Welcome Back David, We Missed You!

Today the Mets get back their unofficial captain and star third-baseman.  After all, how can the Mets take on the Goliath challenge of making the playoffs without their David?

 

The Mets playoff chances appear to be hanging by a thread, despite still technically controlling their own destiny as far as the Braves are concerned.  While they are playing just well enough to not fall out of it, they’re not gaining any ground either.  Another week without gaining ground possibly spells the end of Carlos Beltran as a Met, but looking to sell at the deadline or not, the Mets will get reinforcements.  David Wright returns tonight, and it looks like the road is marked for the return of Johan Santana.  I wouldn’t rule out Sandy Alderson making a trade that can help the Mets, both this year and in the future, at the trade deadlines.  Perhaps it’s unlikely, but you never know what’s going to be out there.

 

We’ll start with David Wright.  He’s tearing up Florida in the minors, and here’s hoping he’ll continue to tear up Florida in the majors this weekend.  It’ll be nice to have him back. Everyone time someone mentions the Mets third baseman I instinctively think David Wright, and Daniel Murphy’s name starting with the same letter doesn’t help.

 

So welcome back David Wright, and here’s to a great end of the season for you.

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Biggest Week of Mets Baseball in Years

This next week or two may be the biggest games the Mets have played since the last week of 2008, and they also might be the biggest games they’ll play for years.  The Mets record, as well as the Phillies and Braves, will greatly determine the look of the team going forward this year, and maybe even next year too.

Sandy Alderson has said he would consider trading Carlos Beltran right now a white flag, but if the Mets play poorly over the next two weeks, that white flag is inevitable anyway.   It’s probably not just Carlos Beltran either; The Mets won’t get a ton for guys like Chris Capuano or Jason Isringhausen, but if the chances of contention plummet there will be little reason to keep them.   If they manage to climb closer in the race, the small return from trading those guys won’t be worth gutting the team.  In a way, the Mets could finish a handful of games above or below .500 based on how they do in these next bunch of games.

Either way this season will likely be viewed as a step in the right direction, but if the Mets fall out of it here and restructure the team with next year in mind, the record and excitement levels will fall.   That probably won’t be enough to prompt many to invest in this team, raising projected income and in turn, payroll.  As the memory of the last Mets game fades, we’ll be subjected to more financial news regarding the Picard lawsuit and the Madoff mess.  Their will be speculations about Einhorn’s control, about how much the payroll can possibly go up, and if the Mets will actually field a competitive team.   So the only real news will be mostly doom and gloom again, which won’t help sell tickets.  Just today someone called into WFAN in the brief 20 minutes I had it on proclaiming there is no way the Mets compete for five or six years.

If the Mets climb back into the race and get closer, Sandy Alderson will be more likely to keep players like Beltran, and may even look to add a reliever or someone, especially if the player can be helpful beyond this year too.   Whether or not they can or will win a playoff race is not the point here, the point is that if they stay close and prove that they can play with anyone it suggests that the Mets may not be years from competing.   They could go into the offseason with fans thinking they’re getting close and with the right moves, including resigning Jose Reyes, the Mets could be a very good team next year.  

There’s going to be a lot of stuff to watch with this team this year, and if they remain competitive and winning games they’ll bring in fans to watch versus fans switching gears to what could be a returning NFL season or something else.  Jose Reyes could have a record breaking season, as despite spotting the opposition 11 or more games, he’s still got a commanding lead in base hits.  David Wright will be returning, one of the Mets franchising players who they’ve sorely missed.  Johan Santana may return, and while that’s still up in the air, as is his effectiveness, it will be nice to see him on the mound again.  I would like to be at his first game back if I can at least.

It all starts tonight against the Phillies with your hero in attendence.   The Phillies aren’t taking the Mets seriously, opting to give  Halladay and Lee some extra rest coming off the break and pushing them back until after the weekend.  Facing Vance Worley, Cole Hamels who the Mets routinely beat, and Kyle Kendrick is not a daunting task.  Hopefully the Mets can get a hot start to the second half, while exposing the Phillies pitching depth, and start catching both them and the Braves who are playing the Nationals this weekend.

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Jason Bay Toggles His Awesome Switch

Jason Bay hit the wall in Dodger Stadium hard and made a great catch.  A couple of days later he was done for the season, and when he returned this year it was like someone had switched him off.   He struggled, was dropped in the order, failed to have an extra base hit for weeks, and watched his average plummet.  Then he started to get some more hits, and the occasional home run.  He was drawing more walks.  Then he made another amazing catch and hit the wall in Dodger Stadium.

One of the first things they ask you when you call a tech repair shop for service on your computer is, “Is it switched on?”  No one thought to ask that of Jason Bay this season.   Then Bay hit the wall, and his switch went back on.  Guys back in the clubhouse hung their heads in shame and said to themselves, “Why didn’t I think of that?” and Jason Bay hit two home runs and drove in four runs in a 6-0 rout of the Dodgers.

It was also Jason Bay’s 155th game as a Met, which would probably be more than he would’ve played in his first season as a Met.  Perhaps he’s just safely past his ‘first year in NY’ slump, and back to being a good baseball player.

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Jose Reyes and the Triple Crown

Photo by Michael Baron

A player like Jose Reyes will never win a Triple Crown, he’s not a slugger and right now doesn’t bat in a part of the lineup with a lot of RBI opportunities.  We count the success of players like Reyes with runs scored and stolen bases over home runs and RBIs.

So how does Jose Reyes stack up in the Leadoff Hitters Triple Crown as of 6:00pm on Sunday when I’m writing this?  He leads the National League in average at .346.  He’s currently 2nd in runs, one off the lead held by Drew Stubbs and Ryan Braun at 48.  He’s second in stolen bases, six behind Michael Bourn of the Astros who has 26.

The season is a little over a third over, so there is still a lot of time left.  Still, Reyes certainly looks like a solid candidate for my newly created Leadoff Triple Crown.  He’s leading in hitting right now, although Joey Votto is only .007 behind him and having an unbelievable season as well.  He’s currently got a .466 OBP.  He’s on base more than 9 times out of 20.

Reyes is only one run scored off the lead, which is doubly impressive when you consider Stubbs has Votto behind him driving him in and Braun has Prince Fielder.  Reyes has had to deal with injuries to Ike Davis and David Wright, and has often had Jason Bay, who’s not hitting at all, batting cleanup.

Michael Bourn is leading Jose in stolen bases.  Bourn has been the leader in each of the last two seasons while Jose was dealing with the injury in 2009 and the lack of a Spring Training in 2010.  So far this season he’s playing decently above his career average, and perhaps will tail off in stolen bases opportunities and allow Jose to pass him.  Or maybe Jose starts stealing more.

Yes, Jose Reyes is having a monster year. He’s easily one of the most exciting players in baseball and the best shortstop in the league.  Ultimately the Mets are going to have to work out an extension with him and resign him, but in the mean time we’re getting to enjoy one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen from a Mets position player.  Getting to the tv for first pitch when the Mets are on the road is a necessity, because if you’re late you may miss Reyes doing something amazin’.

The 7 train sometimes makes local stops, but Jose Reyes is always express.

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Jason Bay Experimental Slump-Busting Tactics

Most of these are just me being silly, but at this point it’s not looking like they’ll be less effective than what he’s trying now.

 

Only permit Jason Bay to bunt for an entire game.   Maybe it’ll really help him get his timing down and figure out where the ball is going.

 

Have Jason Bay stand in the batter’s box as the dummy-batter for all starting pitcher side sessions.  This way he can time and track pitches without the pressure of striking out.

 

Make Jason Bay swing lefty.  It might force him to focus and make contact.

 

Get Jason Bay drunk the night before.  Tell him not to show up to the park until 30 minutes before first pitch.  Maybe it’ll keep him from over-thinking his game and just hit.

 

Randomly send Jason Bay up to the plate as a pinch hitter with absolutely no warning.  Maybe do it after the pitcher has gotten two strikes.  Put his back against the wall and maybe he’ll come through.

 

Bat Jason Bay 9th.

 

The logical one being literally work it out with the hitting coach.  Watch tape. Analyze your swing.  Compare it to past years.  Take more BP.  Put in extra time scouting the opposing pitcher.

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The Mets Are Confident

Over a month ago I wrote about the Mets breeding confidence with a big win. For all the talk of how the Mets haven’t been involved in any walk-off wins or losses this year, the only thing stopping that one was that they were on the road.  After falling behind 3-2 in the bottom of the 8th, the Mets rallied for four runs to win 6-3.  It was the game with the Hu sac-fly to tie it, perhaps the best moment of Hu’s Mets career.   Yesterday suggested that the Mets may in fact believe in themselves.

They’d come off a very tough loss the night before with a lot of bad luck and bloops and they were getting some of that same bad luck early.  Pelfrey struggled.  Except for Justin Turner the night before the Mets hadn’t hit a home run since Mike Piazza retired and were barely scoring runs.   All that didn’t stop Carlos Beltran from striding to the place and smashing a home run well over the left field fence to get the game to 7-3.  From there the Mets did what they could, with a lot of help from the Pirates, to tie the game and eventually take the lead 9-7 and the 9-8 win.

The Mets believe they can win games.  They believe they’re a talented team, injuries or not.  Terry Collins believes it too; whether or not his tirade in the post-game conference the other day had any motivating benefits to it, it wasn’t fake. 

Just believing in yourself is not enough to win baseball games, but doubting yourself or your team can lead to losses in games like yesterday.  Opportunities for wins can come at the strangest times and places, but a team needs to be prepared to capitalize.   This one come from behind win doesn’t forgive letting leads get away in the other games during this homestand by not making pitches or catches, but hopefully it helps the players believe that they CAN make those pitches and win baseball games.

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It Was Just One Game, Let’s Overreact

It was a horrible game. The Mets played sloppy baseball all around the diamond, and didn’t hit the ball with runners in scoring position. Niese didn’t throw enough curveballs and was forced to get too many outs in one inning, but survived through five.

This game was not a result of comments made by guys in suits. This game was the result of play on the field, which wasn’t better than the Cubs play on the field. Ruben Tejada was not thinking about what a meanie Fred Wilpon was to Jose Reyes when he failed to catch a pop-up going back.

Jason Bay is not done.   He’s not very good, deserves all sorts of criticism, and is killing the lineup but he’s not done.   Just like Carlos Delgado was not done in 2008. Remember him? I always laugh because there’s a blog out there called Ketchup On Your Ice Cream, whose last post was a frantic call for Mike Carp to replace him.  This blog still stands, nearly three years later, as a monument to not overreacting.   Yes, Bay looks horrible.  Luckily he’s a hard worker and a hustler.  He can come out of it.  No better time than right now, when the Mets need offense the most. 

Justin Turner is not “regressing to the mean” as I saw one beat writer note last night.  Rookies do not regress, because the idea of regressing suggests a baseline value.  Justin Turner does not have a baseline value, because his major league sample size is ridiculously small.  Even punching in his Buffalo numbers to the extremely questionable minor league equivalency calculator gives him a respectable .743 OPS in the majors.  Obviously it’s unlikely he’ll hit like Albert Pujols and drive in a run every game, but that doesn’t mean he’s trash. 

The Mets are not done.  Yes, they’re in a tough spot with the offense.  Justin Turner helped some, but when he cooled off no one else stepped up to get big hits.  When the offense is struggling the defense needs to make the plays and avoid costly mistakes that extend innings and make things tougher.  The Mets had been pretty good at that, but they’ve gotten sloppy again lately.  They’ve got one of those “turning point” series coming up this weekend with the Phillies.  Everyone overreacting right now will likely be overreacting in the other direction if the Mets win that series.

The pitching is not horrible.  The bullpen is actually very good, but the starters are what’s in question here.  Yes, Pelfrey and Niese fell apart around some sloppy play and bad luck, but they’re not crap.  Pelfrey is a solid above average workhorse type pitcher and Niese is still learning the league and the craft.  Dickey put up a good showing on Friday and hopefully that means he’s back in command of his knuckleball.   Gee’s a rookie and Capuano’s pretty solidly average.  I’ve long been saying the good part of the Mets rotation, and the team in general, is that they all around don’t suck.  There aren’t any huge black holes and automatic outs or gimme pitchers.   Every pitcher is capable of pitching very well, and most of the time they’ll keep the team in games.   The lack of an ace, for now, is mitigated some by having an above average back end of the rotation.  I also suspect Sandy Alderson is looking for a couple of pitchers that could help out a little, for depth purposes, but it’s hard to find much in May. 

So in the end, it’s just one game.  You can’t overreact and point to every three game losing streak as confirmation  that all the negative gibberish spouted about the Mets is true anymore than you can take a three game winning streak as evidence that I’m correct in my prediction of the Mets clinching the division on August 25th against the Phillies.  It’s a long season, and lots of things change week to week and even day to day.

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