Archive for July, 2010

Jerry Manuel Is Pressing

July 31, 2010

Last night, Jerry Manuel replaced Mike Pelfrey with Raul Valdes during the sixth inning to pitch to Kelly Johnson with a runner on first and two outs. Johnson proceeded to blast a Valdes fastball over the center field fence.

I understand the lefty/lefty match-up. However, at that point in the game Pelfrey had settled down and had retired what should have been nine batters in a row (counting the Reyes error).

Normally, I don’t like to play Monday morning quarterback, or in this case Saturday morning quarterback, but this decision just smells of over managing.

I give Manuel credit for trying to be proactive, but in this case I would have liked to see him show confidence in Pelfrey who seemed to have found himself after another disastrous first inning.

Jerry may be pressing as he tries to help this team create a spark to ignite an overdue winning streak.

Here is Jerry in his own words about the sixth inning:

“That was truly a surprise, because I thought that was a tremendous match up in our favor — even going on the small bit of history that they had against each other. As I recollect, the couple of at-bats in Arizona it just looked like there was no chance that he would get a hit. But he gave up that home run.”

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

Say It Ain’t Joe

July 29, 2010

I want you to close your eyes. Take a deep breath. I am going to count backwards from ten. As I do, you will find yourself becoming very sleepy.

When I finish, you will be in a deep, deep, sleep. Ready?

Ten…..nine (deeper and deeper)…..eight…..seven (deeper and deeper)…..six…..five……four…..three (deeper and deeper)…..two (almost asleep)……one.

Picture the New York Mets with an organizational plan at the end of the year. All members of the organization act in an coordinated and single track manner, all part of the plan.

It is the off-season. The Wilpons and Omar Minaya are ready to enact a plan they concocted around the midway point of the 2010 season.

They avoided all temptation to try to create a quick fix by firing Jerry Manuel and replacing him with Bob Melvin. They realized this would not accomplish anything.

At times the Mets played hard, at times they struggled. Eventually, they missed the playoffs.

This IS the Mets, so we won’t try to imagine them hiring Wally Backman. That would be too bold of a move and you might not wake from your trance.

Picture them announcing their new manager at a hugely anticipated news conference.

The new manager is Joe Torre.

When you wake, you will believe this dream is possible. Once I snap my fingers you will awake.

Snap! Well? Did it work? Do you believe this is possible?

I know this seems like complete fantasy, but there are several reasons why this scenario has some merit.

1. Torre does not want to stick around the soap opera that is the McCourt divorce. What once seemed like a love fest in L.A., has turned into a sinking ship with dozens of questions facing the franchise due to this nasty divorce. It may take some time to figure out the financial situation for the Dodgers. I doubt Torre wants to wait it out.

2. New York State Of Mind Obviously, Torre has no problems managing in the spot light of the big city. However, some people tend to forget the he played and managed for the Mets in the late seventies and early eighties. A return to the team that gave him his start as a manager has a certain book end feel to it.

3. What A Great Way To Stick It To The Yankees It has been well documented that Torre was not happy with the last contract he was offered by the Yankees. His book “The Yankee Years” came across as it was penned with poison, at least to the Yankees faithful.

4. The Mets Have Talent There has been talk about Torre possibly managing the Cubs next year. I don’t see him waiting around as the Cubs try to rebuild their franchise. They are encumbered by a number of big contracts that no one wants. The Mets have some good young talent, and who knows what Torre and company could achieve with Wright, Reyes, Davis, Niese, Pelfrey, and Thole.

Maybe I’ve lost my mind on this one. Maybe you’ll remember this post if this becomes reality.

Whatever the case may be…..admit it, it is fun to think about.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

Hojo Must Go

July 27, 2010

 

As you know (thanks to Tom), reports are surfacing that the Mets coaching staff is going to remain intact. I agree…..only if you are talking about Dan Warthen. How is it possible that Howard Johnson is still employed?

Indulge me for a second before I get into the reasons why Howard Johnson should be out of a job. First and foremost, I am a New York Mets fan. Howard Johnson will always be a player that I remember with fondness. How can you forget Hojo and Straw joining the 30/30 club in 1987 together?

One of my favorite plays in 1986 was when he came off the bench to belt a monstrous home run against the hated St. Louis Cardinals to help the Mets sweep them in their own home park.

I will also never forget the hilarious instructional video he filmed with Roger McDowell on how to make a hotfoot.

For those of you that know me, I am not a proponent of the quick hook. That being said, it is time for Howard Johnson’s tenure to end as their hitting coach. Since his appointment to the position in July of 2007, the Mets’ offense has produced below expectations.

Throw out the injury plagued season of 2009, and take a look at how the Mets have regressed as a team offensively.

2010: They are currently ranked 23rd in team average and RBI.

2008: They ranked 12th in team average, and 10th in RBI.

Upon watching almost every game this team has played during his tenure, it appears that the hitters as individuals tend to not have the ability to make in-game adjustments. They also seem to take a long time to come out of slumps collectively.

It is the hitting coach’s job to help hitters recognize what pitchers are trying to do to them, as well as correct flaws in their swing that they develop during the season. How many more times are we going to see Jason Bay wave weakly at an outside breaking ball?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand teams go in slumps offensively. However, I think slumping for an entire month is excessive. The month of July has been absolutely disastrous for the Amazin’s. They are dead last in all of baseball in runs and on base percentage. They are next to last in batting average, RBI, and home runs.

So what is keeping Johnson employed?

He has a history with the Mets as a respected player and he possesses the right work ethic and attitude as a coach. But these factors alone are not enough to weather this storm.

Throw in an outstanding relationship with the team’s superstar, and you might have the right ingredients.

Recently, David Wright commented on the Hojo rumors :

“HoJo hasn’t had any oh-fers, it’s the hitters. HoJo is the hitting coach, that’s the bottom line, we’re the hitters. HoJo is taking it hard as any hitting coach would. Obviously the relationship I have with HoJo, I love him. I’m always going to go to bat for him. I’m always going to fight for him, but the whole offense feels responsible. As hitters we have to do a better job of going up there and having good at-bats.”

Side Note: Comments like these endear me to Wright. He NEVER makes excuses and is extremely loyal. Combine that with his talent and the fact that he comes to play every day and you’ve got yourself a keeper, ladies and gentleman.

The problem is, you can’t fire an entire lineup.  I think Johnson knows this.

“I think at this level you get hired to get fired at some point. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but you deal with it. That’s the reality of sports. We’re trying to set a standard here and we’ve scuffled. Hey, this organization has been solid. I don’t feel any pressure that way or anything like that. It’s nothing like that.”

Is it completely fair to blame Hojo for all of this? Absolutely not. One of the biggest challenges a hitting coach can face is trying to get his guys in a rhythm or a zone as hitters. I imagine that is quite challenging when the lineup changes on a daily basis.

Omar stated last week that Jerry’s job is not in jeopardy. That led me to believe that someone was going to take the fall for this awful month. Dan Warthen is in the clear. Lost in this horrendous month was an outstanding performance by the vast majority of the pitching staff.

A message needs to be sent that this isn’t good enough. Apparently, we’ll have to wait for it. Hojo has earned a stay of execution.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

Mets Still Experiencing Lingering Effects of 2009 Injuries

July 22, 2010


On July 19th, there was an optimistic feeling that spread all throughout Met Land. Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran were together again. Finally.

It is one of the few times that the majority of Mets fans were optimistic about something. That optimism lasted for one half inning.

Looking back on that day, I should have realized caution was needed. I fancy myself as a realistically optimistic fan.

What does that mean you ask?

I tend to try to find the reality of all Mets situations good or bad, but have always been able to keep hope alive.

Our emotional and passionate fan base usually find themselves really high or really low. I guess you could describe the Mets fan base as bi-polar.

I try to keep myself in the middle. Unfortunately, we were all hoodwinked into believing everything was going to be immediately all right once Reyes, Beltran, and Wright were together again.

It just isn’t realistic. The injuries of 2009 require a great deal of time to rebound from. I’ll explain this by using the big three as a reference.

DAVID WRIGHT

David Wright missed the least amount of time out of the three stars. However, the beaning he took from Matt Cain late in 2009 had a long residual effect.

With Beltran out, and Reyes struggling to get back to form, a 100% David Wright was an absolute necessity for the Mets to play winning baseball in the early part of the season.

In retrospect, I am convinced that it took Wright all of April and May to shake off the effects of that terrible pitch. The Mets managed to play .500 baseball during that time. I wonder what their record would have been had he not needed that time to fully recover.

JOSE REYES

I argue that Jose is still trying to get back to 100% from his 2009. He has yet to have a long enough stretch of games played to truly realize his optimal playing form.

This season started with games missed due to a thyroid condition. Then came the painful period of Jose re-learning how to hit after an enormously long time away from big league pitching. The disastrous lineup decision of 2010 (batting Jose third) didn’t help things.

Jose was ever so close to getting back to where he was prior to the 2009 injury, only to be sidelined by an annoying oblique and another questionable lineup call (allowing him to play injured).

We now find Jose rusty in the field and back fighting to regain his form.

CARLOS BELTRAN

Beltran has missed the most time due to the surgery on his knee. He hasn’t looked awful at the plate, but he is not completely comfortable there yet either.

As much as Mets fans want to blame him and make him out to be a pariah to this team, it just isn’t realistic to expect him to be an All-Star caliber player this soon after his return.

It is laughable to read comments from people that blame Beltran for these current team woes. These individuals are wearing blinders because the Mets started this slide prior to the All-Star break.

His injury recovery is ongoing and we should expect it to take him a number of weeks to get right.

Watching him play the outfield is hard for me. As a former outfielder (in high school so I’m not an expert in that area by any means), I always enjoyed watching him on defense. He is clearly off a step or two chasing down fly balls. I know he tells us differently, but what do you expect him to say? He would be killed by the public if he made excuses.

Sadly, we are still experiencing the lingering effects of the 2009 injuries. We are passed the games missed and the pressure that they placed on the Mets trying to survive phase. However, we are still very much in the getting back to form phase.

The most unfortunate part about all of this? The Mets are quickly running out of time in 2010.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

The Effectiveness of Team Meetings

July 21, 2010

Before tonight’s game, Jerry Manuel held a fifteen minute team meeting. I really can’t blame Manuel for making this decision.

He is in a tough spot. Some of his critics would murder him for not holding a meeting to try to clear the air for his team.

As reported by our own Wendy Adair, there was a bit of an issue in the clubhouse last night that needed to be addressed.

I’m sure Jerry also wanted to take an opportunity to try to motivate his team into playing better baseball.

The problem with the motivational team meeting is it doesn’t really accomplish much. What could Jerry Manuel possibly say that the players don’t already know?

Here’s how I envisioned the way things went.

Jerry Manuel (JM): Well guys. We’re not playing that well right now. But I really believe we’ll be fine. We’ve got a good lineup, now that everyone’s back. Alex. What happened last night?

Alex Cora (AC): I was upset after we lost….AGAIN….and didn’t like the fact that the reporters were laughing in the clubhouse after the game.

JM: What were they laughing about?

AC: I don’t know. Why does it matter?

JM: Was it funny? You know I like a good laugh.

AC: Ask Pelf. He was talking to them.

Mike Pelfrey: Yeah, it was pretty funny skip. We were quoting movie lines from A League Of Their Own. Mike Puma does a great Tom Hanks.

JM: Yeah? Which part?

MP: He does the standard “There’s no crying in baseball” bit. But he really has the part nailed when Tom Hanks is complaining to the team owner about having girls instead of ball players. You know? The part where he goes: “BALL PLAYERS?! I don’t have ball players. I’ve got girls! Girls are what you sleep with after the game, not, not what you coach during the game.”

JM: Hahahaha. That’s great Pelf! You’ve got that down pretty well. I love that part.

MP: Thanks skip.

JM: Oh yeah…almost forgot about the meeting. Listen up everybody. We’re fine. I really believe we’re going to turn this thing around. Luis you’re gonna get some rest tonight. Rod, you’re catching Niese. Go get em fellas!

Well. I guess we’ll see if this works.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

What Is Wrong With Mike Pelfrey?

July 20, 2010

If you are like me, it was particularly hard to watch Mike Pelfrey suffer another drubbing at the hands of the opposing offense. I genuinely like the guy. He is a home grown talent that never makes excuses and seems to have a great work ethic.

That’s why it is extremely hard to swallow his fourth straight start allowing four plus runs while lasting less than five innings (a dubious Mets first by the way). Last night was Pelfrey’s shortest start of his career.

He can no longer locate his fastball and his sinker is flat. This has resulted in him losing any sort of out pitch which causes very high pitch counts to a large number of batters. Big Pelf threw 51 pitches in the first inning last night.

So what’s wrong?

Is there a problem physically? This would be the easiest thing to explain how a pitcher falls from being one of the most dominant pitchers in the early part of the season, to sub Oliver Perez status in an alarmingly fast period of time.

According to Pelfrey he is in good shape,

“Physically, I’m good. I’m just going through one of the worst stretches of my life.”

What about something outside of the game affecting his performance? This is normally something that is difficult for fans to find out, and frankly none of our business. At times we forget these players are human beings that can be affected by off the field situations.

This doesn’t have to be some sort of complicated scandal, so be clear on the fact that I am not implicating Pelfrey is mixed up in some sort of sordid affair. It could be as simple as dealing with a sick loved one.

Another possibility is that he is pressing. At the beginning of the season, Big Pelf was showing signs that he was going to take the role of stopper from Johan Santana. He had a number of lights-out starts at times when the Mets really needed them.

Maybe those instances have caused him to expect that type of performance every outing, causing him to put undue pressure on himself.

I equate it to something that happened with my son in little league this year. He started playing live pitch for the first time. In his first appearance on the mound, he struck out the side both innings that he pitched. There is a slightly lower pitch count in little league than in the Bigs.

His control deserted him in his next appearance and he had a rough outing. He expected to be perfect so when he wasn’t, it effected his performance.

Whatever the reason for Pelfrey’s ineffectiveness, there is legitimate cause for alarm. Four extremely poor starts in a row is a completely different story than back to back rough games.

The Mets can ill afford this stretch to continue much longer. They need Pelfrey to right the ship. Along with Johan Santana, he has the ability to give them the one-two punch that could greatly increase their chances to make the playoffs.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

Reyes Injury “Plan”

July 17, 2010

According to various reports, it is possible we will see Jose Reyes back in action either Sunday or Monday.

The frustration caused by this injury and how it has been handled is almost palpable at this point. From the beginning the Mets have been a walking contradiction in terms of Jose’s oblique.

Here’s a brief summary of the situation:

  • The Mets stress Prevention and Recovery, but decide to play him when he strains his oblique.
  • Reyes re-aggravates the injury, misses the All-Star Game and the start of the second half of the season
  • Jose is in the starting lineup for Thursday’s game for about thirty minutes because Jerry Manuel assumed he was good to go.
  • Reyes is then scratched because the medical staff informed Jerry that the shortstop was still experiencing pain.
  • Thursday, Jerry Manuel stated that the medical staff would not allow Jose to take batting practice until he was completely healed.
  • Friday, Jose Reyes takes batting practice.

How is it possible that the manager of the team isn’t on the same page as the medical staff?

It is frustrating enough that the catalyst of the team is hurt. However, the Mets continue to compound this frustration by failing to have a clear plan on how to deal with it.

On the bright side, Jose appeared to look like he improved when he took his swings on Friday. So much so, that the Mets decided not to place him on the disabled list.

At least, that is the plan for now.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

What Should We Expect From Carlos Beltran?

July 15, 2010

The much anticipated return of Carlos Beltran is only a few hours away. The Mets, their fans, and their manager are hoping that he can contribute immediately.

Is that realistic?

Normally, I don’t have a problem giving a definitive opinion to a Mets related question. This one isn’t that easy though.

On one hand, I completely understand everyone’s hopes that he will be the Carlos Beltran of old. He is being paid quite a bit of money and he has been out for a long period of time. It seems reasonable enough to expect that he contributes in the second half of the season now that he is healthy enough to play.

Beltran’s time away may lead people to believe that he is finally “right” now that he is officially back.

There is another side to this story though folks. There should be a little voice in your head asking you, “Is he really 100% healthy? If he isn’t, what is he really going to be able to do?”

Ignore the misguided reports that Beltran had micro fracture surgery. I read them all and could not find one credible source for that rumor.

Focus on the actual problem with his knee for a second. He has a condition called osteoarthritis. This is a degenerative condition that has no cures. The key word there is degenerative.

I’m not a doctor, nor have I been accused of being the smartest man in the world, but the last time I checked, the “D” word means his knee is slowly getting worse. The fact that there are no known cures for this condition doesn’t make me feel warm inside either.

Keeping all of this in mind, I advise that we proceed with caution with our expectations of Carlos.

Defensively, it isn’t realistic to expect to see him tracking down fly balls in the gap like we witnessed during his Gold Glove years (2006-2008). His limited mobility also means he will be a step or two slower on the base paths.

Taking the offensive side of things into consideration, he hasn’t played a major league baseball game since the end of the 2009 season. You remember how long it took Jose Reyes to get his timing down this season don’t you?

Carlos is a special athlete. There is no doubt about that. However, even superior athletes have to work on timing when speaking about the difficult task of hitting a baseball.

Don’t get me wrong fellow Mets fans, I am excited about Beltran’s return. I can’t wait for the first pitch tonight (of course it is a west coast game so we have to wait even longer).

I hope I am wrong, but it just seems to me that we need to be prudent with our expectations of Beltran’s output in the early going.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

Angel Pagan & The Fourth Outfielder Blues

July 13, 2010

The grand debate has been going on for weeks. When Carlos Beltran returns, what happens to Angel Pagan?

There seems to be some confusion amongst Mets Gazette readers in terms of Pagan’s playing time. They’re not alone.  This confusion can be attributed to two things:

1. It is the very nature of baseball fans to talk about issues like this on a regular basis. Everyone wants to know exactly where players stand and what their role is.

2. The Mets organizational indecisiveness is playing a role in this as well. Jerry Manuel could very easily do one of two things to clarify Pagan’s status for us. First, he could simply tell us that Pagan will be an every day outfielder. Secondly, he can start Pagan the very first game Beltran returns regardless of who the Mets face as the opposing pitcher.

I for one, believe Angel Pagan isn’t the fourth outfielder for the Mets. He is not even the third outfielder on the depth charts in my humble opinion. He has easily been the best outfielder this season for the Amazin’s. That puts him at number two on the depth chart.

Solely based on his career history, the only outfielder I place ahead of Mr. Pagan is Carlos Beltran. Upon his return, he should be given the consideration that he has duly earned.

However, Carlos better watch his back, because if he comes back significantly off his game he would be supplanted by Angel for the top spot.

I am a simple guy mostly, so I’ll let the numbers support my train of thought.

Offensively speaking, Pagan not only leads the current outfielders, he leads the entire team with a .315 batting average at the break.

He has six home runs which ties him with Jason Bay and trails Jeff Francoeur by only two in that department.

Pagan’s 40 RBI put him right there with Bay and Francoeur and he has hit in non-traditional RBI spots in the lineup.

Don’t forget that Pagan is also tied for the team lead in stolen bases with 19.

Defensively speaking, you can’t go a night without hearing Gary Cohen from SNY sing the praises of Pagan’s outfield play. He has played an excellent center field.

What about his arm? He trails Jeff Francoeur’s cannon by only two assists on the season.

Keep in mind, these rankings are all in my head. The reality of the situation is Jerry Manuel makes these types of decisions and he may not agree with my assessment.

Realistically speaking, one season does not make a man. Actually, one half season does not make a man, so I understand that there are no guarantees that Pagan has definitively reached a new level in his career.

To be fair to Pagan, there is no reason to believe he won’t continue his stellar play after the All-Star Break.

Carlos Beltran’s highly anticipated return will be a great boost to the Mets. You can’t convince me that it weakens this team in any way.

I just hope that Jerry Manuel gives Angel Pagan the playing time he has so obviously earned.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

Another Example Of Organizational Indecisiveness

July 10, 2010

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I still don’t buy the reasoning for Reyes batting second in the lineup.

In essence the Mets are trying to bench Reyes but yet play him at the same time.

It is yet another example of how the Mets can be organizationally indecisive.  Here are a few other examples of organizational indecisiveness that comes to mind:

1. The handling of Carlos Beltran’s injury.

Should he have surgery? Should he not have surgery? Oh wait, I guess he did have surgery. We didn’t approve it. We did approve it.

2. The handling of Oliver Perez and John Maine.

These two pitchers have been given an abundance of opportunities to establish themselves as big league starters. Many other organizations would have cut ties with both of them a long time ago. Not the Mets. They are both on the horizon of returning. Or are they?

3. The handling of Jennry Mejia.

Mejia is needed in the bullpen and is crucial to its success. Let’s only pitch him during non-critical situations. On second thought, let’s send him down to develop as a starter.

Back to the latest head scratcher.

Jerry Manuel believes by batting Reyes second you bring more things in to play for the hurting Reyes. For example, if Pagan gets on, Jose can bunt for a hit.

Why can’t he bunt for a hit from the lead off spot?

If he is also considering sacrificing Pagan over, Cora or Tejada are perfectly capable of accomplishing that task. The advantage with them doing it is Jose is not jeopardizing his health.

Reyes is also refraining from sliding head first. So now, not only is he refraining from batting left handed, but he also has to make an unnatural adjustment in a split second when on the base paths.

This whole situation makes me wonder who is in control. I remember the first game Jerry Manuel managed after Willie Randolph was fired.

The Mets were facing the Anaheim Angels (or whatever they were called back then). Reyes came up a bit lame running out a ground ball and Manuel decided to pull him.

Reyes was visibly upset and wouldn’t leave the field at first. Manuel stuck to his guns and had a “heart to heart” with Jose in the clubhouse. I was impressed with how decisive Jerry was in a difficult situation. What has happened since then?

Fellow editor and the Yoda of our staff, Tom Greenhalgh, made a great point last night when he stated “Manage your players. Don’t let them manage you.”

How much of these “Reyes Rules” are Jose’s idea and how much are Manuel’s?

It might be hard to believe, but there is a silver lining to this history of hesitancy by the Mets organization.

It is a sign of a group of people trying too hard. They find themselves in these situations because they try to take the best pieces from two different options and turn it into one. Unfortunately, this option isn’t the most realistic in most situations.

Look at it this way. At least they’re not like the Pirates organization. The last two owners they have had have made it perfectly clear they could care less about winning or the product on the field.

Originally published on Mets Gazette.

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