Home Is Not Sweet For The Mets

FLUSHING, NY – Maybe the first New York Mets home opener on a Friday since the 1995 season would make a difference. The 50th home opener, third at Citi Field, had the same result as the season closer last October, a loss to the Washington Nationals. The 6-2 loss to the Nationals Friday reminded many in the chilled sold out crowd of 41,075 that this could be a long season.

A reminder because the Mets did not hit, and pitch and that was so reminiscent of what was seen often at Citi Field in 2010.  The debut of new manager Terry Collins got off to a good start with a warm welcome from fans in pre-game introductions. The loudest ovations went to new pitcher Chris Young and for Hall of Fame Broadcaster Ralph Kiner who threw the ceremonial first pitch.

And starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (1-1) got a loud ovation. But that changed because his knuckleball was not effective after he split a nail on his index finger in the first inning.  Dickey was one of the bright spots for New York last season, but in his two starts he has walked eight batters in 11 innings including the five he issued against the Nationals.

“I’m not going to say the split nail led to the every walk,” commented Dickey. He walked a run in the fifth after the Nationals loaded the bases on three consecutive one-out singles. The fifth walk was a career high for Dickey. “It was just very tough to get the feel,” he said about the control issue due to the nail that he claims will not hinder his next start.

But Dickey was not the only issue the Mets encountered in their season debut at home. What bothered fans, as was so often the case last season was the Mets ineffective ability to drive in runs. Coming off a season opening 3-3 road trip, the Mets have lost three straight, the pitching staff has given up 27 runs, and in the last two games they are 1-17 with runners in scoring position including the ten they stranded Friday.

Frustrating for the fans in the early going, but not for the new manager who commented, “I am a long way from being frustrated.” But on opening day, an unusual 4pm start that lasted into evening, this was not what Collins would have wanted especially coming off an 11-0 loss to the Phillies on the last game of their trip the day before.

When Washington’s Ivan Rodriguez hit a two-run single to right that broke his season beginning 0-12 start, off Mets reliever Bobby Parnell that was followed by an RBI ground ball from Ian Desmond, the remaining crowd that had enough of the chill decided to call it a night. That was the deciding blow, the three-run eighth that ruined a season opener.

“We have to shake it off and do better than that,” said Collins. It is so early to be in a panic mode but if Collins does not see his team bounce back in the next few days then it could get frustrating. There was a point in the game when Collins and the fans loved a rejuvenated Jose Reyes. He dived to his left in the fifth inning and started an inning ending double play with the bases loaded that kept the game close.

Though few people give the Mets a chance to be competitive this season, a bright spot could be Reyes who may not be around by September. The financially strapped Mets may not be able to afford a new contract for their home grown shortstop and he could be traded depending on where the Mets are situated by late July.

But that is another issue for a later date. The focus will now be how resilient this team is with an early season losing streak of three games. And to forget about a home opener that took away optimism for any type of respectable season. The Mets fell to 31-19 in their home openers, 1-2 at Citi Field.

“We’ll score some runs and those guys will get on base,” said Collins about Angel Pagan, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis who went a combined 2-for 15 at the plate. Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman (1-1) coming off Tommy John surgery in 2009 gave up two runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. The Nationals pen then closed the door with the committee role manager Jim Riggleman is using.

“We walked to many guys that put us in a hole,” said Collins.  He added his team will get better. His predecessor Jerry Manuel always said they would get better. But as every Mets fan knows, it did not get better.

A fresh start at Citi Field that did not get better in the later innings and when Dickey left the game it led to many questions for the next day. “Nobody in here is hitting the panic button,” said Dickey. “We are going to stay focused.”

But the question is will Mets fans stay focused if this first home stint of 2011 does not go their way?

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Batters, Hall Of Fame, Index Finger, Knuckleball, Loud Ovation, Mets Home Opener, New York Mets, Opening 3, Ovations, Ralph Kiner, Rich Mancuso, Road Trip, Runners, Season Debut, Starting Pitcher, Top Story, Two Games, Warm Welcome, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 9, 2011

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See Your Four Aces And Raise You A Joker

You know we have endless material to write daily articles on the dysfunction and demise of the Mets. I fully planned to take advantage of this not only because of the abundance of low hanging fruit but also the way it fits in so nicely with my years of frustration with this team.

However, while I will continue to call a spade a spade, call out unspeakable wrongs, do a fair amount of second guessing  when obviously called for and the like – I have decided to attempt to buy  into some of the things the triumvirate are trying to accomplish.

I stick to my guns regarding not attending the games, not supporting SNY network, basically hitting the Wilpons in the pocketbook until they sell  to somebody  that will go all in to commit to a winner year after year . We deserve no less than that and would not be wrong in demanding it after 50 years.

I am not naïve enough to not know that a fan is a fan. Any real fan, especially a Met fan knows you can’t stop watching. You can’t stop rooting and hoping. It’s part of who you are. It is a lifetime commitment and can’t be turned on and off like a faucet. I have MLB Extra Innings. I declined SNY.  I watch them on ESPN and FOX when they are on. I think I do my part fulfilling my need to watch while limiting any benefits to the Wilpons.

In any case, back to  current events. A .500 road trip against division opponents who were expected to beat us like drums is not all that bad of a start. The vaunted Phillies were lucky to even win the second game of the series, and thus the series. Each team dominated one game. It is somewhat obvious that the best we have at least in theory is a joker to put up against their 4 aces. That is if you insist on labeling Big Pelf an ace, and therefore forcing us to reclassify him as a joker. Niese went against their Ace of Spades and if Wright  came through early, and Niese being as young as he  is, could  have worked with a lead and got on a bit of a confidence, momentum building roll the 11-0 game might have been a very different story. Sometimes the score really does not reflect the game. Our 7-1 victory over Hamels was just as dominating.

One thing they have to stop doing is labeling everything. What is the purpose of calling Pelfrey your ace until Santana gets back? Just let him pitch, let him learn to change speeds, get an out pitch and see what happens. Otherwise start looking into what we can get for him. But no need to put him front and center with almost no upside and a strong chance for failure and embarrassment to both the player and the organization. Pagan should be a good centerfielder. Talking him up as the natural with a rifle arm AND a guy that is going to hit 300 with 25HRS and 100 RBI will bury him in expectations and undue pressure. I have seen him surrounding balls in center, very weak throws to third and home and as could have been expected his hitting is still a bit off so far this season.

David Wright being anointed our fearless leader and savior. Why? He is a very good third baseman. He failed numerous times with 2 and 3  men on base during the Phillies series. He came through once. As we all know if he came through 2 out of 6 times he is an all star. 1 out of  6 is a failure. What is a very thin line comes across as miles apart between a winner and a loser – because of expectations and because of necessity due to the lack of more viable options. Don’t label him and let’s see 1 or 2 other guys pick him up in those situations and before we know it he may come though consistently 3 out of 8 times. Hall of  Fame numbers.

Harris and Hairston are exactly what they are. They will never sustain hitting at a high level  if they play too much. Once a week fill ins and pinch hitting.  You want to develop people ,work in Duda, Evans, Murphy.

We have Flores, van Dekker, Havens, Vaughn, Familia, Mejia, Harvey,Holt , Valdespin, Tejada,  Niewenhaus, and of course Fernando. We have prospects.  Develop them. Develop some  of them to free  up existing players  as trade bait. Package some of them to get  studs back to play with  some of the  existing star players if that works better.  Lose the tunnelvision. Cast a wide net. As much as I love Ike Davis there is no way the  Wilpons even think about  Pujols if he ever was available – based on the fact that we are already set at first.  I think the Yankees had 3 first baseman set when Texiara  became available.

Not sure about the triumvirate’s current philosophy but I know they were never scared to sell high or trade stars for studs. Moneyball or just no money being the driving force or whatever, they all made some nice moves over the years.

Posted under 4 Aces, Ace Of Spades, Demise, Division Opponents, Faucet, Four Aces, Joker, Lifetime Commitment, Low Hanging Fruit, Mets, Mlb Extra Innings, New York Mets, Niese, Phillies, Pocketbook, Road Trip, Second Game, Second Guessing, Spade, Top Story, Triumvirate

This post was written by Frank Salamone on April 8, 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