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.

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Creative Centerfield Options for the Mets

Bobby Bonilla:  Hey he’s on the payroll anyway right?!

Daniel Murphy: Clearly he can play anywhere.

Jenrry Mejia: Gotta get him that Major League experience.

Mike Pelfrey: He’s clearly got a strong arm, and he’s tall for home run robbing leaps.

Tim Tebow: He can run and throw right?


These aren’t any crazier options than Jordanny Valdespin are they?  What are some of your suggestions?


In all seriousness, if Andres Torres misses Opening Day, something that’s far from certain at this juncture, and Scott Hairston is also not back in time, Sandy Alderson would probably just acquire someone.   There aren’t going to be great options, but some will shake out as we get closer to go-time and other teams cut some guys that didn’t make the team.  These aren’t ideal candidates obviously, but it doesn’t sound like Torres’ injury is that serious.

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Nervous About David Wright’s Ribs?

It’s natural to be a little nervous that David Wright hasn’t played a Spring Training game yet because of some pain/tightness/discomfort in his ribs/chest/oblique.


It’s easy to panic, but the signs seem to point to the Mets being super overly cautious this Spring.  The Mets have dealt with some injuries in that area the last couple of years, and most recently Scott Hairston re-injured his oblique, months after he originally hurt it.   Can you imagine the public relations disaster if just a week after Hairston hurt the same muscle, David Wright took a hard swing in a meaningless Spring Training game and was out until May?  The Mets probably view it as a smart move to just not let Wright swing hard for another week or so to assure themselves that he’s not going to hurt it.  He’s certainly got plenty of time to get his timing down for the real games.


Wright claims he’d be playing if this was the regular season, and despite the reputation of the Mets word on injuries being what it is, we don’t have anything else to go on.  He’s reportedly doing all his workouts and stretches so he can’t possible be that injured.  Hopefully we’ll see him next week as planned and by the time the season starts we won’t remember that he was even dealing with this.

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The Difference Between Prudence and Pessimism

Sandy Alderson was quoted recently as viewing Johan Santana as a question mark for the rotation to start the season.  This comment was a statement on being prudent and building depth, not a dire prediction about Santana’s health.  Still, it was misrepresented and reported as a medical update instead of simply an extension of previous comments of Alderson’s suggesting it’s a good idea to have lots of depth in the rotation.   Johan Santana has not had a setback, and is on exactly the same path he has been since early October; Opening Day.  He’s begun offseason conditioning, but it’s way too early to start throwing a baseball.  Certainly there’s a possibility when he starts throwing that his shoulder will struggle to respond the way a pitcher’s needs to, but that’s merely a possibility, not a prediction.

Expecting Santana’s body to respond like Mark Prior’s, or Chien Ming Wang’s, is probably as silly as me expecting my body to respond like David Wright’s when I go to the gym. It’s even possible Santana and his doctors could use Wang and Prior’s experience as guidelines to improve on the rehabilitation process.  Santana is a different person, and everyone’s body responds differently.  There is a thought out there that because of copy number variation in the human genome, and other in depth biological stuff outside my paygrade, that there is some difference in the way different racial populations across the globe adapted over the last 200,000 years or so.  Basically expecting Santana’s body to heal and strengthen like Mark Prior’s may be like expecting your Ford Fusion to break down at the same odometer reading your neighbor’s Focus broke down at.

They estimated Tommy John’s odds of recovery from his procedure at 1%, but nowadays 83% or so of the operations go as planned.  Practice makes perfect, so to speak.  A lot of that has to do with the regiment and rehab schedules and learning what’s the best way to get the elbow or shoulder into game shape again.  This isn’t to say that that Santana is a lock to make even 25 starts next season, or that he’ll be successful if he does so.   It simply means that Sandy Alderson is aware of the severity of the surgery Santana had and knows the importance of pitching depth.  That’s it.

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Almost Every Met Is/Was Injured

Of all the players that have been on the major league roster this year for the Mets, only four of the opening 25 guys have missed no time with the Mets.


All four of those are starting pitchers. 

Update 8/24: Looks like Niese makes it three.

Hairston, Byrdak, Thole, and Harris only missed a couple of days due to bereavement, paternity or foul balls.

And three more got a late start, but have been here since mid-April

Isringhausen – Delayed until 4/11
Gee –  First Start April 17th
Turner – Up since the 19th of April

The Mets actually traded two of their healthier players.

Beltran – excepting brief bout of flu

Of particular note here is the position players.  Two of the bench guys, Hairston and Harris, have stayed healthy all season and Thole is the only regular.  Justin Turner, despite playing through some bruised thumbs, was added to the roster quickly and has remained on the field throughout.  Everyone else has gone to or from the minors or disabled list, or to another team. 

I’d say that’s probably a big factor in why the Mets have only around a .500 record on the season.

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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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Trying to Finish on a High Note

The Mets are looking to finish the unofficial first half with a positive note, despite losing Jose Reyes this week for six or more additional games.  They have three All-Star pitchers to face to get there, although the name Vogelsong doesn’t exactly fill you with fear.


With the Braves and Phillies rarely losing lately, the Mets have had trouble making up ground even when playing well.  Which is why it’s important that they win some of these games against All-Star pitchers before they lose anymore ground.  They still have plenty of time and plenty of games against their opponents, but you can’t let them get too far ahead either.


The Mets will have a chance to finish anywhere from one game under .500 to five games over.  Merely winning the series would put them a comfortable three over, whereas losing it would drop them to just one.   The Braves and the Phillies play each other this weekend, so one of those teams will have to lose at least two games.  The Mets winning ensures they can at least gain ground on one of them.   They then have a chance after the break to gain even more ground on Philadelphia directly.


If the Mets can win some of these games, including some of the ones after the break, they’ll start getting healthier with Jose Reyes, David Wright and maybe even Ike Davis returning to this offense.  Adding those guys would suggest that the Mets would be better than they have been so far.  There’s no saying that that will be enough to propel them above and beyond their competition, but it should be fun to watch.  Hopefully the Mets can give those guys an opportunity to still be in the race when they return.

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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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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.

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