When the first pitch was thrown, and for a good part of the first game, fans in the stands and media in the press box could hear sounds of the game. A crack of the bat, fastball in the catcher’s mitt, and even players on the field heard saying “got it” or “go to first.”

“Rather play one game because as a player you are used to preparing for one,” said the Mets Chris Carter.  He would single and drive in two runs in the Mets two-run third inning of the first game. Those in the slim crowd could be heard, as the Mets started to cut the deficit after Niese surrendered six runs in the Milwaukee top of the inning.

That was one perspective of a long afternoon that went into the late evening in Flushing Queens.  The Mets would lose the first game of the double dip, 8-7. Niese (9-10) would throw 2.2 innings, on 10 hits and six runs, The Mets would battle back scoring five more runs in the fourth.

So what about those loyal fans who have once again witnessed another losing season at Citi Field? Carter, a first year Met loves their loyalty. “I love New York fans,” he said. “They’re tough, they know what to expect. I really appreciate the fans. As a player you block out the fact that there is nobody in the stands,” he said.

David Wright would hit a two-run homer in that fourth, his 28th and third game in a row with a homer, done four other times in his career and now the fifth time he has 100 or more ruins batted in, But he failed to connect in the nightcap when the Mets could not score runs, could only get 5 hits in a 3-1 second game loss.

It was not the 13 hits they had in the first game. Starter R.A. Dickey concluded a successful first season in New York. A surprise who was signed after spring training, Dickey (11-8) was talking about coming back next season. The 35-year old right hander has earned a role to start with a knuckleball that has revived his career.

“Feel I have a lot to offer and age is no consequence,” commented Dickey who gave up six hits in seven innings. “Priority number one was the ability and consistency to throw strikes.” The fans saw what Dickey offered and many times showed their appreciation.

It was a storybook season for a pitcher who got a role when Oliver Perez and John Maine left the rotation, “I feel this is what I can offer over the next five or six years of my career,” said Dickey who certainly can hang around more with a knuckleball that has consistency.

“What impressed me the most was his consistency,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel who may not be making a decision about Dickey’s role with every expectation that Sunday will be his last game at the helm. “Every time he took the ball, he gave us a chance to win.”

When the first game was over, about 7:40pm, Manuel had used eight pitchers which tied a franchise record for a nine inning game.  The supposed 28,284 in attendance, more about tickets sold, than who showed, made as much noise as they could as the Mets staged another comeback in the eighth inning that once again failed short.

And when the second game began, a half hour later at 8:16PM, many of those empty seats were still visible and another Mets player Carlos Beltran was shut down for the final four games.  Beltran would say the mild inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee would require what the doctor ordered,

“I’m happy, actually the knee’s better, I’m happy for that part” said Beltran who was having a strong September which provided optimism for next season, that is, if the Mets don’t decide to trade him in what would be the final year of a $119 million dollar contract.

“The part that I’m not happy about is just that I wanted to finish the season playing but by the recommendation by the doctor they don’t want me to play.”

Ninth inning of game two and the Mets have one last chance to make this worthwhile in another meaningless game.  The “Cowbell Man” Ed Bison was doing his usual thing in a now almost desolate Citi Field, urging fans for one last push. You would think those doing the chanting were in a late season pennant race with their team.

They did cheer for Pedro Feliciano who pitched in both ends of the doubleheader. The lefthander has 91 appearances this season which extended his franchise record that he established the night before.  And they gave Angel Pagan his usual applause when he swiped his 37th base of the season in the first inning of game two, becoming the first Mets outfielder with that many since Rickey Henderson and Roger Cedeno in 1999.

Trevor Hoffman the career saves leader got number 601 for the Brewers and Mets fans went home seeing a double dip loss.  New York, (77-81) needs to win their last four games to avoid their second consecutive losing season. Count four, when including the collapses of 2007, 2008, and of course the injury plagued Mets of 2009.

A long day at the ballpark and there are those loyal Mets fans who are willing to be patient about winning again. And the good thing about it, they have a team that knows they are around to give them support even when ballgames mean nothing in late September.

e-mail Rich Mancuso:  Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Chris Carter, Double Dip, Evening Rain, Fastball, First Game, Game Fans, Late Evening, Leadoff Hitter, Losing Season, Loyal Fans, Makeup Game, Mets New York, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Niese, Nl Central, Nl East, Starting Pitcher, Top Of The Inning, Top Story, Upper Decks

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on September 30, 2010