Tag Archives: april

Manuel, Stay of Go

16 Mar

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By Jim Walters

Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News reports this morning that Jerry Manuel should stay as  the coach of the Mets this season, despite whatever happens during the course of the season.

Lupica depicts Manuel as the product of bad luck. He also looks back to 2008 when Manuel replaced Randolph, listing other coaches who would’ve lost that final game at Shea.

The media in this town is interesting. When they love a guy, he gets more passes than he deserves. But when the media dislikes a guy, they can write him off before the season even starts.

Manuel is loved in this town, probably due to his easy demeanor and sense of humor. He is an easy guy to root for.

However, he is no different that Willie Randolph who the Mets showed the door at the early morning hours on a west coast trip.

The only difference is that the media likes Manuel, and the injuries of last year and this spring will always be included into the explanation for his failures. Yet for Randolph, the lack of starting pitching during his tenure was his fault, not Minaya’s.

Last year, in addition to the injuries, the Mets did not play fundamental baseball. This falls on the manager. You don’t see this with Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa.

Manuel and Minaya are on thin ice despite what the media says because Mets ownership is as dysfunctional as the starting rotation is.

Perhaps the winner after this season will be Manuel who may get kicked out-of-town and doesn’t have to deal with the nonsense of this franchise anymore.

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Can Mets Pitch Like 2006

12 Mar

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By Jim Walters

Entering the 2010 season, besides issues of health, the biggest concern for the New York Mets is their pitching staff.

Many baseball analysts already declared this as a major problem for New York, questioning what they can get out of the starting rotation. While Johan Santana is expected to have a strong year, although he is overcoming elbow surgery, the rest of the rotation is a mixed bag of question marks.

Back in 2006, New York ran away with the National League Eastern division, winning 97 games. They did it with a high-powered offense but the pitching wasn’t very solid.

Tom Glavine led the way that year, going 15-7, finally earning his contract. Steve Trachsel will always be remembered for his embarrassing performance in October, but he did go 15-8 as the Mets number two starter, pitching to a high era of 4.97.  Pedro Martinez went 9-8, Orlando Hernandez went 9-7 and John Maine was 6-5. Not very impressive.

The reason why this team was so successful, besides their high-powered offense, was their great bullpen.  Billy Wagner had a superb year with 40 saves, pitching to a record of 3-2.  Duaner Sanchez, 5-2, and Pedro Feliciano, 7-2, carried the Mets bullpen and kept games close for the offense. Darren Oliver, 4-1, stepped in many games that year when the starters failed. The bullpen also included Aaron Heilman, 4-5, and Chad Bradford, 4-2.

While the rotation was shaky, the bullpen was phenomenal. Yet as good as it was, it was certainly overworked, pitching 150 more innings in 2006 than it did in 2005. This workload hurt New York in the NLCS as the bullpen showed its wear and tear from a starting rotation that could not go deep into games.

It also didn’t help that in the closing weeks of the season, Martinez and Hernandez went down. Maine and Oliver Perez were asked to fill the void and they did, but it only added stress on to the pen.

Going into 2010, Santana needs to have a big year. The question that follows is this: can any other pitcher get to double-digits in wins? With a bullpen that has its own questions, the only promise that the Mets can give their fans going into the season is that this isn’t going to be easy.

Opening Day Tickets Arrive

12 Mar

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By Jim Walters

I received my Opening Day tickets today. Like Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch, I have to admit to smelling them, and guess what, they do smell like championship material. Feeling a bit optimistic, it’s Friday.

Sure the tickets seat me closer to the planes overhead than to the field and that our short stop and center fielder aren’t going to play and its anyone’s guess who will pitch the 8th.

Yes, I know Mets-killer Josh Johnson will probably be on the mound for the Marlins and I am not to confident that we will not lose another man along the way.

Despite all of this and the dark cloud that sits over Citi Field, I know that on the morning of Monday, April 5th, I will wake up and the day will feel different. Baseball will be back and for the first time in 9 months, I will see a Mets game that actually means something.

In three weeks, I will be sitting in Citi Field on a Monday afternoon. What a life.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t snow.

A Look Back at the 2000 Mets

10 Mar

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By Jim Walters

Ten years ago, the New York Mets entered Spring Training confident after a remarkable run in the 1999 postseason. Led by Bobby Valentine, Mike Piazza and Al Leiter, the Mets added Mike Hampton to solidify the rotation, bringing high hopes to Port St. Lucie.

During the offseason, New York bid farewell to John Olerud but welcomed fan favorite Todd Zeile to play first. Derek Bell also joined the team, quickly capturing the hearts of the New York fans with an Opening Day at Shea home run.

New York won 94 games that year, finishing with the Wild Card and their first pennant in 14 years.. Their rotation featured Hampton, Leiter, Rick Reed, Bobby Jones and Glendon Rusch. Their bullpen included Armando Benitez, John Franco, Rick White, Turk Wendell, Dennis Cook and Pat Mahomes.

It feels like yesterday when the Mets rallied from 8-1 down in the bottom of the 8th at Shea Stadium against the rival Atlanta Braves. With John Rocker sidelined and the crowd packed for the post-game fireworks show, the Mets mounted one of the more remarkable comebacks in team history, scoring 10 runs, capped by a Mike Piazza laser off the retired numbers in left field.

Who could forget the Roger Clemens- Mike Piazza rivalry that started with the beaning of Piazza in July and ended with Clemens throwing a piece of  Piazza’s broken bat at the Mets catcher in the World Series. It was a bizarre rivalry that has been debated ever since. Was Clemens using illegal substances that caused the rage and should have Piazza stormed the mound remain “what ifs” that have been debated for a decade.

The year 2000 also brought us the Benny Agbayani home run to kick off the season in game two against the Chicago Cubs in Japan. Agbayani went full circle, hitting another late-inning blast six months later to give the Mets the pivotal game three win against the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.

It has been ten years since the Mets brought the National League pennant to New York. While the years since have been frustrating and more recently heartbreaking, the 2000 Mets were a feisty team that was easy to root for.

While the season ended in disappointment as the Yankees celebrated their 26th World Championship on the field of Shea, it was a special year for the Mets and their faithful fans.

Perez the next Koufax

9 Mar

By Jim Walters

Two weeks ago, Hall of Fame great Sandy Koufax worked with a few of the Mets pitchers. Koufax, a long-time friend of Mets Owner, Fred Wilpon, often makes this annual trip to Port St. Lucie to pass on his wisdom.

This year, it felt as if this visit by Koufax was the only hope Oliver Perez had left.  Perez, coming off of a disastrous, injury-plagued year, is healthy and confident. Mets ownership is counting on Perez to win 15-games, but few in the game or the stands believe it.

When Koufax was interview by reporters, he made reference to his early career where he was as inconsistent as Perez. Then, at the age of 25, things changed and he turned into one of the game’s greats.

So, I looked up both Koufax and Perez’ numbers to see how similar they are.

Koufax  pitched to a record of 36-40 in his first six seasons with the Dodgers. In his first two seasons, he only started 28 games. Perez went 45-53 in his first  six season seasons, only pitching in 40 games in his first two seasons. While the numbers aren’t identical, they are similar enough to see how Koufax could see himself in Perez.

In Koufax’s seventh season, his career changed. The year was 1961 and he went 18-13.  In fact, from 1961- 1966, Koufax pitched to an incredible record of 129-47, including three seasons where he won more than 25 games.

The game was different then as pitchers went deep into games and often completed them. In the current version of this game, few pitchers in this game finish their own starts.

Back to Perez. In his 7th and 8th seasons, his record was 13-11. His 8th season was last year when he only started 14 games.

Few believe Perez is going to do what Koufax did forty years ago. While he is only 28 and healthy, Mets fans have heard enough about potential. Perez’ inconsistency overshadows those moments of brilliance. His 2006 October performance is a distant memory.

What makes Perez so unique is that his talent was never in question. It is his mental make-up that people worry about. Can the switch go off and Perez become the number two starter New York needs him to be? Or will Perez continue to draw jeers from the crowd and a pink slip for his General Manager and Manager?

Two weeks ago, Koufax looked at Perez and related to the young lefty’s struggles. Koufax walked in those shoes but seven seasons in, he figured it out and became an all-time great.  For Perez and the Mets, the hope of this franchise lands in this inconsistent starter who could lead the Mets to October or he can continue to be the face of a losing franchise.

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Link: The Jenrry Mejia Debate

9 Mar

Check out Mets Blog for a great piece on the debate regarding plans for Jenrry Mejia. GM Omar Minaya told reporters yesterday that the plan is to start the season in Double A, while Manager Jerry Manuel joked he could be pitching in the majors.

While Mejia is very talented, he needs more minor league experience. He is still wild and needs to work on his control. Picture putting him in Philadelphia in a one-run game against that offense.

If he does have a great summer in the minors, and the Mets have a need in the pen, which is likely, then bring him up in August. It would be as if they acquired him in a mid-season trade.

He could also be used as the Angels used K-Rod in 2002. Rodriguez only pitched in five games during the regular season but in October, he was handed the ball 11 times and pitched to an ERA under 2 as the Angels won their first championship.

There is no need to rush this phenom.

Ghost of Shea

8 Mar

By Jim Walters

When Citi Field opened its doors to the public, the outcry from Mets fans came flowing in. While the new park in Queens showed off its shiny new apple and perfectly angled seats, fans were left asking, where are the Mets colors and Mets decor. While nice gestures like a new apple and keeping the old one, as well as the iconic skyline, connected the old and new chapters of Mets history, ownership did not do enough to make this park feel like the home stadium of the Mets.

During the season, adjustments were made. The team decided to no longer hide the few championship banners they possessed and they plastered images of old and current Mets in the inside and outside of Citi Field.

Besides the retired “Shea” that stood tall next to the numbers of Casey Stengal, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver and Jackie Robinson, memories of Shea Stadium, the home of the Mets from 1964-2009, were noticeably absent. The memory of beloved Shea was left in the team’s past.

While the Yankees designed their new cathedral as an upgrade of  their old stadium, the Mets went for a completely new look. While many will say this was a smart move as the cookie-cutter design of the 1960s and 1970s was no longer fashionable or fan-friendly, the designers did forget to bring over the orange and blue that Shea so appropriately provided.

While the Mets played their first season at home in a ball park other than Shea Stadium for the first time since 1963, the team struggled for most of the year. After the first month, the injury bug hit this team as hard as it has ever hit a ball club in the history of this game. As the stars fell, so did the Mets in the standings. By September, Citi Field’s empty seats finally resembled the many empty Fall nights at old Shea.

Those connected to the spiritual world started to question if there was something or someone behind this sudden streak of bad luck. Sure the Mets would never be considered a winning franchise, with more losing seasons that winning ones. But, the bloating disabled list, as well as a defensive performance that had little leaguers laughing, started to reveal that someone or something had a score to settle.

Perhaps, the ghost of Shea Stadium, or maybe it was the baseball gods, who were trying to even the score, playing a part in the 2009 season. Maybe the proper tribute was not displayed to the stadium next door, as ownership continued to express how Citi Field was a great improvement, treating old Shea as the ex who was used and abused until something better came along.

Maybe 2009 was Shea’s revenge.

During the offseason, steps were taken to calm this ghost. Orange walls and a bridge named after beloved Shea were offered as peace offerings. The question left to be answered is, will it be enough?

Many fans pleaded with the Mets to change the outfield wall colors to blue. This simple move would remind the fans of Shea in its later years. While it is probably a pretty penny to replace the material, it may be the sacrifice this team needs to make to please the past so there can be a future.

Down in Florida, the injuries are starting to pile up. Jose Reyes and his thyroid, Carlos Beltran and his knee. Francisco Rodriguez can’t see and Kelvim Escobar can’t throw. Is this a simple hiccup in March or a repeat performance of last year’s plague?

It’s time the Mets make peace with old Shea.