Have The Mets Turned the Corner?

New York- A four-game winning streak for the New York Mets and you ask, does that provide a legitimate reason of contention that they are beginning to turn things around? For the moment, especially with a win against Atlanta, and three wins over the Yankees, there is optimism.

Added to the equation, the Mets go for a four-game series sweep, or two consecutive two game sweeps tomorrow night in the Bronx. Then, it is three games down in Miami with the Marlins, a team that continues to tumble with the second worst record in baseball.

The mood in the visitor’s clubhouse Wednesday evening, after the Mets third straight win over the Yankees, to say the least exhibited optimism.  The tide has changed from a week ago when a timely hit, scoring runs and good pitching was hard to find.

“We’ve won three very important ballgames in a row,” said Collins. “There is a different attitude in the clubhouse.” Because the Mets have put a string of wins together and doing it against the Yankees made it more fun in that clubhouse.

It could be the start of the summer for the Mets, according to Collins, alluding to how important it was to win these games against the Yankees.

And with Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, a part of their infield on thin ice, it was so important for them to be a part of that five-run first inning that quickly put the Mets ahead.  Tejada led off the game with a single and would score on a Daniel Murphy double.

“Nice to get some runs early especially against this team,” commented Davis. He drove the ball the other way in that first inning.

He said, “If I can keep getting better at bats, I can turn this around. We have a better team than we have showed and we can turn this around.” And it has to be Davis and the bat to turn the season around.

Collins said, David Wright referred to Davis as the guy who can turn it around.  There is some type of optimism because Davis struck out once after 24 strikeouts in his last 16- games.

Tejada did get hurt in the ninth inning, so he is staying put for the moment.  He may miss a few games pending an X-Ray to a quad injury he sustained sliding for a ball down the third base line with two outs in the Yankees ninth inning.

“If we have any chance to win here, Ike Davis has to be hitting in the lineup,” said Collins. Lucas Duda and John Buck also got hits going the other way. Again, Collins said this was a big series.

Perhaps, a bigger part of this being an important series is because the Mets have started to hit the ball with more authority. “And they are doing it against the Yankees.

Later in the inning, Davis, with that .152 average would single to left center and drive in two of those five runs. Davis got some batting tips from manager Terry Collins before the game.  Mets fans can’t remember the last game when he drove in two important runs, even if it was early in the game.

Jermey Hefner, with that 0-5 record coming in, had runs to work with and finally got a win. And to him that must have been, as they say, a gift from heaven,

“Important to win, more importantly to keep our team winning,” said Hefner who broke the streak of not getting a win a day after the ace Matt Harvey gets the ball.

What it means is, the Mets will in all probability continue to struggle. The important thing is to continue this renewed momentum with three games down in Miami. But, as the captain David Wright said Tuesday night, at Citi Field in Flushing Queens, “We have a hard time capitalizing on games like this.”

Meaning, as Wright insinuated, the two Mets come from behind wins against the Yankees, Monday and Tuesday in their home park had to continue some type of momentum.

Wednesday night, the Mets continued that brand of good baseball with good pitching, timely hitting, and hitting quality pitches. They did not swing for the fences. They hit at the right time, and it meant another win against a Yankees team that has not resembled the Bronx Bombers they have faced in the past.

Davis handled the sinker much better thrown by David Phelps, and was more comfortable at the plate. Tejada started the onslaught in that first inning. Perhaps, the private meeting with Collins had with Davis and Tejada earlier in the day, where he reportedly told them, they were close to being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas was the beginning of a remedy?

After all, who wants to play baseball in Las Vegas with the famed strip in the background instead of the Empire State Building and other New York City landmarks?

It went down as a two-game series sweep in Queens and a revival of sorts for the Mets in Queens. They go for another two-game series sweep tomorrow night in the Bronx

And, doing it against the mighty cross- town Yankees does not necessarily mean it won’t be as gloomy in Flushing as we have seen. But, time will tell.

Comment Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Ballgames, Bats, Clubhouse, Contention, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Game Series, Game Sweeps, Game Winning Streak, Legitimate Reason, Marlins, New York Mets, Optimism, Rich Mancuso, Ruben, Tejada, Thin Ice, Three Games, Tomorrow Night, Top Story, Wednesday Evening

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

K-Rod Gets Deserving Boos

New York – Top of the ninth Saturday evening and Francisco Rodriguez came out of the pen at Citi Field. It was the more familiar surroundings of the bullpen, not a holding pen at Citi Field where he was retained after his altercation Wednesday evening stemming from an ugly incident with his girlfriend’s father.

The subsequent arrest of the New York Mets closer, which caused a two game suspension was quickly becoming a thing of the past after he reportedly offered an apology to his teammates  But to the fans at Citi Field there was no sympathy,

“No curious at all,” said Rodriguez about the loud boos that were heard when he got the call to pitch the ninth. He threw a scoreless inning and gave up a hit in the Mets 4-0 loss to the Phillies. “It’s something I can’t control,” he said about the fans reaction to the ugly incident

But Rodriguez had to expect what he heard. This is New York City, a place where domestic disputes and battery charges are a part of the daily police blotter. Except we tend to have a low tolerance when it happens at a place of work, especially at the ballpark from a ballplayer with a $35 million dollar contract.

Hours earlier, K-Rod met the media and gave his apology to the Mets organization, his teammates and the fans. It was a brief statement with no questions Comments about the incident were not addressed due to the legal matters at hand, and Rodriguez said he will be undergoing anger management sessions.

For the Mets, more importantly it is time to go forward. There is no time to dwell on the latest black eye that has hit the organization. Embarrassed and more humiliation for a team that realizes there is more season to play with the slim playoff hopes that remain.

Before and after the game Mets players went about their business. Not many were talking. Those who did, including outfielder Angel Pagan intend to speak personally with their teammate. They all offer their support as K-Rod once again goes about his business out of the pen.

“We don’t pay attention to that,” said Pagan. “We have to go out and do our jobs. We talked to him, some of the guys. I’m sure he will handle things the right way.

Other than that, it was business as usual at Citi Field as the Mets try to survive the “Dog Days Of August” and hope they have something to play for in the month of September.  “From what I know of him, I know it is a sincere apology,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel.

An apology Manuel, GM Omar Minaya and ownership accept for now, but something Mets fans by their actions have not accepted. One that will forever be etched in the unfortunate annals of New York Mets history as the dismal season of 2010 continues.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Altercation, Anger Management, Battery Charges, Boos, Bullpen, Contract Hours, Dollar Contract, Domestic Disputes, Familiar Surroundings, Francisco Rodriguez, Game Suspension, Holding Pen, Mets Players, New York Mets, Outfielder, Playoff Hopes, Police Blotter, Rich Mancuso, Scoreless Inning, Top Story, Ugly Incident, Wednesday Evening

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on August 15, 2010

Mets bullpen causes another loss and K-Rod arrested for assault after the game

New York -  As ugly as the New York Mets 6-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies was Wednesday evening at Citi Field, things got worse moments later in the family room when closer Frankie Rodriguez assaulted his father-in-law and was charged with third degree assault.

Rodriguez took his anguish out on reporters in the clubhouse when asked “If he was ready to pitch.”  Because the Mets bullpen imploded and squandered a lead, as K-Rod with two outs in the eighth inning was not called on by manager Jerry Manuel to get a four-out save.

“I didn’t pitch,” said an angered Rodriguez. “I don’t have to talk to you guys,” as he stormed out of the clubhouse and is now known, he assaulted his father-in-law. With the bases loaded, Manuel opted to use the seldom used Manny Acosta who threw a 2-2 curve to Melvin Mora that went over the left field wall.

The grand slam for Mora, the fourth of his career and a National League leading ninth given up by Mets pitchers this season, also epitomized another night of frustration that may have also put a final dent in any hopes for a Mets postseason. The Mets failed to win back-to-back games for the 42nd straight time, and the K-Rod incident also indicates a frustration and implosion of a season gone bad.

Acosta followed the grand slam with a walk and two singles, including a run scoring single hit by Clint Barmes to short left. “It was a slider, a good pitch,” commented Acosta about the home run ball thrown to Mora.

“I’ve been in this situation many years, and I know the pressure isn’t on me it’s on the pitcher,” said Mora about his grand slam. The former Met added, : “I love that pressure and I love that situation.”

“I knew he had a chance when he swung the ball, it was a big hit, a big win,” said Carlos Gonzalez,” ranked in the top five of the National League in average, home runs, RBI and ruins scored.

Manuel defended his reason for not using K-Rod in the situation, way before his closer had his eruption in the clubhouse and then taken into custody. “Usually when we use K-Rod the night before we wouldn’t take that shot,” he said referring to Rodriguez working the previous evening when he notched his 25th save with a perfect ninth inning.

“We have to find a way to get that out,” he said. “We have no margin of error.” And Mets fans, many of the 30,554 who left after the bullpen implosion let Manuel know they were displeased not bringing in K-Rod by chanting a “Fire Jerry” chant. The Mets trail first place Atlanta by 9-1/2 games and need to jump over six other teams in the wild card race.

“That’s part of it,” Manuel said. “When you make decisions and they don’t work out New York will let you know.”  The Mets were limited to three hits as the offense continues to struggle. David Wright also heard it from the fans, striking out four times which tied a career high. Since the all-star break, Wright is hitting .196 and .061 in the month of August.

After a first inning where the Mets scored their two runs on the 10th home run of the season hit by Angel Pagan, a career high, the Mets would produce one walk and one other hit.  At one point Rockies pitching struck out seven straight, including winning pitcher Matt Belisle (5-4) who came out of the pen and struck out three in the seventh.

The Mets did not get a base runner after the fifth inning. “I’m not having much fun right now,” said Wright, its rough.” As for the fans also getting on his case, he said “They are obviously frustrated as we are. The fans have every right to voice their opinion.”

Jonathon Niese gave up one run in seven innings and struck out seven failing to get the decision as the Mets bullpen gave up five Colorado runs in the eighth inning with two outs. “This is rough,” said Niese. “It’s tough to watch.”

Manuel said Niese was complaining about pain in his lower hamstring, a reason he did not come out for the eighth, But, like so many negative conditions that exist with the Mets, Niese contradicted what his manager said when asked if there was a problem again with his hamstring.

More so, much tougher to watch a team implode as they may be without their closer. Rodriguez has more pressing issues to deal with as Johan Santana (9-6) takes the mound Thursday afternoon and tries to earn the Mets a series win in what will probably be a very hush Mets clubhouse.

A season on the brink and very little to save, no pun intended.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Acosta, Anguish, Big Win, Bullpen, Carlos Gonzalez, Clint Barmes, Clubhouse, Colorado Rockies, Degree Assault, Eighth Inning, Grand Slam, Home Runs, Implosion, Melvin Mora, New York Mets, Pitchers, Slider, Straight Time, Third Degree, Top Story, Wednesday Evening

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

Mets Tame The Tigers Behind Reyes and Dickey

New York -   R.A. Dickey could have completed the game and after eight innings Wednesday evening at Citi Field he had the ability to do so. The knuckleball was working, and so was the fastball. But New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel had another intention. Bring in closer Francisco Rodriquez for the ninth even though the Mets had a 5-0 lead over the Detroit Tigers.

“I know that we have to keep Frankie on some type of game regimen and it’s a difficult, difficult decision that you have to deprive a guy of a complete game shutout,” said Manuel about his decision. Dickey once again was superb throwing 97 pitches, allowing four hits and two walks.

He retired 13 consecutive Tiger batters from the fourth inning on.  Again Dickey, now 6-0 proved he will have to be forced out of the Mets starting rotation. And the only way that will happen is if Dickey suddenly loses control of the knuckleball which had the Tigers struggling.

“He’ll have to have a number of bad outings to take him out of the rotation,” admitted Manuel. The 35-year old Dickey who was bypassed in spring training after signing a minor league deal has come up big. He is one of the reasons the Mets are back in contention, and got a spot in the rotation when Oliver Perez and John Maine went on the disabled list.

But why not let Dickey go the route and use your closer with a secure lead in the ninth?  “If we don’t do that,” said Manuel about using Rodriguez, “we fall back into a category of not having him sharp and he needs to be sharp. And we found out if he doesn’t get those innings it becomes very difficult for him to close out games.”

Perhaps the correct answer from Manuel, because the last appearance for Rodriquez out of the pen was last Friday evening when he recorded his 16th save against the Yankees where he stranded two inherited runners. Rodriguez also made it known before the game, to Manuel that he needed to pitch It was a decision that Dickey accepted when he did not go out for the ninth, even though he would have loved to have finished off the Tigers.

Said, Dickey “I was unsuccessful,” regarding his request to Manuel about taking the mound for the ninth.

But this is a Mets team, and a clubhouse that is unified and will do anything positive that will lead to another win. “Keeping Frankie sharp is going to win us ballgames,” said Dickey the first Mets pitcher to go 6-0 in his first seven starts with the team.  It was also the Mets major league leading 10th shutout of the year and Dickey has allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of his seven starts.

The Mets, now 11 games over .500 at 41-30 also picked up a game on the Atlanta Braves now trailing them by a half game in the NL east. And once again the Mets got on the board early because of Jose Reyes. He led off the first inning with a triple, but his single and stolen base in the third led to a run off the double from David Wright giving them a 1-0 lead.

New York would add another run in the fifth off Detroit starter and loser Jeremy Bonderman (3-5). They would put three more runs on the board in the seventh. And Reyes, like Angel Pagan the night before, fell short of hitting for the cycle. Besides the single and triple, Reyes hit a two-out solo home run off Bonderman in the fifth, his sixth of the season.

“I feel like I am back for sure,” said Reyes reiterating that he has rebounded from his injury shortened season of last year.  He has scored at least one run in 11 of his last 14 games, and the Mets are 28-7 when Reyes scores at least one run.

Surly he is the catalyst, as has always been known to the Mets lineup.

NOTES:  Angel Pagan who had four runs batted in the night before and was a home run short of the cycle was removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. Jesus Feliciano replaced him and got his first big league RBI on fielder’s choice induced by a groundout.

There is a concern that Pagan, the most consistent hitter in the Mets lineup, could miss some playing time because of spasms in his right side. Manuel will sit down Pagan in the series finale Thursday evening.  “I’ve played through pain before,” said Pagan. “This situation I am trying to be smart to keep playing,” he said realizing that Carlos Beltran will return soon and the Mets will have three spots and four outfielders More so for precautionary reasons…

With the win, the Mets improved to 11-3 in inter league play…David Wright with his RBI, 19 in inter league play, leads the majors in that category… The Mets scored four of their five runs with two outs including a two-out, two-run single by Ike Davis in the seventh…

New York is 26-10 at home and 12-2 over its last three homestands…Ruben Tejada, rumored to be sent down soon when Luis Castillo returns from the disabled list extended his career high hitting streak to seven games with a single in the Mets three-run seventh, He is batting .348 during that span…

Series finale will see (2-1) Armando Galarraga, the near perfect game pitcher taking the mound for Detroit opposing Lefthander Hisanori Takahashi (6-2, 3.13 ERA) who threw six scoreless innings against the Yankees Friday evening…

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Batters, Complete Game, Contention, Correct Answer, Detroit Tigers, Difficult Decision, Fastball, Francisco Rodriquez, Friday Evening, Game Shutout, Knuckleball, Last Friday, Minor League Deal, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Pitches, Regimen, Runners, Spring Training, Top Story, Wednesday Evening

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on June 24, 2010