Mumbling the old adage “You’re never as good as you look when you’re winning, you’re never as bad as you look when you’re losing” to yourself while remember how the Mets have played over the last couple of weeks is small comfort, as true as it is. I promise you, they WILL score a boatload of runs again, they will start hammering the ball like they did early in the season and they will string good pitching performances into a winning streak.
No, really. They WILL score double digit runs again. Ike Davis WILL have a multi-hit game. Maybe the 11th outfielder is the charm. Lucas Duda WILL hit a home run with people actually on base.
It’s not that the Mets are a collection of bad players, because they’re not. If the Mets were to be disbanded tomorrow, most of the roster would find jobs in the majors on other teams. The problem is they don’t have enough talent across the board to balance out random bad luck and the ups and downs that all players experience. When you have a great player, a couple of good ones, and some decent ones you can win plenty of games..when most things go right. Most things don’t usually go right in baseball all at the same time, and when they don’t the team loses too many games to make up for when things are going good. A couple of players drift over the line from decent to bad for a week or two and the other mediocre players aren’t good enough to make up the deficit.
That’s where the Mets are now. Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada have been slumping fiercely, Ike Davis is mired in a ridiculous bad slump and while Duda’s managing to limit the outs he makes by walking a lot he’s not hitting much lately either. There’s only so much David Wright can do with that. Davis will eventually get hot, or someone else will, and the Mets will start scoring runs again. Perhaps they’ll have found another outfielder besides Duda and Baxter that can at least approximate positive value, or Travis d’Arnaud will be ready for the majors and the team will improve. The Mets considered signing Michael Bourn, and while many of us weren’t thrilled with the idea, there’s no doubt that another good hitter would have done wonders for this offense.
So that’s what we have in front of us; watching a struggling team flounder on offense. It’s not fun, not at all. It’s a long season though, and they will be watchable again. It could happen as soon as tonight or take another week, but they WILL draw us back in.
Last night I was lucky to be in the ballpark to see Matt Harvey baffle the White Sox hitters all night long. It was an amazing performance from the start, and a captivating one. I watched the game in awe; whether or not he would get the perfect game was immaterial to his dominance. You knew that he was pitching well enough to get one, and if he didn’t it would be that odd squib or perfectly placed grounder that broke it up. It was precisely that, a perfectly placed ball between third and short off the bat of the speedy Alex Rios that did it.
That didn’t take away from the greatness of it. That’s probably the best game I’ve ever seen in person, and it might just be the best game I ever will see in person and I’m only 31. Last season I saw Dickey spin a masterful one-hitter that had much the same feel as last night’s game in that you just knew the opposition had no chance. I also saw Johan Santana’s 4-hit complete game shutout the start before the no-hitter that was probably his most dominating game of the year. Before that I got to see Santana’s final start of 2008, that gutsy performance to flay the Marlins and keep the Mets playoff hopes alive. That was a great game too, but any of us would’ve taken a 12-10 slug-fest just as easily, the magnitude of the win overshadowed how it was achieved.
Watching Matt Harvey emerge..no, emerge sounds too timid. Watching Matt Harvey burst onto the scene as one of the best pitchers in the game the way he has is a feeling all it’s own. He leads the league in strikeouts and WHIP. He’s given up an average of only four hits per nine innings. He throws in the mid-high 90s with his fastball. He’ll pitch with blood streaming out of his nose. He probably juggles between innings to entertain his teammates and feeds and nurtures the stray cats that live around Citi Field.
Onlookers that remember have started to draw comparisons to Dwight Gooden and how his starts at Shea Stadium were events. Matt Harvey is certainly getting there, and fast. Just look at Twitter and see all the people after the game last night and today planning to be there on Sunday for his next start. As the weather warms up this will become very evident, but it hasn’t yet. Last night’s crowd was sparse and quite for the most part. Everyone got into it as they realized just how dominating he was last night, but for a nice night against a team that few Mets fans have ever seen the crowd was disappointing.
I understand that you feel betrayed by the Mets, or the payroll, or the record, or the Wilpons, or Beltran, but baseball is awesome and every Matt Harvey start, if not every game, is an opportunity to see something wonderful. So instead of muttering under your breath about wasted starts and commenting to me about firing the hitting coach as we watch the bottom of the 10th, enjoy what’s in front of us; a great Matt Harvey performance and a walk-off victory.
Teams slump. The Mets were leading the league in runs per game and suddenly the offense slumped and they started losing. They’re now 6th in runs score in MLB. The Mets are still auditioning center and right fielders with no one standing out, Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis have under performed, and we knew John Buck was not that good.
All teams slump, good ones, great ones, and horrible ones. It’s too early to say which the Mets are, and it’s certainly silly to take the results of the last week as more meaningful than the first couple just because it fits better with what you expected, but good teams should find a way to win at least some games while they’re slumping. The Phillies are probably not a great team, and getting swept by them is not a good sign. There were plenty of opportunities that the Mets let get away, and while it’s possible to do everything right and still lose, it’s also possible to steal games when you’re struggling.
John Buck, Ike Davis, and a couple of others muffed a couple of foul outs that could’ve been converted. Not all of them led directly to runs, but all the extended innings and extra pitches lead to things like tired arms or more bullpen. Pitchers made a couple of poor pitches on top of poor pitches that led to runs. Perhaps Terry Collins could’ve been more aggressive, or less aggressive, in pitching changes or lineup changes that ended up costing the Mets a better shot at winning. Like most losing streaks, there are a billion second guesses of the players, the manager, and the overall strategy.
Sometimes the bounces go the wrong way, the pitcher you choose has a bad day, or the pitch you guess is simply wrong. Those are the breaks, the notorious 50 games that every team loses and there is nothing you can do about. Teams destined for the playoffs will find ways to minimize the damage while they’re slumping. Sometimes a pitcher will pitch a gem and stifle the opponent enough to steal a win with only a run or two, other times a batter here or there will capitalize on the one bad pitch the opponent throws for a 3-run home run to win the game 3-2 even though the offense only managed three hits. This avoids sweeps and turns 1-2 series losses into 2-1 series wins. When the slump end the team will only have gone 4-6 instead of 2-8 and can use a surge in fortune to get ahead of the competition instead of making up for the ground they lost during the slump.
So far the Mets are not doing this. That’s not to say they can’t. Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, and David Wright are all talented enough to have game-changing at bats even amidst personal or team slumps. Matt Harvey and Jon Niese are talented pitchers, both capable of pitching a gem that wins a game despite slumping offense. Jon Niese came close Sunday, and perhaps Terry Collins should’ve left him in to finish the seventh instead of going to the bullpen to face Ryan Howard. I’m always a fan of having the top players on my team on the mound or at the plate during the critical points in the game, and that was certainly one of them.
It’s early yet, and the teams that win in April are not a lock to get to October. If the Mets are going to grow into a competitor, they’re going to have to find a way to minimize long losing streaks and win some of these games when things aren’t going perfectly.
Watching the Mets last year it became increasingly evident that R.A. Dickey’s book was incomplete. The title, Wherever I Wind Up, ended up going unanswered, or at least understated.
He ended up a successful, and well-paid, pitcher for the Mets happy to have his own parking spot, but that’s only the start of where he’s going. After the book was written, and despite saying he’d never lead the league in strikeouts, he did in fact lead the league in strikeouts and won the NL Cy Young award as well.
Well Plume has published a new paperback version of Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for truth, authenticity, and the perfect knuckleball with a new epilogue where Dickey breaks down the 2012 season including Johan’s no-hitter, the All-Star Game, the reaction to his book, and the Cy Young Award. If you haven’t read it yet or want to see what else he has to say, check it out.
Of course, Dickey has already continued on further, being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and getting an extension. Maybe one day he’ll write another book, or a followup, because I suspect he still has a lot of story in him.
The Phillies run of success started cracking last season, and although they hastily threw up some spackling, more cracks have started to appear. This week it’s the Mets turn to start poking those cracks to see if they can make the whole building fall down.
Roy Halladay pitches in the first game, and he’s perhaps the biggest crack of all. He didn’t fare so well in his first start, giving up 5 runs over 3.1 IP, and had a sub-par 2012 too. His velocity is down, which could be a red flag. It’d be nice to see the Mets get to him tonight, symbolically getting the better of a pitcher they’d historically had trouble with. It’d also deny him his 200th win, which would be fun.
The Phillies are an older team, and they don’t appear to have a ton of depth to cover fatigue and injury. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are healthy to start the season, although Howard is off to a slow start, but Utley hasn’t made it through a full season since 2009.
The Phillies are likely on their way down, and the Mets should be looking to climb past them on the road to continued success. That process starts tonight.
Follow @Ceetar today while I share my observations and pictures from Opening Day.
Quick bullet point type list of things I”ll be scoping out today because I procrastinated this post and now it’s late.
Trackman thingy. I found this article very interesting, and am going to see if I can find the panel.
New Beer. Is there any new beer, and what is it?
New food. Most of the new food has been previewed some, but I’ll still be checking it out and getting a feel for what’s new.
There’s always new signs and kiosks and advertising. Subtle changes in the way Citi Field operates. I’m always interested in those things, the way the escalators run, how the security is behaving. That sort of thing.
Tailgate and Mets fan friends. Checking in with all the fun fans and bloggers that I rarely see anywhere but at Citi Field. It’s a new season, let’s have some fun!
And of course, most importantly, a Mets win! Let’s go Jon Niese!
There is no mention of beer, which is disappointing. Perhaps it’s just going unmentioned and there will be some new cool local options around, and I’ll certainly be looking for them, but I’m not holding my breath. They do mention an expansion of the frozen drinks stand that was around somewhere last year.
El Verano Taqueria will have a cantina menu with frozen drinks, and they’ll also be a frozen and mixed drink bar near section 414 on the promenade. That’s right behind home plate on what I call the Citi Field Piazza.
Blue Smoke will have pork rinds, as well as a delicious sounding brisket sandwich.
Shake Shack will get their vegetarian option, the ‘Shroom Burger. Also High Heat Cheese Fries, Cheese Dog/High Heat Cheese Dog, and a “Meet the Pretz” concrete (black & white custard, chocolate covered pretzels and malt powder).
The Mets Hall of Fame will get a Johan Santana No Hitter exhibit as well as a ton of All-Star stuff to celebrate the Mets hosting the All Star Game.
There will be various ticket deals as well. $10 student rush tickets, military tickets, and some others including a free ticket for your birthday.
As always I’ll spend a good chunk of Opening Day wandering the park to see what’s new and hunting for secret beer stands. I’m sure there will be a couple of interesting things here and there.
Shannon Shark of Mets Police wrote an ebook called Send The Beer Guy. So I read it, and then wrote this review of said ebook.
Even if he’s a little harsh on the Piazza-era Mets, it’s a good read. There’s the typical Mets fan timeline of how he became, and was cemented as, a Mets fan, his favorite players and all that, but it also chronicles his time working as a vendor at Shea Stadium (hence the title).
Some great behind the scenes stories there, and much like Dickey’s book last year, he intersperses ’current’ impressions of the 2012 season as he’s writing. That part was probably unnecessary, particularly since most of the people buying it are already fans and probably got those observations first hand from @MetsPolice during the season, but it does break up the book in an interesting way.
Anyway, It’s a scant $3.99 in the Amazon Kindle Store, and is a quick read. Give it a whirl.
Remember R.A. Dickey? He was a great pitcher for the Mets for three years, and features prominently in a movie about his signature pitch. This movie, by MPI/FilmBuff which you can get here (released April 2nd), was filmed during the 2011 season and in addition to Dickey features Tim Wakefield and the five other retired knuckleballers.
And you can win a copy! Three lucky readers will take home their very own copy of the DVD. All you have to do is have a little optimism about the 2013 New York Mets. Follow @Ceetar on Twitter and send me a mention with the hashtag #Knuckleball and the one aspect of the 2013 season you’re most excited about. Additionally you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with your submission, comment on this post, message Optimistic Mets Fan on Facebook, or randomly run into me in real life and tell me your answer. (Who knows, creatively getting me your submission may win you brownie points)
I spent some time poking through the DVD. I definitely recommend it, and check out some of the additional features if you want to know more about the knuckleball. The best part may be the conversation between Dickey, Wakefield, Hough and Niekro, just sitting around talking about it. That’s worth the price of the DVD itself. Also very interesting is all the super slo-mo images of the knuckleball in flight, that’s always fascinating.
And a favorite part of mine is when R.A. Dickey visits some young baseball players in Ramapo, NJ and teases them that he’s not going to tell them about his pitch because it’s a “Mets secret” and a lot of them are Yankees fans. When one kid asks who he owns, he responds with Derek Jeter. A little bit of trolling by Dickey there, and it’s much appreciated.
Here’s the synopsis:
The definitive documentary about the impossible-to-hit pitch, the knuckleball!
From acclaimed filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (The Devil Came on Horseback; Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work) this heartfelt, funny and deeply engaging film delves into the legendary subculture of the knuckleball and the brotherhood of men who share the drive, imagination and humility to throw baseball‘s slowest, most disrespected pitch. Filmed throughout the 2011 season, KNUCKLEBALL follows 37 year-old R.A. Dickey (New York Mets and 2012 All-Star) and 18-year veteran Tim Wakefield, formerly the oldest player in the major leagues and an icon of the Boston Red Sox, detailing their personal and professional triumphs of the season while exploring the bond between them and their only allies, the five living retired knuckleballers - Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, Jim Bouton, Tom Candiotti, and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. KNUCKLEBALL is the story of these extraordinary men, and the sacrifices they made to a pitch that would come to define their lives.
Nearly 2 hours of Featurettes, Interviews, and More
You may think the headline is an allusion to the Mets and their long-term plan, and maybe it works that way too, but I’m referring now to the two week period before Opening Day. The newness of Spring Training has faded to the point that just having baseball back is no longer enough. The World Baseball Classic is over. The prospects we really want to keep an eye on are mostly back in minor league camp as the major league guys are now getting most of the playing time in order to get used to the everyday schedule of the regular season. Most of the roster races are just about decided, even if not announced.
Worst of all is that every bump and bruise gets magnified in the lack of much to really talk about. When you’re in a waiting room even back issues of magazines you never pick up otherwise become interesting, and it’s much the same with baseball. Jordany Valdespin’s personality becomes a hot topic. Every comment from Terry Collins or Sandy Alderson that has the least bit of doubt becomes a disaster and is analyzed for double, or even triple, meaning. Every player that skips a start or doesn’t make a bus trip they were supposed to is headed for the disabled list. When other teams make cuts to trim their roster, those guys always look like they’d be a good fit for the Mets. (Although I agree on Ronny Cedeno)
No, really. Relax. Don’t let writers feeling the need to write something, anything, push you into extreme pessimism. It’s 10 days until Opening Day and until then everyone is healing. Even if guys aren’t quite ready by Opening Day, they may be ready less than a week later. It’s a long season. Captain David Wright will recover from his intercostal strain, just like he did last year, and play very well this season. Daniel Murphy will get back on the field. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is playing minor league games, and will be able to join the Mets soon. He’s got a lot to prove, but he’s only 25. Johan Santana will get his arm strength up. It might take a while, but he will. Jeremy Hefner isn’t a bad pitcher in the interim and the Mets have other guys that can pitch in some. Frank Francisco will get healthy and pitch like he has in his career, or he won’t and someone else will get those innings that can do something productive with them.
It’s a long season. Even if the Mets do start out a little injured they won’t stay that way. Guys well get better and other guys will get hurt. Some players will surprise you and become more than adequate replacements when they get their shot to play. Just relax because baseball will be here before you know it and we can stress and worry and fret plenty then.