The Buck Stops Here

The Mets used to be the masters of the motto.

All the way back to the 1980s, they came up with some catchy phrases to highlight the season.

They had “The Magic is Back” and “Baseball Like It Oughta Be” to name a few.

In 2013, though, the motto seems to be lost or at least it’s not the in your face like in past years, however if the Mets do decide to come up with one, they may want to look back to the days of Harry Truman for some inspiration.

“Give ‘Em Hell Harvey!” could be one every five days. But that leaves about 125 games to come up with another.

So while the Mets wait for d’Arnaud, they may just say, “The Buck Stops Here.”

John Buck is making his mark on Mets pitchers. His experience and ability to work with Mets pitchers have been felt over the first week of the season. All four starters pitched well, and they all credit Buck for his ability to keep their heads in the game.

He’s unbelievable. I had good catchers in my day,” said tonight’s Mets hard luck starter Jeremy Hefner. “Not to take away anything from (Josh) Thole or (Mike) Nickeas last year, JB has been around the game. He played with those guys last year. I leaned on him tonight. But the way he brings confidence and brings the best out of you. It’s refreshing.

Buck said he learned this art form from Brad Ausmus and Paul Bako  back in the early 2000s. And over the years he learned pitchers, know which ones need the silence and which ones need a good kick in the behind.

“He recognized each pitchers personality and adapted to them,” Hefner said. “He would push buttons when necessary.”

“I had good mentors,” Buck said, “who showed me what the red flags were and how to get the most out of them.”

And Hefner got his kick in the butt in the second inning tonight after giving up his only run – a homer to Greg Dobbs.

But that’s Buck’s specialty. Sure he has some power, but he won’t remind anyone of Mike Piazza. Instead, the Mets have a professional backstop, whose job is to get this young set of arms on the right course, something Buck seems to be very happy in doing.

“Younger guys have a little more teaching involved,” Buck said. “But the young guys we have, it’s more sticking to game plans. It’s not a mentoring type group, instead these are guys who belong here and it’s getting them to stick to the game plan. Obviously, I think they are in that level.”

One guy Buck really clicked with is Matt Harvey, who Buck sees as someone who would click with anyone catching him.

“He’s got good stuff,” Buck said. “So he’s got a lot of weapons when calling a game. It’s obviously why he is so effective.”

Sure it looks like a marriage made in heaven, but we all know Buck is not long for the Mets. He is a stop-gap until Travis d’Arnaud comes up and a few more stinkers by the bullpen like tonight, it may be sooner, rather than later.

However until that happens, the Mets starters, will be very happy to have their final word come from their veteran catcher.

The Buck truly stops there.

Posted under Art Form, Backo, Brad Ausmus, Catchy Phrases, Good Kick, Hard Luck, Harry Truman, Joe Mcdonald, Josh Thole, Kick In The Butt, Mentors, Mets, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Paul Bako, Pitchers, Top Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny changes stance on home-plate collisions, wants them banned (Big League Stew)

If you want to have a conversation about home-plate collisions, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny would be a good guy to speak with. He played catcher for 13 seasons. His own playing career ended because of a concussion. And, he now manages the Cardinals, an organization that has $75 million reasons to care about catcher safety. That’s how much it’s paying star backstop Yadier Molina.
That’s why Matheny admitting he’s changed his mind about home-plate collisions is a fascinating about-face. Matheny, who says he considers himself “old school” in his approach to the game, is taking a rather new-school stance. He told MLB.com’s Matthew Leach on Tuesday that he thinks Major League Baseball will eventually ban collisions, and now he thinks that’s a good idea.
[Also: Putting Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria's 'facts' to the test ]

Posted under Mlb

R.A. May Head North

Looks like R. A. Dickey will be learning “Oh Canada.”

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner seems to be on his way north as the Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays are working on a seven player deal, which also includes catcher Josh Thole.

The Mets will get two of the three best prospects in the Toronto system in return, including catcher Travis d’Arnaud and right hander Noah Syndergaard along with catcher John Buck, who was recently acquired from the Miami Marlins in the Jays big deal last month.

Getting d’Arnaud is the centerpiece of the deal. A power hitting backstop who could translate into the next Mike Piazza.

“I love him,’’ one NL scout said on Saturday to the NY Daily News. “When you take into account that he plays a premium position, he was the best position-player prospect I saw in the minors all last season. He can catch, he can throw, and he can hit.

“He’s very sound mechanically at the plate. He’ll hit 20 home runs a year in the big leagues, and eventually he’ll hit .280 to .290 or so. I know Toronto wants to win now, and I think Dickey will be good for them, but I’m still surprised they’re giving this kid up.’’

Check back  for more on d’Arnaud or check this site for Super Bowl info.

This is the type of trade the Mets wanted if they were going to trade their ace. And if Dickey is gone from the Mets, it may open a spot earlier for their top prospect Zach Wheeler, who is expected to form a tandem with Matt Harvey.

Posted under Mets News

The Juice: Wieters and O’s hold grand rally in Chicago, Halladay wins as Lincecum struggles again (Big League Stew)

The Juice is back for its fifth season of fun! Stop by each weekday for an ample serving of news from the action, plus great photos, stats and video highlights.
Baltimore stages grand finish : Though they trailed the game by three entering the eighth inning, the Orioles rode four late homers to manage a 10-4 win over the White Sox in 10 innings on Monday. Catcher Matt Wieters (right) was responsible for two of the blasts — including a grand slam in the 10th — while Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones sent the game into extra innings with solo shots off Hector Santiago in the ninth.
It was the first grand slam of Wieters’ career and his move to four home runs on the season is a promising sign for those who believe the 25-year-old backstop will eventually fulfill the big power that was predicted for him. Wieters hit a career-high 22 homers in 2011 after hitting just 11 the year before.
Roy Halladay easily beats Tim Lincecum : Monday’s battle of the aces never really materialized as the Phillies hit the Giants’ ace early in a 5-2 victory at AT&T Park . Lincecum surrendered four runs in the first inning on a two-RBI double by Laynce Nix and a pair of RBI singles to Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. He’s now given up nine first-inning runs in 2012, one more than he surrendered in all of 2011.
Halladay, meanwhile, was his usual self , allowing only two runs over eight innings of work. If you want to take another stab at a two-sided pitching duel, Cliff Lee and Matt Cain are expected to close this series on Wednesday night.

Posted under Mlb