Archive for June, 2009

It May Be Time for the Mets to Re-evaluate Their Youth Movement

June 17, 2009

Looking at the Mets starting lineup last night against the Baltimore Orioles, one can’t help but notice 20-year-old Fernando Martinez and 24-year-old Daniel Murphy batting second and seventh among a bevy of veteran Mets players. For Martinez, this is just his fourteenth start of the season after being called up on May 26th. So far, the young Mets outfielder’s stint in the big leagues hasn’t been all the glitz and glamour that perhaps he was expecting when he was given the opportunity to play in front of the New York faithful.

In 16 games, including last night’s 6-4 win over the Orioles, Martinez has just eleven hits in 56 at-bats which equates to a .196 batting average. Prior to being placed on the Mets roster, he produced eight home runs and a .291 BA at Buffalo, the Mets Triple-A affiliate. However, Martinez has yet to show off that power and is still waiting for his first career home run.

As the Mets continue to play in American League ballparks, they share the same advantage as their counterparts by having a designated hitter in their lineup. This allows Martinez to play the field and Gary Sheffield to rest his sore knee while he is acting as the Mets DH. Nonetheless, when the team heads home for a weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays, pitchers will be back in the lineup and most likely Sheffield will be taking Martinez’ spot in the outfield.

Daniel Murphy, on the other hand, has been with the Mets ball club since day one. After a strong start, Murphy’s offensive production has almost disappeared. Since May 29th, the Mets new first baseman has just five hits in his last 40 at-bats. In that span, Murphy’s batting average has gone from an okay .260 to a miserable .234 while scoring only one run.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel has mentioned that young players would benefit most from playing everyday. Perhaps, he should consider his own advice and option these two young Mets players somewhere else so they can work on getting back on track.

A Dignified Manuel Emerges from a Crushing Defeat

June 13, 2009

Mets manager Jerry Manuel could have easily been caught off-guard last night when he was called upon to address the New York media and explain the unexpected turn of events that transpired on the last play of the game. In case you haven’t heard, Mets second baseman Luis Castillo botched a routine pop-up in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners on first and second and two outs. At the height of the play, the Mets were up by one run and had the game firmly in hand. When the dust finally settled, two Yankees had crossed the plate, Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was horrified, and the Mets were looking at a three game losing streak. Since then, Castillo has accepted his misadventure and has humbly apologized for instigating what is being tagged in some social circles as “the drop heard ‘round the five boroughs.”

Castillo’s impromptu press conference prior to today’s game may have ultimately cleansed the emotional second baseman of his improbable feat. The inspiration for it may have stemmed from his skipper’s inspiring words. As usual, Manuel handled himself gracefully after the game and seized the moment with his mellow constitution. Likening his post-game reaction to that of a sermon on the mount, the Mets manager presented himself again as the great pacifier.

“It will definitely be a battle again for him [Castillo],” said Manuel with confidence in his breath, “Not only for him but for us.”

As Mets fans were reduced to utter tears, Manuel’s surefooted demeanor became the support system that he had hoped would hold them over.

“We win together, we lose together,” he added. “We’ll have to fight through this. We have enough time to overcome it.”

Mets Drop Two of Three Along with One of Their Starters on Their Way to the Bronx

June 12, 2009

Mets manager Jerry Manuel outwardly expressed last night after the Mets lost their second straight game in extra innings to the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies that his team is hoping to stay afloat until key players return to the Mets starting lineup. However, as the Mets patiently paddle along unchartered waters, other holes continue to spring up forcing a possible situation into nothing more than a desperate leap of faith. Along with dropping two of three to the Phillies, the Metropolitans will be heading up to the Bronx this weekend to take on their cross-town rivals, the Yankees, without one of their starting pitchers. Right-hander John Maine was placed on the 15-day disabled list following the game last night with what is being described as “shoulder fatigue.”

“Right now we’re going to hope that John Maine won’t be out for a long time,” Mets GM Omar Minaya said.

Up until now, Manuel was able to rely on the strong performances of his starting pitching to weather the storm. Before Maine’s latest setback, it was viewed as the one positive in a sea of negatives. Not only will the Mets have to decide on who will be pitching for them on Saturday evening but eventually they will have to answer the question as to who will be the one to pull in that anchor and complement, David Wright and Carlos Beltran.

“With the way we’re built right now offensively, we have to have more than two guys swinging the bat,” Manuel said.

The Mets will be heading into this weekend’s series with the hope that tonight’s starter, right-hander Livan Hernandez, will continue to pitch strongly and help his team turn the tides.

Some Have Been Known to Say That Home Runs Are Part of the Game

June 10, 2009

If you happen to be one of the unlucky Mets fans who were unable to catch the game last night but were able to listen in and hear Mets starting pitcher, Johan Santana, pinpoint each one of his mistakes during the post-game press conference, you might have thought that the Mets had lost. If for some unfortunate incident last night Santana was not awarded the victory for his sub-par performance then the storyline may have read, Mets’ ace tagged for four home runs compliments of the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies. There was no doubt that last night’s 6-5 win by the Mets was one of those games that when it was all said and done, Mets fans would find a pile of pulled out hair atop their coffee tables.

Each Philadelphia extra-base hit that cleared a section of the Citi Field wall sent a strong message to all who were in attendance last night and to the rest of the league for that matter that no ball park could hold Philadelphia’s free-swinging, homer-heavy lineup in check. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins smacked a two-run dinger in the top half of the sixth inning that put the Phillies ahead, 4-3, and without hesitation forced every one of the 37,000 screaming Mets fans to doubt their ace’s staying power for the evening. At that point in the game, I’ll be honest. I was heard in the next room accusing Santana of being a chucker. Eventually, the Mets would regain the lead but would receive a scare when Phillies second baseman Chase Utley’s solo home run soared just over the shortest part of the right field wall in the top of the seventh inning quietly bringing his team to within a run.

The Mets did however prevail with a power stroke of their own. Third baseman David Wright and centerfielder Carlos Beltran went plenty deep to give the Mets an early 3-0 lead, which is to say that Santana received more than enough run support for the evening. Nonetheless, it was right fielder Ryan Church’s solo blast that landed inside Citi Field’s version of the Homerun Apple in the bottom of the seventh that proved to be the difference in the ballgame.

“Yeah, it’s a big win for us,” Church said after the game. “We win tomorrow and we win the series.”

Tonight, the Mets will be looking towards right-hander Mike Pelfrey to bounce back after a tough outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he lasted just three and two-thirds innings and gave up a total of eight earned runs. Philadelphia will be sending their top left-hander, Cole Hamels, to the mound with the hope of having Church’s prophecy go unfulfilled.

Wright’s Big Night Gives Mets Much Needed Leverage

June 6, 2009

Heading into this weekend’s series, it was difficult to tell which team, the Mets or the Nationals, was looking forward to playing each other last night. In the case of the Mets, they had just lost three straight games to another of the National League’s enablers, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Prior to the start of the game, the Mets also got word that their catalyst, Jose Reyes, would most likely be unavailable for at least a month with a minor tear in his right hamstring. However, numbers don’t lie. Since May 4th, Washington has just eight wins to show for its last thirty completed games. I say completed because during that stretch the Nationals experienced a home game against the Houston Astros that was suspended due to rain in the eleventh inning with the score tied at ten. That game is scheduled to be completed at a later date.

Investigating further into the bulk of those games, the Nationals were swept by three different ball clubs, the Mets being one of them, on four separate occasions. Not to mention losing both games of a double-header twice to the Philadelphia Phillies and most recently, the San Francisco Giants. With all those circumstances against them, you could still make a good case for the majors’ worst team with an overall record of 14-39 in utilizing a weekend series against the injury-riddled Mets to help get them back on the right track.

Not only did the Mets lose an All-Star in Reyes but they will have to continue to move forward without their right-handed reliever, J.J. Putz. The former Mets set-up man was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday and will undergo surgery to remove a bone spur and fragments of bone from the back of his right elbow on Tuesday. Mets GM Omar Minaya said that Putz’ return could take anywhere from 10-12 weeks. Fortunately for the Nationals, this was music to their ears. Perhaps the Mets were on their way down. Maybe, just maybe but not just yet. Third baseman David Wright had something to say about it. He drove in the two go-ahead runs in the top of the tenth inning that broke the 1-1 tie. Wright’s second double of the night not only completed a 4 for 5-night but led to a Mets win.

The starting pitcher for the Mets, right-hander Tim Redding, commanded six solid innings but did not record the victory. He did however strike out two and give up just one earned run. Most importantly, in the home-half of the fifth inning, he was able to induce a bases-loaded double play that ended the inning, limiting the damage, and keeping the score knotted at one.

“It just feels good, period — it could have been against anybody,” Redding said.

Not just anybody, these are the Washington Nationals.

Pittsburgh Gives Mets Fans a Quick and Painless Defeat

June 3, 2009

As a baseball fan, finding enjoyment in your team when they prove themselves victorious is just as important as loathing them when they struggle through a loss. Within a 162-game schedule, even very good teams manage to drop forty-five percent of their games. Mets fans in May were able to experience winning more so than losing as their ballclub produced a 19-9 record for the entire month. With that, subjecting them to an 0-2 start for June may feel as if the whole world is crashing down. It’s no secret that the Mets current roster looks more like a fourth-place team than a ballclub that is built for the post-season.

Ask Mets skipper Jerry Manuel and he most likely will agree. “We need some of our big guys to get hot,” was Manuel’s actual response. Reading between the lines, the Mets manager was probably alluding to David Wright. The Mets third baseman’s offensive output has dwindled during these last five games. Wright is hitting just 2 for his last 21 with no RBI and eight strikeouts. The good thing for Wright though is that he still has a batting average well above three hundred. With centerfielder Carlos Beltran scratched for his third straight start with a stomach virus and their clean-up hitter, Gary Sheffield, battling soreness in his right leg, the Mets are left with very little options in producing a big inning.

In desperation, Manuel called on his pitching staff and pleaded with them to carry the load while the majority of his position players lick their wounds. What Manuel needed most was a signature performance from his ace, Johan Santana, to help stop the bleeding. Santana was cruising along fine for the first four innings. Heading into the bottom of the fifth, he was staked with a 1-0 lead. However, as quick as Santana arrived at that lead, Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo managed to single-handedly evaporate it. Jaramillo took the left-hander deep with a fastball. It was the sixth homerun surrendered by Santana this season. After a one-two-three top of the sixth inning for the Mets, the Pirates got to the Mets left-hander again. This time around with a string of extra-base hits that plated two more runs and put the Pirates ahead, 3-1.

On this night, it would be the Pirates bullpen not the Mets relievers who would successfully hold down their opposition and set up their closer, Matt Capps, to record his twelfth save.

J.J. Puts Mets’ Feet into the Fire

June 2, 2009

In the bottom of the eighth inning last night in Pittsburgh, the Mets back-up to the back-up to the back-up shortstop, Wilson Valdez, failed to complete what would have been an inning ending double play. Not only was Valdez unable to record an out and keep the Mets within a run but his miscue allowed Pittsburgh to tack on another run, their fourth of the inning. Eventually, a fifth Pirates runner would successfully cross the plate and before you could blink an eye Pittsburgh was up by three runs. The inning began with the Mets leading five to three.

For the Mets, last night’s 8-5 loss unfortunately produced an eerily similar storyline for a team that felt very strongly that it had finally turned the page on past season’s setbacks. The game began with the Mets scoring all their runs in the early going only to see it slip through their fingers in the later innings. The culprit, you guessed it, their bullpen. Coming into last night’s game, the Mets bullpen was ranked one of the highest in the major leagues. The majority of the Mets relievers had been performing at the top of their game. All of them except right-hander J.J. Putz who has struggled of late by surrendering eight walks in his last six outings. In that devastating eighth inning, Mets manager Jerry Manuel decided to relieve left-hander Pedro Feliciano with a right-hander. Putz saw five batters. The result: four hits, a walk, and four runs, three of them earned raising his already climbing ERA to 4.76.

Fortunately for the Mets, they will be getting some reinforcements come Tuesday. Infielder Alex Cora is expected back from the disabled list and could see action as early as Wednesday. Also, the Mets’ ace, Johan Santana, is slated to start tonight’s game. He will be pitted up against Pittsburgh’s version of a stopper in left-hander Zach Duke. Santana is vying for his eighth victory of the season.