Posts Tagged ‘New York Mets’

With 23 Games Left, It’s Okay to Be Pessimistic

September 10, 2009

In basketball, with just thirty seconds left to play and one team up by double-digits, coaches tend to swap out their starters for the least likely of players. By substituting scrubs for stars at the very end of a game, enthusiasts have coined the phrase “garbage time” to describe the last few seconds on the clock. Unfortunately, the same could be said for the Mets.

With just 23 games remaining of what has been a very disappointing season, it’s easy to see that the Mets are playing baseball’s version of garbage time. By dropping the first two games to the Florida Marlins, the Mets have clinched another three-game series in defeat. As more and more teams around the league battle to earn the slightest bit of respect, the Mets have lowered the bar on their expectations to unprecedented levels.

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Mets Fans Are Starting to Develop Yankee-Envy

August 13, 2009

As the Mets stumble through a season that most Mets fans would like to forget, their cross-town brethren in the Bronx are building on one to remember. After the Mets squeaked out a win yesterday to avoid being swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Yankees muscled their way to another walk-off win, their eleventh of the season.

As power-deprived as the Mets current lineup is, the Bombers have nine hitters with ten or more home runs. I’m sure at one point in the season the Mets had eight players on the disabled list. Meanwhile, the Yanks now have eight of their position players with at least fifty RBIs. Adding insult to injury, the Yankees are twenty-eight games over five hundred, the Mets eight games under. The Yanks are in first, the Mets are in fourth. The contrasts in the two ball clubs are endless.

The only similarity the two teams share is that they both opened up the 2009 campaign with a new ballpark. The universal goal of making the postseason is now over for one of them. As we enter the final six weeks of the season, the roars of Yankee Stadium have clearly been drowning out the cheers of Citi Field.

Mets Are a Sure Bet to Make the Post-Season

February 13, 2009

As strong a case as there is for the Pittsburgh Pirates to clinch their 17th losing season this year, a stronger case could be made for the Mets to clinch the NL East. Although the Amazins disappointed their fans the last two seasons by skipping the playoffs altogether, odds-makers have still placed them high on their list to win this year’s World Series. As any true Mets fan should know by now, the bullpen was terrible last season and most likely cost the Mets a trip to the first round of the 2008 playoffs. The uncertainty of former Mets manager Willie Randolph’s job security is also not without fault for last season’s mediocre start. A few more wins early on in the season could have pushed the team over the hump.

But, in 2009, things are already looking very different. With a new approach in place and the team set to showcase their revamped bullpen at the newly-constructed Citi Field, the sky’s the limit for those who support the orange and blue. According to the experts, the probability of the Mets choking for a third time is highly unlikely. They are returning with the same core group of guys that allowed them to be competitive these last few years with Wright, Reyes, Delgado, and Beltran. The pitching staff, again, is anchored by their ace, Johan Santana. Along with emerging right hander, Mike Pelfrey, the Mets have brought back their fiery left-hander, Oliver Perez. And experienced veterans such as John Maine, Ryan Church, and Fernando Tatis are eager to improve on their 2008 season which was cut short.

Ask any player or coach who will be attending the Mets Spring Training at Port St. Lucie, Florida and they will tell you that they like their team’s chances this year.

The Many Shades of Green

February 12, 2009

When the Mets orchestrated a three-team trade to acquire the Seattle Mariners’ closer, J.J. Putz, they were forced to give up and thus replace two of their other right-handed relievers. Perhaps the most unpopular player with Mets fans by season’s end, right-hander Aaron Heilman had the audacity to demand that the Mets either start him or trade him. See ya! The trading of Joe Smith was a tougher loss to bear, as he started with the Mets and was well on his way to becoming a fan favorite. When the dust finally settled, the Mets were compensated for their loss of Smith with the acquisition of right hander Sean Green, a player considered to be of equal value.

Green began his career with Seattle in 2006. For three seasons, he was primarily used as a right-handed specialist coming out of the bullpen. In 2007, his best season on record, Green appeared in 64 games. He finished that year with 68 innings pitched producing a 5-2 record and a 3.84 ERA. According to his former manager Jim Riggleman, Green was “outstanding” and his coaching staff that season gave him the title of “Unsung Hero.” The most impressive statistic for Green was his ability to hold opposing hitters to a .255 batting average including a .234 mark against right-handers.

Coming off such a solid and consistent performance in 2007, the Mariners were safe to expect much of the same for 2008. Unfortunately for Green, it did not end up that way. According to Riggleman, there were “periods where he [Green] was going through a kind of a dead-arm stage.” Critics site that the sinkerball pitcher’s best qualities began to suffer after the 2008 All Star Break. Prior to the break, Green was impressive. In 48 appearances, he had a 2.72 ERA and opposing batters were hitting .224 against him. After the break, his arm lost its sizzle. In 18 games, his ERA was a whopping 8.31 and opposing hitters were having their way with him by producing a .300 BA.

“I haven’t been able to make a good pitch when I’m ahead in the count,” Green said. “It’s one of those things that when I get ahead in the count, I can’t finish them off. I feel good. I just haven’t been able to put guys away.”

In 2008, a common theme among Mets relievers was their inability to close out an inning, let alone a game. Although Mets GM Omar Minaya has gotten high praises for resurrecting the Mets bullpen, fans should still be skeptical when skipper Jerry Manuel heads out to the mound to make a pitching change.

Luis Castillo, A Fall From Grace or Just a Bump in the Road?

February 9, 2009

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In July of 2007, the New York Mets acquired switch-hitting second baseman Luis Castillo from the Minnesota Twins in a trade for two minor league players. At the time, the Mets had just lost their everyday second baseman, Jose Valentin, to injury. This setback prompted Mets GM Omar Minaya to take action.

“With Valentin going down, this is a move we needed to do,” Minaya said. “For me, it’s important to have a guy to the right of first base to cover ground.”

When speaking about Castillo’s fielding capabilities, there is no argument that he is a talented infielder who may still possess above-average range. From 1999-2006, seven seasons with the Florida Marlins and one with the Twins, his average fielding percentage was a solid .983. During those eight seasons, Castillo averaged 139 games at second base producing an average of 34 stolen bases, 164 hits, and 86 runs per season. In that time, he also kept his batting average per season hovering around .300. In 2000, most notably his best offensive output, he batted .334 with 180 hits and 101 runs scored. Castillo also led the National League that year in stolen bases with 62.

In 2003, at the peak of his career, he amassed a 35-game hitting streak and helped the Marlins beat the Yankees to win his second World Series ring with the club. His also has three All-Star Game appearances to go along with his three Gold Gloves.

Going on 34 and starting the second year of his contract as a Met, Castillo is very much a different player. Plagued by nagging injuries, he is unmistakably slower and at times, looks hobbled when attempting to field his position. The burning question when the Mets acquired him then and even now is whether or not he is still healthy.

“We feel that he should be fine going forward,” Minaya said at the time of the signing. “He was one of the guys that we definitely considered.”

But to Mets fans, Castillo is probably the most unpopular player on the ball club. His short time with the organization has been viewed as an overall failure, leading critics to call for a buyout of the rest of his contract.

Castillo in the meantime has re-dedicated himself to off-season training to ensure that he is in top condition for the 2009 season. Minaya reinforced his second baseman’s commitments by saying, “[So far] his weight, body fat and in all things you would want to see, are doing well.”

With the start of this season just around the corner, the veteran Castillo will be one of the players most scrutinized right from the get-go. If he performs out of the box poorly, the front office may not be as patient as they have been in the past. Even with a formidable resume, the perennial contact hitter may find himself searching for another employer if the team does not receive the desired results.

Castillo is all too aware of what’s at stake. “You know how it is here, we know how the fans are when you don’t do well,” he said one day last season after being given the day off.

Perez Signs for Three

February 4, 2009

“I’m really happy to be back with the Mets,” the re-acquired left hander Oliver Perez said. “I know everyone in NY.”

During his press conference yesterday, Perez stood next to Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and GM Omar Minaya with a huge grin on his face and a brand new #46 New York Mets jersey on his back. In 2007, the enigmatic southpaw made $6.5 million. This year and for the following two years, he will be making significantly more. How much more? His contract is reportedly worth $36 million for the next three seasons. Not bad for a guy who collected a bevy of no-decisions last year and finished the season with a 10-7 record. Along with his 105 base on balls and 4.22 ERA, Perez was six innings shy of 200.

“I don’t have a problem with any team,” Perez stated. “I always pitch hard.”

His ability to perform masterly in the clutch was probably the left hander’s main selling point. Against the Philadelphia Phillies last year, Perez went 1-0 and had a 0.35 ERA in four starts. Another exceptional bullet point on his resume is that he consistently dominates left handed hitters. This will be a significant advantage for the Mets who have to face a Phillies’ team that plays with a mostly left handed lineup.

One of Perez’ most memorable starts last year was on June 29th against the Yankees. Over six innings, he allowed only one run and three hits against the Bronx Bombers’ highly-potent offensive.

“We have a really good bullpen this year,” the soon-to-be 28 year old Perez made sure to note. “We are going to be a better team this year,” he added.

With Perez now slotted for the starting rotation that leaves only one spot up for grabs. If you follow the pattern of lefty-righty-lefty-righty, a lefty should follow. Either right handers, Tim Redding or Freddy Garcia, will break that formation or the Mets will go with youth and give left hander Jonathon Niese a shot at the fifth and final spot.

Ladies and Gentleman, Your 2009 New York Mets

January 30, 2009

In fourteen days, major league baseball will be opening up their training camps to pitchers and catchers. If the Mets decide to close up shop and no longer pursue any of the free agents that are still out there, this is most likely how the twenty-four man roster will look like at the start of the regular season.

Infielders
Carlos Delgado
Luis Castillo
Alex Cora
Jose Reyes
David Wright

Outfielders
Fernando Tatis
Daniel Murphy
Carlos Beltran
Ryan Church
Nick Evans
Marlon Anderson

Catchers
Brain Schneider
Roman Castro

The Starters
Johan Santana
Mike Pelfrey
John Maine
Tim Redding
Jonathon Niese

The Bullpen
Francisco Rodriguez
J.J. Putz
Sean Green
Duaner Sanchez
Pedro Feliciano
Brian Stokes

Fighting Baseball Withdrawal In Mexico

January 24, 2009

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Waiting for the ferryboat that would take me to the island of Cozumel, I sat on a ledge overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Suddenly, my ears perked up as I overheard a conversation by some local passengers speaking in their native tongue. Unmistakably, one of the gentlemen stopped in mid-sentence and blurted out the name, “Reyes.”

I continued to eavesdrop in hopes that the dialogue would keep its focus on other names connected to anyone who might play for the New York Mets. As it became obvious that the conversation had zero to do with baseball, my Mets withdrawal became apparent.

Up until now, my only tangible experience other than periodically checking up on the team’s current news and notes had been an unsuspected sighting of a Mets fan wearing a baseball cap inside the pedestrian walkway (Avedia de Cinco) of Playa del Carmen. Perhaps I was asking for too much. I was, currently, far from the Big Apple. Most people wouldn’t need instant Mets gratification when the weather up North is below freezing and so warm south of the border. I guess the easiest thing for me to do was to just give up and enjoy my vacation. But, for someone like me, who makes an effort to stay abreast of every little detail that pertains to the game of baseball, I just couldn’t accept that solution so easily.

To some, my situation seemed dire but I refused to give up. I decided to consider all possible leads regarding the sport of baseball. With the motivation brought on by a newly-found culture and the fact that I only had a short stint left inside an unfamiliar land, I experienced a new burst of energy. I examined a downtown map of San Miguel, the epicenter of Cozumel, and set out to discover a section of the “El Centro” neighborhood labeled simply, “Stadium Beisbol.”

The location was a mere seven blocks from where I was staying. Somewhere between the intersection of Pedro Joaquin Coldwell and Aldolfo Rosoda Salas, balls and strikes were being called. I turned to my wife with jubilation and told her, “I would like to check out this place before we leave.”

Of course, her first reaction was that I was totally nuts. With that said, it took several days for me to actually experience this part of my trip. Many mornings passed by in which I was awaken by a nearby rooster’s crow and still, I couldn’t find any additional information concerning the local baseball stadium. I scoured the Internet for any info but nothing, nada, as they say here. The most I learned was that a semi-pro ball club played their home games at some point.

For now, I was left to wonder when this pro team played and against who. Perhaps, I would be lucky enough to see the next Oliver Perez. Maybe one of their beloved sluggers would manage to hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. That would be something, traveling a quarter of the way this side of the globe to witness one of the greatest games of my life. No matter where you were or when you saw it, you’ll never forget it. That is the beauty of baseball, a team game made up of a roster of individuals who demanded nothing less than perfection from themselves. Why would these Mexican ball players expect anything less?

After being dragged around shopping for a bunch of tacky souvenirs, I reached a compromise with my wife: 5 stores and then we go check out the stadium. Success! Alas, the stadium was empty. I realized that I wasn’t going to be regaled with any tailor-made double plays or diving catches. I wouldn’t even be able to break for a moment from all the action and sit through a pitching change. I just had to accept it, there wasn’t going to be any baseball being played today.

Fortunately, I was able to explore the confines by way of an unlocked gate. I traversed from right field to left field, sat right behind home plate, and stared down from the pitcher’s mound. I may not have witnessed a single inning but I had good faith that many will be taking my place when the umpire eventually yells, “Jugar Beisbol.”

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For me, I will be back inside New York soon enough counting down the days until Spring Training.

Lowe Settles for the Southeast

January 15, 2009

In mid-February, the Mets will be making the necessary arrangements in preparation for this year`s pitchers and catchers. GM Omar Minaya has stated that all those who attend with the exception of Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine have an outside chance of solidifying the back-end of the starting rotation. Reason being, those three pitchers have already earned their respective spots.

Since the start of the New Year, the Mets` front office has made it a top priority to sign durable and playoff-ready starting pitching with the hope that they will go deeper into ball games reducing the possibility of an over-worked bullpen. Veteran right-hander Derek Lowe is someone who could fill that void. However, that option is now null and void for the Atlanta Braves have succeeded in snagging the right-hander by simply offering a contract worth $60 million over four years.

“When you get a horse like Lowe in the rotation, that takes so much pressure off the rest of the rotation,” Atlanta reliever Blaine Boyer said. “This is good for the bullpen, the starters and all of the position players. This does so much good for the psyche of the players and the fans.”

With the recent departure of long-time Braves` pitcher John Smoltz, and the uncertainties regarding starters, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson, Lowe`s services now seem much more vital than before. In the past, Lowe has stressed the importance of finishing out the end of his professional career with a ball club that will be able to provide an instant chance of reaching the post-season. On the other hand, the Atlanta Braves have struggled the past three seasons siting rebuilding as the reasons for their lack of competitiveness in an ultra-competitive NL East.

In my opinion, this was a good move for the Mets. They have had past experience with signing veteran pitchers who are in the twilight of their careers. Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine both with exceptional pedigrees were brought in to help a Mets ball club get back to the World Series and we all now how that turned out. If the Mets organization does not fulfill the need for another starter via free agency, they most definitely will choose from within.

“I feel good about my situation,” lefty prospect, Jonathon Niese said this week from his home in Defiance, Ohio. “I’m going into camp fighting for a job, and that’s basically all I’m worried about.”

The Mets Are Seeing Red

January 10, 2009

The word on the street is that the New York Mets are very close to signing a right-handed starting pitcher. Could it be, Derek Lowe? We all knew Omar would get his man sooner or later. It just goes to show you that if you stick to your guns and refuse to give in, your hard work will pay off.

“Isn’t Omar the greatest GM in all of baseball?”

First, he brings in the most exciting closer since Dennis Eckersley. Then, he successfully orchestrates a three-team trade replacing key players who made up the majority of last year’s disastrous bullpen.

“Wait a minute….one year, $2.25 million for Derek Lowe?”

“Oh my, this doesn’t seem right.”

After managing to pick myself up after falling off my chair, the Mets announced that they have reached an agreement with free-agent pitcher, Tim Redding. Redding, who turns 31 next month, accomplished something no other Washington Nationals’ pitcher accomplished: he won ten games.

It’s no secret the economy is flailing amidst reports that the Mets organization is requesting City Hall to send more public bonds to help defray some of the new stadium’s costs. Perhaps, the Wilpons, the Mets principal owners, have miscalculated the losses they incurred with their involuntary participation in the latest Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

Come to think of it, it all makes perfect sense: the Mets are broke. Compounded with the low offers for front-line starting pitching and the reluctance to budge, we may have to live with Redding and young left-hander, Jonathon Niese as our fourth and fifth starters.