I’m Not Dead, Think I’ll Go For A Walk

Losing Jacob deGrom for an unspecified amount of time is bad no matter how you cut it.  Losing one singular player, even perhaps the best player, is not catastrophic in baseball.  It’s way too soon to close the casket on this season, or act like we’re going to close the casket, especially when we don’t even know deGrom’s timetable.  Let’s give it a few days at least? The Mets had two of the best pitchers in baseball, but the good news here is that they still have one. Noah Syndergaard is still awesome.


It is still a huge blow though, the Mets depth in pitchers was, and is, pretty large, but none of them have stood out. It’ll need to be more than Thor, maybe some decent Wheeler and Vargas starts, and then hope. Between Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Steven Matz, and even Matt Harvey and some of the AAA depth, there’s some potential for quality innings and competitive starts, the Mets just need to find it.


The real issue right now is the bats, and getting more offense from some of these guys. Especially with another quality pitcher down, you’d like to score even more runs to account for it, and I suspect the Mets will hit more than they have lately, though the lineup isn’t without it’s own concerns, particularly at catcher.


So losing deGrom is a concern, but it’s way too early to panic and there is still a lot of decisions to be made, games to be played, and wins to be had. If you still believe the Nationals are the best team in the division, the Mets still have a nice lead. The Braves and Phillies might be playing well for a month, but there’s no reason to think these teams are this good, even if they were underestimated in the offseason.  It’s time to hold serve, and get back to some winning baseball.  We’ll know more about the holes we need to patch, or repair, in a few weeks.



The dark before the dawn

photo by CeetarYou 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.

Tip Your Hat, Get ‘Em In July

The Yankees won this round.  Some lucky breaks, grounders that found holes and inopportune walks combined with a rather disappointing offensive performance all around gave the Yankees the series win.  If I had to choose one culprit, it would be the offense.  Still stunted from losing David, Davis and Pagan and from the continued struggles of Bay and Thole , they had opportunities that they just couldn’t capitalize on.  So I’ll tip my hat to the Yankees here; for now they’re the better team as shown in head to head competition.  As a reward I’ll refrain from making Yankees jokes for a week, which is roughly how long it takes A-Rod to get down the line these days.  Oops, a week starting now.


The Mets lost their first series in a while, which was bound to happen.  It sucks that it was the Yankees, but they’re likely a better team, were at home, and have the DH advantage as all AL teams do in these interleague games.    The team is still playing pretty good baseball overall, 3-3 since Wright went on the DL, and is keeping themselves in games and in the playoff race.  Ike Davis and Angel Pagan may return somewhat soon, and hopefully David Wright just behind them.   Until then it’s up to these guys to keep battling, to keep playing good baseball and winning games where they can.

Upcoming is a couple of weeks of weak other-division opponents during the week, and tough divisional opponents on the weekends.  The Mets luck out and should miss Roy Halladay next weekend, which is definitely a boon.  The Mets need to avoid spiraling into a funk and continue to win more ballgames than they lose.  This keeps them in a position to make a run at things as they get healthier, and also helps Sandy Alderson figure out which of his role players and bench guys he needs to keep on this team, and which can be sent away. Z24DR8WQXYQQ

The Mets Drastically Different Lineup


It’s likely the Mets Opening Day lineup will contain seven of nine different names.  Mike Pelfrey will likely be pitching instead of Johan Santana, which definitely hurts, but offensively the team will be starting the season off on a much better foot.  We’ve got Ike Davis at first instead of Mike Jacobs.  Probably Daniel Murphy at second base instead of Luis Castillo.  Jose Reyes instead of Alex Cora. Josh Thole instead of Rod Barajas.  Angel Pagan instead of Jeff Francoeur and Carlos Beltran instead of Gary Matthews Jr.



Alex Cora                               Jose Reyes
Luis Castillo                           Angel Pagan
David Wright                         Carlos Beltran
Mike Jacobs                          David Wright
Jason Bay                             Ike Davis
Gary Matthews Jr.                Jason Bay
Jeff Francoeur                      Daniel Murphy
Rod Barajas                         Josh Thole
Johan Santana                     Mike Pelfrey


Doesn’t that make you feel a little better about 2011?  Jacobs and Matthews didn’t get a ton of time, but the other four guys did.  Add in a non-concussed Jason Bay and that lineup really should compete with anyone.
I know there is some reservations about not making big changes and running out the same lineup in a “hope and pray” scenario that no one gets hurt and guys return to some semblance of career average, but there is a little bit of hope and crossing of fingers for every player.  It’s easy for some, particularly boisterous talk show hosts, to look at the Mets situation and not see how Mets fans would want to come out to watch the same guys play that have failed in years past.  It’s easy to assign blame to the guys that were a part of it all and that are more front and center, easier to pick at Reyes’ animated behavior or one pitch that beat Beltran.


The problem hasn’t been that Beltran or Reyes are bad players, but that they haven’t been healthy. Injuries happen.  They’ll happen in 2011 as well.  Alderson doesn’t need to sign big flashy players, but a couple of guys that provide more acceptable backup numbers than what we’ve gotten in past years would go a long way.  Players could get rest when they needed it. The Mets could be more conservative with injuries without feeling the need to have players play hurt, not go on the DL, or be rushed back from injury before they’re ready.

The biggest reasons for the Mets failures the last couple of years are in the first column, not the second.  And the biggest reason they might not succeed in 2011 (Obviously we’re talking offense right now.  The Mets pitched well last year, we’ll see what’s in store in 2011) is if the lineup features 2011’s version of Mike Jacobs a little too regularly.

Is The Mets Road Trip Salvagable?

The Mets have not been playing good baseball lately.  This poor play brings up debate and questions about what exactly the problems are.  Is it an easy fix? Something that takes time, money, or trade? 
Could it be the managing?
Maybe.  Jerry Manuel is not a good manager.  He’s operating as a lame-duck manager and as Steve Popper remarked today, A manager that everyone in the clubhouse suspects is not here for the long haul may lose a little authority in the dealing with long term situations such as standing up to Jose Reyes and being the final authority on if he is in the lineup.  The flip side of this is the question of whether Manuel’s lack of authority in such situations is what led to his job security being as tenous as it is in the first place.
Manuel seems inept at managing road games or close games, often burning outs with useless bunts, refusing to use his best pitchers on the road or burning through the bullpen at record pace.  Still, the Mets have the talent and ability to win games, and if enough games are going to come down to the point where they are won or lost on a misguided bunt call in the third inning, the Mets probably won’t win enough games for it to matter.
Is it the offense?
Some fans are thinking so.  Some seem to have given up on Beltran and Bay, and point out that the pitching has rarely kept the Mets out of games.  Surely if players like Bay continue to underperform, the Mets will not win.  However it’s probably safer to say Jason Bay will hit more like the 1000 games before he became a Met, than the 90 or so this year.  Beltran has returned, one of the most talented players in the game, and while we’re still not sure what effect the brace and lingering bone bruises are going to have on his overall play it’s safe to say he’s a solid upgrade over Jeff Francoeur.  Castillo will return soon and put up a respectable OBP that provides more run scoring opportunities.  Reyes will be back in the lineup and allow us to send Tejada back to Buffalo for more seasoning.   It’s easy to get worked up over slumps and scoring droughts, but the Mets offense overall is pretty good. 
How about the pitching?
Behind Johan, one of the best second half pitchers ever, the Mets currently have Pelfrey, Niese, Dickey and Takahashi.  Dickey has been wonderful, and Niese is contributing as well.  Mike Pelfrey’s struggling with a little bit of a slump, but he’ll fight out of it and win games for the Mets in the second half.  Takahashi has struggled, looking more suited for a long relief type role out of the bullpen.  This would be the obvious place to upgrade on the team, and rumors are that Omar is indeed looking for something that won’t cost the farm, but I’m not convinced the pitching is keeping the Mets out of games.  In fact they’ve been in most games, rarely getting blown out or finding themselves down six runs in the seventh inning.  Takahashi has had some bad starts, but he’s also had some good ones.  Johan even had a couple of bad starts in the first half. 
The Mets injuries, coupled with some slumps, are what’s causing the recent struggles.  Some of the other categories may be making it worse such as Jason Bay slumping or Takahashi having a poor outing, but overall it’s the injury to Luis Castillo forcing us to play lesser or unready players in Cora and Tejada.  It’s Reyes slow recovery from the strained oblique.  It’s Beltrans bone bruises keeping him out the entire first half.  Ike Davis went through a typical rookie slump, but after two home runs last night may be coming out of it.  You can’t get much worse than Rod Barajas lately, and he may be forcing Jerry’s hand in using Thole more, who has done nothing but hit while he’s been on the Mets.


It’s easy to overreact to slumps and scoring droughts, but the Mets have the talent to make the playoffs this year.   There is a lot of time left, including plenty of games left against the division leading Braves.  Destiny is in their own hands.  Beltran is getting up to speed, Jose Reyes is supposedly just about recovered, and Luis Castillo is set to return by next weekend.  Johan’s a second half pitcher, more help may be on the way, and Ike Davis may rebound from his first major slump a better player.  The second half of the season is going to be very exciting, and I can’t wait.

No John Maine in the Bullpen

A popular opinion on the handling of John Maine over the years has been to suggest he’d be better in the bullpen.  Metsblog has a post on this topic today as well.  Maine has occasionally struggled to get through 6 innings, although I would emphasize that this isn’t always the case, and some theorize that he’d have more success with being able to go all-out in one or two innings without worrying about a second time through the order.

I disagree.  I’m not saying Maine usually gets far into games, but I don’t think he’s ever a risk to throw three innings and completely task the bullpen.  In April and May of 2009 (throwing out the first June start where he was injured and went on the DL), he averaged around 5.2IP and went 5-3 with a 3.75 ERA.  This includes the first three starts of the season, where a pitcher is normally on a pitch count.  Without those he averaged 6IP over the next seven starts.  He made one bad start over that stretch, allowing five runs (four earned) over 5.1IP.  Every other start was a quality one.  So it’s not that long ago that John Maine both pitched six innings regularly and was good at it.  I know six innings isn’t amazing, but it’s more valuable than a couple of innings here and there out of the bullpen.  2010 was less pleasant for Maine, but he did have three of four quality starts after he redid his mechanics. 

My biggest problem with the idea of moving Maine to the bullpen is injury.  Maine’s injuries have always been injuries that seem fatigue and wear and tear related.  Putting him in a position where he’d possibly pitch, or get ready to pitch, every day would negate days of rest where his shoulder can just recover.   Especially with the way Manuel works the bullpen, I’d be worried this would be cause for further injury.

Subway Series Recap and Notes

empire-190Some quick notes about the Subway Series

I thought the Yankees were supposed to take pitches, but excepting a couple of innings where some Mets pitchers struggled, they really didn’t. 

While a limited sample size, Jeter’s range looks very very suspect. 

My unofficial analysis suggests it was 70-30 Mets fans on Friday, and closer to 60-40 on Sunday, although most of the Yankees fans left on Sunday before they had anything to cheer about. 

Shake Shack continues to have ridiculous lines.   Need more grills!

In the past Subway Series games, especially Sunday night, have been rowdy and violent to the point of almost making it unfun.  This wasn’t the case this series, I was there for both a loss and a win, and it never progressed much past good-natured ribbing.  There will probably be more fights by the 5th inning against the Phillies Tuesday than all weekend.

The Yankees injuries have messed with the bench most of all.  It’s not as big a deal when they play AL ball, but when they need pinch hitters they are woefully unprepared.  I wonder if they could use a guy like Gary Matthews Jr?

Big thanks to the Mets for emailing me some postgame wrap up notes after the game yesterday.  I was pretty tired after driving back, but some interesting notes that I didn’t catch myself.  The so called “Bronx Bombers” did not hit a home run in the series, and the Mets only hit two, both by Bay.  This ties the least amount of home runs for a Subway Series and is only the third time in a series the Yankees have not hit one.

That was the first Interleague loss for C.C. Sabathia since June 15th, 2007.   It was a bad day for former AL Cy Young award winners, besides ours, as Halladay, C.C. and Greinke all got roughed up. 

The Empire State Building will be blue and orange tonight for the Mets victory.

John Maine: Liar? Lefty?Hurt?

This Maine situation is seemingly more complex than we know.  I don’t know what it says for clubhouse relations, control of the clubhouse, hiding injuries, actual performance, or all those other immeasurable things.  What I do know is that Manuel and Maine are not getting along, Maine has been up and down performance-wise all year, and hasn’t even hit the 91-92 he was hitting post-injury last year.

There is no real way to remove guilt from Maine in this situation.  He struggled in his bullpen, supposedly didn’t top 85 mph for the first batter of the time, and bent over in what appeared to be pain after that.  He snapped at his manager in the dugout, and was critical of him in post-game discussions with the media.

Manuel and Warthen get plenty of blame here too.  It’s their job to make the call, not Maine’s.  If it didn’t look right in the bullpen, then it’s their decision to have him make his start or scratch him or whatever they do.  They should come up with a plan, with Maine, about what how they’re going forward.  Whether that’s one batter, one walk, or one inning.  Maine’s job is to go out there and throw the ball to the best of his ability if he’s on the roster.

Is Maine hiding an injury?  This would be the biggest issue of all really.  Maine’s been a pretty injury prone guy, especially lately.  He definitely could be realizing that he’s often feeling a little pain and that if he complained about every little twinge he’d end up spending more time on the disabled list than not.  Maybe he’s decided he needs to pitch through a certain amount of pain as a major leaguer, and he did hint at this thought on Thursday after the game.  Then there is him bending over on the mound, looking like he was in pain.  Maine explains this as knowing he was on a short leash because he saw Valdes warming up in the bullpen already and he was frustrated.  Gameday suggests Maine’s fastball was 85 during that batter.  Maine claims he looked at the film and that his mechanics were fine and his last two pitches were 89.  I don’t know what sort of speed guns or software the Mets (or the Nationals, or wherever he was looking) have, so I certainly don’t know what to make of that.

Both Manuel and Warthen have suggested they believe Maine would pitch through an injury rather than admit one.  Warthen used the words ‘habitual liar’ to describe Maine’s attitude about injuries, supposedly meaning it as a positive reflection on his competitiveness, but Maine said that the comment did upset him.  Maine made a statement Friday that he would work towards his next start, whenever and wherever that would be.  Manuel claims his gut says there is something physically wrong with Maine, but that he “could be wrong.”  Maine will get tests next week to tell for sure.

“I want to pitch,” he said. “Even if I have to go out there and throw lefthanded, that’s what I want to do. I want to go out there and pitch.”

Manuel’s response to this was comical, suggesting that maybe he’d have better lefthanded.  Jests aside, I’m not sure this is a comment you should make about a player that’s already annoyed at you and frustrated.

The drama obviously continued beyond that.  Maine said he wasn’t asked how he felt on the mound, Manuel pulled him and walked away muttering to himself.  This is what caused Maine to confront Manuel in the dugout and what he was most upset about.  After the game Maine said he hadn’t talked to Manuel and didn’t know why he was pulled from the game.  Someone has said that Maine would be going to the doctor Friday, but Maine knew nothing of this.  When the team showed up to the park Friday, Maine had neither gone to the doctor nor talked to anyone on the team about doing so.  He was placed on the disabled list with “shoulder weakness” and was told he’d be getting tests next week.  Elmer Dessens was activated, and didn’t arrive at the park until the 5th inning, which suggests as least that they hadn’t decided anything and weren’t willfully hiding it from  John Maine.   Maine still insists he’s not injured, so we’ll see what these tests reveal and where the Mets go from there.   It’s not like he’s pitched horrendously either.  His previous start wasn’t good, but he has a 4.3 ERA with three quality starts going back to his four most recent starts.  The Mets are 2-2 in that stretch.

This situation does not make anyone look good.  I’m already biased against Jerry Manuel and his poor decisions and management style going back to 2008.  I’m frustrated with John Maine, but it’s hard to dislike a guy that works as hard as he does and is as competitive.  You can’t ask much more than that from a player; if you want to criticize Omar Minaya for keeping him because you didn’t think he was talented enough, that’s fine, but as long as John Maine (Or Oliver Perez) is a Met, I’m going to root my hardest for them.

Almost 48 hours later, Maine has finally admitted that he’s felt a small amount of pain, similar to what he felt last year, in his shoulder.  He still insists he doesn’t need the DL, and that might be true, and maybe he should’ve seen the doctor yesterday instead of Monday, but this does validate Warthen and Manuel a little.  However, they could’ve stuck to their guns and not let him make the start if they suspected injury in the bullpen, and they could’ve probably gotten him to a doctor yesterday, and at least waited before putting him on the DL.  Mejia needs to go down anyway, and wasn’t available yesterday, so it wouldn’t have hurt to demote him and bring up Dessens and wait a day for Maine’s results.

I have to wonder if this pain is a result of Maine switching his mechanics back to what he’s comfortable with.  Obviously what Warthen had him doing this spring and early in the season was not working, but they need to find something that both keeps Maine’s shoulder from hurting, and allows him to be effective.  Nothing we’ve seen from Warthen suggests he can do that.  I never thought I’d miss Rick Peterson.

The Best Time To Face The Yankees

Many talk about how the Mets are reeling and it’s a horrible time to face the Yankees and Phillies.  I disagree, I think it’s time for them to rise up and face the challenges, but either way this is the perfect time to face the Yankees. 
The Yankees are riddled with injuries, and they’re going into the Subway Series five games out of first place. (the Mets are six)  Both teams have not played very well as of late.  Usually these series are best, regardless of talent, if both teams are both at least playing reasonably well, but maybe both of them playing badly works too; who gets up off the mat better? 

Maybe the Mets anemic offense, despite double digit runs Thursday, gets the Yankees pitchers into a groove?  Or maybe the Yankees tattered and faulty bullpen is what the Mets need to wake up the sleepy bats.  The Mets are just trying to get back to .500 and get some momentum before they play division-leading Philadelphia.  The Yankees are hoping to right the ship and not erase what was an excellent start to the season.  This series is more about not losing than it is about winning. 

The Mets have their two best pitchers going in this series, and certainly a fair chance to win each game.  Winning at least two out of three is not only possible, but would actually create a lot of good will and confidence going into the bigger divisional series against the Phillies.  The Yankees are indeed supposedly better, but they’re losing lately, they’re injured, and even great teams lose 50+ games a year.  The lowly Pirates beat the Phillies and Halladay last week, for instance.  So It’s time for the Mets to make the most of their wins, and get them in these next six days.  No time like the present for a hot streak. 

The Yankees are no juggernaut.  Their biggest key to success last year may have been health, and that’s eluded them this year. Posada will not play.  The bullpen is a wreck, Vazquez is very sketchy this year. 

I’m headed out to the Citi today and Sunday.  I’m planning to enjoy myself.  Let’s have a fun weekend of baseball, an orange and blue Empire State Building on Monday, and momentum for the Phillies.

Letters to the NL East, Part 0/5

(To read past year’s letters, click here)

Letters to the NL East, Part 0 of 5. (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)


Dear New York Yankees, (Because while they are not part of the division, are still are rivals in a way)

Ugh.  You purchased your 27th World Series last year.  You made the team better by acquiring Javier Vasquez from the Braves, even if he’s struggled as a Yankee before.  But this doesn’t exactly guarantee the same success in 2010.

Your team looked old and over the hill last April but was able to bounce back.  Eventually the age on the team won’t be able to do that, although Jeter and Rivera will certainly be trying so they can get that extra bit out of you in contract negotiations.

However, just about everything went right for you last season, and it’s not likely to go that way again.  Will guys like Nick Johnson and AJ Burnett stay healthy?  Will Granderson hit lefties?  How many games can Posada play behind the plate?   As I write this, Nick Johnson and Posada have both already been scratched from spring games this week.

It’s fair to say that the Yankees don’t have a ton of holes, but you do have two talented teams in your division that can exploit even the smallest problem in your game.  The success of last year does mask a lot of possible problems that could open up and devour the team though.  The handling of the bullpen, Joba and Hughes.  The range and age of your shortstop.  A-Rod’s hip, which was supposedly going to need more surgery but somehow didn’t.  Are the Feds coming for A-Rod and why is he dodging them?  Will Yankee Stadium in 2010 become the setting of some sort of Bourne film with A-Rod dashing through the stands with Matt Damon chasing him?  It’s probably a safe bet that they all the holes won’t all open at once, and that the Yankees could overcome some of them, but that’s why we play the games. When the dust clears you may find yourselves in third place and playing golf in October.

Your cross-town rival,

Optimistic Mets Fan