Sunday, April 29, 2012

Making for a tough decision

The "Captain" has come up and done a fine job. His pinnacle moment came on Thursday, when he drove one over Giancarlo Stanton's head for a walk-off win. Overall, Nieuwenhuis has hit .300 with three doubles and two HRs. However, he has struggled against left-handed pitching, hitting just .176 against southpaws. Andres Torres is ready to come back on Monday, and Jason Bay is probably about three weeks away with a fractured rib. What does all of this mean for Captain Kirk?

For the immediate future (the return of Torres), Kirk can slide over to LF, since Bay will be out for a while longer. Should he play every day? Or should he split time with Hairston, since the Captain struggles against lefties? And if he does split time with Hairston, is this best for Nieuwenhuis's development? And then what does happen when Bay comes back? Do the Mets relegate Jason to the bench, and "begin the end"? Or, do they play Bay, send Kirk down to continue his development, and let the chips fall where they may in 2012? Interesting questions, aren't they? Metsblog discusses this point today.

My take- play Nieuwenhuis in LF against righties, starting Monday. I worry about his confidence if he continues to struggle against lefties. Then, when Bay comes back, send Nieuwenhuis back to Buffalo to hone his craft. I like the idea that once guys have had a taste, they have that much more incentive to work hard to come back. And realistically, you know Bay will not sit, nor be released. We all know why. Welcome to 2012. The Mets are in that transitional phase. They are not going with a full-on youth movement. Maybe they can't as they try to sell tickets (though some would say that may increase sales). The Mets are also not fully committed to contending this year, despite what they say. They are not going to add veterans this summer, even if they're in contention. They're in the middle. It has its exciting points (seeing some youth) and its frustrating points (being on the edge of contention, but then again, not really). The page will turn to more youth in 2013 (the pitchers may come up), and even more in 2014. Then, true contention will emerge. That's how I see it. They have to fully leave Purgatory.

Mike Pelfrey goes down, needing TJ. Much as we bash Big Pelf, it's kind of sad. He's thrown his last pitch as a Met. They won't give a contract to a "veteran" coming off TJ. They don't have to-the organizational strength is young pitching. I wish Pelf well.

I think Valdespin will go down tomorrow for Torres. I wish we could have seen more of him. This team desperately, desperately needs speed. But there's nowhere for Valdespin to play, and he needs to play every day. So, he'll go and Lutz will stay. Kind of funny that the lesser talent gets to stay, right? I wonder where Valdespin will land. LF, when Bay is done? Or is Valdespin the future 2B and leadoff hitter, and Murphy becomes trade bait to an AL club to bring back a piece? Interesting.....

These are the conversations of transition, folks.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Controversy seems to follow this guy

Mike Pelfrey-the name usually inspires a visceral reaction. "How could the Mets give him a raise?" "Cut him before the team goes north!" These are some of the mild ones. Others cannot be posted here-this is a family blog. Yesterday, Mike Pelfrey was outstanding against the Giants (and their thoroughly annoying fans who infested Citi Field). Pelfrey threw 8 innings of one-run ball, delivering 102 pitches in the process. He left with the Mets ahead 4-1, going into the ninth. Should be a nice, routine win, right? Wrong!

Terry Collins chose to take Pelfrey out after 8, sending Frank Francisco in to pitch the ninth. This got, shall we say, interesting from there. Francisco was ineffective, being lifted after 4 hitters, 3 of whom reached base. The game was eventually tied off Jon Rauch on a pop-up that dropped with 2 outs, bringing everyone's mind back to Luis Castillo. Today, especially with the rainout, all the talk is whether or not Pelfrey should have gone out for the ninth. The debate is slightly less vile than it could be, since the Mets won the game in the bottom of the ninth. Most feel Big Pelf should have gone out to try to finish what he started. I have a different viewpoint.

I have no problem with Pelfrey's being taken out. Francisco is the closer. He had not been effective lately, and this was the perfect "soft save" situation to get Francisco back on the beam. It's important to do things like that, to be sure the players' psyches remain intact. Also, Pelfrey had done his job. The bullpen gets paid, too. It was time for them to do their job. The fact that things went the way they did does not mean that Collins did the wrong thing. It means that some people (i.e. Francisco) did not do their job. Let's not roast Terry for this one. I think he pressed the right buttons. If you want to roast someone, roast Francisco. The old adage holds-it's not the jockey, it's the horse.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What to do about this guy?

Jose Reyes returns to NY next Tuesday, April 24th. The Mets are going to do "something" for Jose to acknowledge his Met tenure. Exactly what that "something" is remains unknown, at least to me, but it will include a video tribute. Will it take place before his first AB? During BP? Should it take place at all? The idea has set off quite a debate among the faithful.

Some say the Mets have to recognize Jose and his achievements, it's the classy thing to do (same logic used for Chipper). Others say he is an opponent, and a divisional opponent at that. He left of his own accord. Why recognize him, the team did not win a WS with the guy, so what's the point? I have mixed feelings on this. I don't like the idea of recognizing an opponent, especially one in the division, in the prime of his career. Piazza was clearly near retirement when he returned as a Padre in 2006, and he was also out of the division. So this leaves me here-do a brief video of his Mets achievements during Miami's BP on April 24th. If the fans want to get there early for Jose, so be it. Let them go out of their way for him. If they want to give him a standing O before his first AB, let it be organic at that point. Don't formally recognize a guy who is hell bent on beating you, and is about to take his first cut at doing so. I'm interested to hear other thoughts. If I were at the game, I'd clap for his first AB. Then root like crazy against him.

Onto the current team. Only the Mets can make 3-3 on the road have a bad feeling, but that's what they have done. They started 3-1, and lost the last two. In the process, Johan had the shortest, least effective start of his career. Of course, there are health concerns by the fan base, which he says are ill founded (pun intended). He says he's fine, but we're going to worry. At least until he makes his next start on Monday vs. SF. Also, RA was not good today, as the Braves beat up his flat knuckleball. This is particularly important, because he's been the most reliable starter, logging 14 straight quality starts before today. The starting pitching has been the strength, and the last 2 days, it has failed. Depth is not the strong point of the team, both in terms of organizational talent and in terms of its ways to win games. This team has to pitch to win, as does any other team, but maybe even more so.

The next 7 will be a big test. The Giants come to town with great pitching, then the divisional Marlins and all of their distractions. All of the games are at home, so you'd like to see 4-3. I was not terribly confident coming into the season, and any blip, such as the last 2 games, places me into doom-and-gloom mode. I hope they can allay my fears, and something tells me that as of today, I'm not the only one who has them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

The title of this post is being bandied about today by the logically-thinking Mets fans out there. The Mets went down to Philly and beat Cliff Lee and Vance Worley, both very difficult tasks. The Mets lost today, and looked shoddy in the process. Pelfrey danced through many raindrops and left after 6, having given up one run on eight hits. The bullpen came in and handed the game over, aided and abetted by some bad defense at short and in RF. The defense, as I have written on many occasions, will hurt this team all year. It's a given, it's a conscious choice the team has made in the way the roster is constructed. However, we need to be happy with the series win and hope that the good play can continue in Atlanta. After that, the Giants and their pitching come to Citi, so the road ahead remains a challenge for the team.

What exactly is going on with this team? They are clearly rebuilding, and as such, expectations are low this year. But, they get out of the gate quickly, and the pitching is surprisingly good. Expectations begin to rise. I'm not sure what's in store for us in 2012, though Ed and Joey at Studious Metsimus think 2012 bears a resemblance to 1984. I agree on some level. In 1984, there was a sense that this "wasn't the year", but "the year" was coming soon. As Ed points out, there was young talent on the roster (Gooden, Strawberry, etc.). There was veteran leadership in Hernandez. I'm going to say that this year reminds me more of 1983. In 1983, the Mets struggled in the standings, going 68-94 (which is close to my prediction of 71-91 for 2012). Similar to this year, in 1983 the true, young talent was not yet on the big-league roster. We were hearing the names of Gooden, Darling, Dykstra, etc. This year, we're hearing about Harvey, Familia, Wheeler, Valdespin. 1983 was a "bide-your-time" year, and I think this year is the same. I hope I'm wrong, as 1984 was more exciting, with the Mets in first place almost all summer, before going to Chicago and getting kicked in the....gut. Be right, Ed! I need a fun summer.

Bay is out with a finger injury. You have to laugh about that, coming off Wright's similar injury, albeit to a different digit. It's the little stuff like that, constant reminders everywhere, that we're Mets fans. Strange things happen. Who knows what's coming. Quoting different recording artists (sorry, Meatloaf), in 2012, we've only just begun.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Chipper Debate

The news of the week (other than pinkie-gate, which I'll address in a minute) is the idea that the Mets will honor Chipper Jones later this season at Citi. I've heard both sides of the debate. Side A- do the classy thing and honor the guy. He's a first-ballot HOFer, and he's widely recognized as very fan friendly. Side B- are you kidding? How could you honor a guy who has killed you, rejoiced in doing so, and participated in keeping you out of the playoffs on a few occasions? Now I will render my opinion, which I know is being eagerly awaited.

I say "no" to honoring Chipper. I actually like Chipper. I think he has class, and it's not his fault that he's killed the Mets. Maybe they should have pitched better and gotten him out. But, where do you draw the line on honoring opponents? Should they honor Yadair Molina? Should they honor Jeter? Rivera? Rollins? There's just no way to justify selectively honoring opponents. I say let the Braves honor their man. Let the NYY honor their men. Let's do a better job honoring Mets players, maybe DW by extending him for 5 years.

Interesting- Chipper stats vs. the Mets include a .321 average with 42 HRs. His stats vs. the Phillies are actually better, with 43 HRs. Are the Phillies going to honor him? While I'm on the topic, I remain appalled that the Mets honored Bobby Cox. He killed them as a manager, but Bobby Cox is not a nice man. He demonstrated poor sportsmanship by whining about every pitch of every game. And, let's not forget this.

Wright- as much as it kills me to type this, DL the guy and call up Valdespin. Let Murphy go to third, and Valdespin can play 2B and lead off. Why play short-handed, rush the guy back, and have him alter his swing and go into a season-long slump. Ugh. When will it all stop?

On a positive note-at least they have a nice backdrop for the SNY studio shows. We no longer have to watch idiots wave their arms behind an uncovered window.

Let's get 2 of 3 from the Phillies. At least they're short-handed too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mets win the tv battle

Last night the Mets won their 4th in a row. But they won something else, too. The broadcast on SNY beat the Yankees broadcast on YES in the same time frame. Why is this important? Well, it reinforces the point that I make all the time, New York is an NL town. It has always been and always will be. Here are the Mets, coming off 70, 79, and 77 win seasons. They win 4 games in a row, 4 of 162,  and the city responds. The response produces a larger tv audience than their cross-town rivals, the folks who like to wave their 27 rings in your face.

The Mets are poised to win the city back. It won't take much. It may not be this year. But their star is rising. The city is anxiously awaiting the revival of NL baseball. I'm happy I have my 15-game plan. Soon, Citi Field will be the place to be. In fact, I've had many people reach to me, asking about the Party City deck and my experience there.

It's starting to happen. Tonight's game is the blip on the radar that we all expect will happen from time to time. They look bad in the field, and we will have to tolerate it. But better days are coming. I can sense it, can you?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Two in a row!

"I can feel it coming in the air tonight." These are the words of Phil Collins, but they describe the feeling at Citi the last two days. There's something there. I can't actually put a word to it, but if I had to, I'd call it "hope". The fans are happy, the conversation seems to be that "we've turned the corner. We know it may be a while yet, but we feel good about being Mets fans. We're headed in the right direction." It's refreshing after the last few years. Will that feeling be there when hard times hit this year, as they do for every team? That remains to be seen. But I had yet another great day at Citi yesterday.

First, my outstanding ticket rep, Sam, came by to visit. She wanted to be sure that I'm happy with my new seats (Sec. 136, row 10). She doesn't have to do that. It's part of the Mets new effort to reach out to the fans and emphasize customer service. This, coupled with all the Twitter accounts, makes the team feel more accessible to the fans. It's important, and they're getting the message. Next, Sam took us on a tour of the new Party Deck, while the game was in progress. WOW!!! You feel like you should be throwing up warmup tosses with J. Bay. I strongly recommend looking into sitting there for a game this year. Finally, there was another impromptu meeting of bloggers on the bridge. This is what separates Citi from Shea, and many other parks. It's a "walking park." It's conducive to socializing, and that makes it special. I had the pleasure of seeing Coop and Ed, Ed M. from "Real Dirty Mets Blog", Mets Police, and Terel from "On the Black". And I'll say it again, the park looks fabulous.

Now let's move to the game. Here's one reason we feel hopeful. Duda belted 2 HRs, DW added one, and R.A. was effective, if not stellar. The bullpen, one of my two main concerns with the team going in (the other is team D), was spot on once again. As I wrote after Thursday's game, Francisco looks good. He pumped a 94 mph past Diaz (noted Santana killer) to end the game. And here we have another reason for hope. Seeing Francisco throw well is like a gift from above, particularly after his sub-par spring. Today they try for the sweep with newly enriched Jon Niese on the hill. Is there a Met fan alive who would not relish sweeping the Braves, even in April?

Happy Easter! It's a time of hope. This year, that hope extends to Citi Field.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Opening Day-It Was All Good

The 2012 season is here. If the Mets scripted yesterday, that script could not have been more perfect than the way the day played out. First, the weather was downright amazing. Cool enough to feel like April, yet it was mild enough to allow for comfortable tailgating and game viewing. The park looks absolutely glorious, particularly the blue walls. Kiner read the Mets lineup to the crowd to honor his 50 years of service-extremely well done. The Carter tribute was respectful, tasteful, and touching. Now let's talk about the game.

Talk about scripting? Santana threw 5 shutout innings. He was not dominant, but he was Santana, meaning he gutted out those 5 innings. He mixed in all of his pitches, and when he labored in the fifth (walking the bases loaded), he found his way out. The game's only RBI came from the face of franchise, who after the game stood up and said it's time for an attitude change around here. Thanks for that, David. The remade bullpen, that looked dreadful in PSL, locked the game down with four shutout innings. The most notable part of this was Francisco working a clean ninth, registering 93 mph on the gun.

There was a lot to like yesterday. On a personal note, I had the chance to spend time with some great bloggers, Taryn Cooper, Ed Leyro, John Coppinger, Denise Winters, and I had the pleasure of meeting Matt Cerrone. It just doesn't get any better than this. Now, reality sets in. The Mets lost Torres yesterday, and we don't know for how long. Nieuwenhuis will be called up, and that's exciting. Will this be Seth's "Wally Pipp" moment? Who knows. But, that's sort of symbolic, isn't it? We'll get a look at a piece of our future. He may not be as perfect as yesterday was, but he, and the whole day yesterday, show us that the clouds may be parting. Maybe we've done our time, and like DW said, it's time for things to turn around.