News and Notes: 4/19 – 4/25

    Have we just been shown the future? So far, it seems that we were on Monday night when the celebrated Mets prospect, Ike Davis, was called up from Triple-A to take the place of the dismal Mike Jacobs, who was designated for assignment.  Just a few hours after Davis was suiting up for another game in the minor leagues, he was celebrating a victory over the Chicago Cubs, as well as a night in which he went 2 for 4 with an RBI.  Since then, Davis has hit at a .318 clip, going 7 for 22 with 5 runs, 2 RBIs and a homerun, a monster 450-footer launched past the right-center wall against the Braves on Friday.

   
    It’s not just Davis who has showed up to play this week, however.  Since the highly-touted first baseman sported his new Mets uniform, the Metropolitans have gone 6-1 while winning their first series of the season against the Cubs and sweeping their NL East foe Braves. 
    
    Can 23 year-old Ike Davis really be the reason for this sudden turn around in Flushing?  Maybe not, but he definitely seems to be a part of it.  Before Monday, the Mets shiny new Canadian toy had been in a dismal funk.  Since Monday he has started to heat up.  This may also be due to the “Jerry Manuel shuffle.”  No, I’m not talking about some new dance craze performed on the streets of New York.  I’m talking about the highly criticized line-up change in which the Mets manager moved the notorious lead-off man, Jose Reyes, from number one in the batting order, to number three: that’s right, directly in front of the cleanup spot, occupied by Bay.  Since this move, Bay is 5-9, with 2 RBIs, 1 run, 2 walks, and 0 (yes ZERO) strikeouts.  This is a big stat, as Bay had struck out an epic 23 times in 58 tries prior to the change.  (It may also be worth noting that Reyes has not suffered from the change of scenery, as he has batted .300, scored 3 runs, hit a triple, and continued to steal 2 more bases).
    So this week has been a week of change for the Mets.  Everyone knows that change is good, right?  And why shouldn’t the Mets try something new?  It’s easy to see that what they were doing prior to this week wasn’t really working, so maybe this is the start of a new season for New York.  A new first baseman, a new batting order, a re-surging Jason Bay, a series sweep, a consistently dominant Mike Pelfrey, and an above .500 record for the first time since opening day?  Sounds like a pretty good week to me.
 

Is Ricky for Real?

  A no-hitter is a beautiful thing.  It is near-perfect performance in the art of pitching, where the pitcher continues to get out after out without allowing a single hit by the other team.  We, as an audience, are so infatuated by such a feat because of the great amount of skill, adjustment, athleticism, and, yes, luck that is required in just the right amount to get 27 hitless outs against some of the best baseball players in the world.  

  The last pitcher to treat baseball fans to a no-hitter (well, actually it was a perfect game) was Mark Buehrle in his beautiful performance against Tamba Bay on July 23, 2009.  Although there have been a few pitchers to flirt with history already in this young season: namely CC Sabathia’s outstanding performance against the Rays on April 10, when he carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, none have looked more promising than Ricky Romero’s pursuit on Tuesday night.  With his change up dominating, the young lefty entered the eighth inning without allowing a hit while striking out a career high 12 batters.

Height = Success?

  With the recent success of Twins closer Jon Rauch, aka the tallest, most intimidating man in baseball history, I started to think back on all of the great pitchers who stood towering and ominous on the pitching mound.  Does their great height contribute to their great success?  The obvious answer is no, but it is still interesting to take a look at some of the great Jolly Green Giants of major league baseball history.

  The tallest players (let alone pitchers) in Major League Baseball history:
  1.) Jon Rauch - standing at 6 feet 11 inches, he has the build of a NBA center and the tattoos of a member of Hell’s Angels.  Although he has never notched more than 18 saves in a season, he is already a third of the way there this season with 5 saves in as many attempts.  The question remains wether he can keep up this success or not.
  2.) Randy Johnson - at 6 feet 10 inches, Johnson narrowly escapes first place in the Ed “Too Tall” Jones category.  He does however make it atop the list in the “dominating” category.  With 303 career wins and 4,875 strikeouts, Johnson definitely used every inch to his advantage.
  3.) Chris Young - like Johnson, Chris Young is also 6 feet 10 inches.  Unlike Johnson, however, he has never won more than 12 games in a season.  Although he has shown great potential (and was off to a good start before being placed on the 15-day DL today), he has never really come into his own so far.  Many still expect him to do great, but only time will tell.
  4.) Eric Hillman - playing only 3 seasons in the major leagues for the Mets (’92-’94), Hillman also measured up at 6 feet 10 inches.  This forgettable lefty never managed to win more than 2 games in a season, and witnessed his worst season in 1993 when he finished with a 2-9 record in 22 games started.  
  5.) Mark Hendrickson - this 6 foot 9 inch pitcher made his major league debut for Toronto on August 6, 2002.  He also spent time with the Rays, Dodgers and Marlins before signing a contract with Baltimore in the current offseason.  Although he spent a majority of his career as a starting pitcher (he has won as many as 11 games), he is being used in relief by the Orioles.  So far, so good this season, as he has a 2.45 ERA with 6 strikeouts in 3.2 innings.

  As it is easy to see, height does not have a direct correlation with pitching effectiveness, or rather with any part of athletic ability (see Dustin Pedroia).  There is no doubt that the height intimidation factor of Randy Johnson or Jon Rauch works to their advantage, but it’s the pitch speed and placement that really matters in the end.  
  While we’re on the subject, does anybody know who the shortest player in baseball history was?  Answer to come soon

Back in Action

  I apologize for my lack of posts for a little over a year, but I’m sure that everyone can find it in their hearts to forgive me.  Hasn’t everyone forgiven Bonds and A-Rod?  Oh, they haven’t?  Next topic….

  So here is my deep-hearted promise to start blogging again.  I am also going to try to write more about teams and players that aren’t on the Mets.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still share my obsession with the New York Metropolitans.  It will just be a more well-rounded obsession.
  Until next time!

So A-Rod is going to have to have surgery…

…and even though it isn’t certain whether
that will happen now, or at the end of the 2009 season, it
has been determined a necessity.  Don’t some doctors
prescribe medical steroids to a patient after they go through
surgery to help rebuild tissue and muscle?  Hmm….that
would be a nice dose of irony, now wouldn’t
it?

Long Time No Blog

So….hey.  It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write anything and I promise that it has been within good reason.  I’m not going to bore you with details, but the frenzy of my full-time college student schedule finally caught up with me, and I couldn’t help but to get carried away with it.  Anyways, not a whole lot has been happening as far as the Mets are concerned thanks to the World Baseball Classic.  Not to say that the WBC isn’t a great thing.  I actually tried to wake up at 4:30 this morning to watch China vs. Japan, the first game of the series, but I found out that I am pretty successful at hitting the snooze button on my cell phone alarm for a good 3 hours until I begin to notice the sound of it. 

Anyways, I am going to be on spring break next week, so hopefully I will have a lot more time to blog about my Amazins’.  Maybe their starting 5 will me more finalized by the end of that week, but I doubt it.  Things aren’t looking good for Freddy Garcia so far, and I can’t say that I’m all too surprised.  After getting destroyed by hitters in his first two spring training games it’s going to take a late showing for him to gain some ground.  Personally, I think that Livan will land the 5th spot, partially because of Redding’s injury and Niese’s inexperience.  However, the race is anything but wide open, and Garcia could come back to pitch a perfect March.

Besides that, A-Rod and Ramirez have been dominating the headlines.  The fact that A-Rod is out for at least 10 weeks only solidifies my determined belief that the Yankees will finish 3rd in the AL East behind the Rays and the BoSox.  As for Manny?  I guess we’ll see, but I am really beginning to think that he is diminishing the respect that many people hold for him…well, errr…that some people hold for him.  Trying to get 100 million over 5 years!! Are you kidding!! Sorry Manny, but no one is going to cough up that big of a contract for someone as unstable as you, no matter how well you did last year in Dodgertown.  My prediction: he’ll do well enough this year, but he is getting older and he won’t be enough to single-handedly clinch the NL West…watch out for the San Francisco Giants.

Okay. One more midterm left to study for. Later.

So far so good

So far, everything that Jerry Manuel has told his team to do, they have done.  Marty Noble put it best: “Jerry says jump.  They don’t say how high, they jump.”  

Manuel told the team that they needed to work on opposite field hits.  In the first game against the Orioles 10 out of the 15 total hits were to the opposite field.  A similar story could be told yesterday when the Mets posted 9 against the Marlins.  
Jose Reyes started in the 3rd spot on the lineup for the first time because Jerry felt like it would lead to more production on his part.  Here are the results of his first three at bats in the 3-hole: a solo home run and a grand slam to add up to a total of 6 RBI.  Sounds pretty productive to me.
Luis Castillo knew that he had to perform in order to put down any doubts about his performance.  Already in Spring Training he has 4 RBIs, 2 hits, and 3 walks.  If he keeps this up he’ll definitely make a believer out of me.  
So today the Mets will have a similar lineup as yesterday.  Will Reyes hit two more home runs?  Will Castillo continue his hot start?  How will Livan Hernandez pitch in his first game as a Met?  I guess we’ll just have to watch (or listen) and see (or hear).

Washington Nationals 2009 Preview

Fifty-nine wins.  One hundred and two losses.  Ouch.  Thirty-two and a half games behind the division leader.  Wow.  Losing record at home and on the road.  Not good. 


It seems that every time the Washington Nationals walked onto the field last year, they received the same treatment that the infield dirt got as they took their places between the bags: they got stepped on.  Again, and again, and again.  One hundred and two times to be exact.  Think about it.  That’s a lot of frustrating/quiet/weary airplane rides back home.  I can’t even imagine what they must have been like, but I am picturing something almost as depressing as the scene in Bambi where his mother is shot and brutally murdered. images.jpeg Those poor Nat’s players.  Although their expectations were not high for last year, they had still hoped that their new Nationals Park would not be ushered in under a slew of 34 home losses.  Here are some of the reasons why Washington couldn’t seem to buy a win: 

  • They ranked 27th in the MLB with a batting average of .251.  Ahead of only the Padres, Reds, and A’s this poor production isn’t going to get it done.  If you don’t get hits, you can’t win games.
  • Along with their sub-standard hitting average, the Nationals as a team hit only 117 home runs and scored only 641 runs all season long.  That means that the Chicago White Sox, the leading team in home runs last year, doubled the Nationals total with 235….and then added one more HR for good measure.
  • Their starting pitching was bad.  They ranked 24th in the league with an ERA of 4.66.
  • Their relief pitching was worse.  They earned a spot next to last in Major League Baseball by chalking only 28 saves as a team.  That means that Francisco Rodriguez doubled Washington’s save total by himself.
  • They committed the second most errors in the big leagues with 123 during the 2008 season.

As you can tell, it is no wonder that the Nationals ended up at the bottom of the National League East, let alone the entire MLB standings when the dust had cleared by the end of last season.  The good news?  That was last year.

The bad news?  This year doesn’t look a whole lot more promising.  At least not from a playoff perspective.  I do believe, however, that they will win at least 10 more games this year.  Definitely not playoff contenders.  Not even contenders for the .500 club.  But better.  I mean, they can’t get much worse than last year can they?  (Kudos to anyone who thought of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who hold the worst record in baseball history.  They finished the season with a total of 134 losses, while only scraping up 20 wins.)  Although the Nationals definitely didn’t make enough trades during the off season to seriously compete, there are a few things that should make Nationals Stadium a happier place in 2009:

  • Adam Dunn will be playing first base.  But he wasn’t given a two year contract for his glove.  Sure, Dunn can’t hit for average and he strikes out more than almost every other player (In 2008 he hit a measly .236 thanks to 164 strikeouts).  He does, however, hit balls.  Far.  Last year he crushed 40 home runs, trailing only behind Ryan Howard for the lead.  This means that Dunn single-handedly recorded a third of the total of home runs that the Nationals, as a team, hit.  That’s a big move.  Also, with these home runs came 100 RBIs.  Not too shabby.
  • Christian Guzman was healthy for the first time in a while last year, and he should be looking for even bigger numbers at shortstop this year.  Hitting at a .316 clip, Guzman led the Nat’s in hits and runs with 183 and 177, respectively.
  • Ryan Zimmerman was injured for 76 games last season, which put a huge recession on team numbers.  If he can stay healthy all season, there is no reason why he couldn’t hit 25 home runs while driving in 100 or more this year
  • Lastings Milledge only has room to improve now that he will start his second consecutive year as the main center fielder.  His 14 HR and 61 RBI will continue to get better, as well as his defense which has been known to be lackluster in the past.
As the season begins to shape up there will also be many questions that will be looking for answers.  Will Austin Kearns be able to bounce back after a disappointing ’08 season in which he only hit for .217 in 86 games?  How will Joel Hanrahan react to becoming the only full-time closer for Washington?  He showed promise towards the end of last year and he could be ready to do big things.  Will the young bullpen begin to move towards its potential, lead by Steven Shell and Garret Mock?  Will John Lannan and Scott Olsen continue to improve?  How will all of the drama with Jim Bowden, the GM, affect the team, if at all?
In the end, this team is just too young and inexperienced to put faith in.  While the starting pitchers, as well as the rotation, do have promise, the Nationals will have to endure many more losses before they can begin produce consistent wins.  Dunn will definitely add a big boost to the team, but he isn’t a good enough player to carry a team out of the dumps and into the playoffs.  Don’t forget, they are playing in the extremely competitive NL East, which definitely doesn’t help their chances any.  Their time will come eventually, but it isn’t in the near future.  
 Prediction: 5th in the NL East.  69-93.

Mets @ Orioles: Spring Training Game 1

4:16 Six-Four-Three.  This is how the first Mets Spring Training game ended.  Although the score was greatly uneven: Mets-9, Orioles-3, score isn’t really a factor in these Exhibition games.  Instead, we can look at how a few key players did during their limited playing time and hope that they give us a glimpse into how the season will play out.  Of course, the main headlines of the game came when Sean Green left before he could even finish the first inning.  He was seen holding his right hand, but the hope is that it is just a minor blister that can be attended to right away.  As you can see from the score the Mets had no trouble scoring runs.  Although the Orioles don’t have the most recognized pitching rotation in the big leagues, it is still promising to see them get 9 across the plate.  Most of the runs came thanks to Ryan Church and Luis Castillo, who combined for 7 RBIs and 4 hits.  This was a great showing for both of them who need to continue to prove to the fans, Jerry Manuel, and themselves that they are indeed ready for a productive 2009 season.  I know that it’s early, but if they continue to produce like they did in this game the Mets will definitely be the team to beat.  Daniel Murphy also came through with 2 hits, 2 runs, and a walk.  With all of this production from the expected starters, I can’t help but feel giddy about the upcoming season.  Day one is now in the books and the Mets are 1-0 so far in the Grapefruit League.  Is this any indication to how the Amazins’ will be standing on the last day of the season?  Only time will tell.

3:14 Church and Castillo have now been replaced by Jeremy Reed and Andy Green, respectively. I guess their combined total of 7 RBIs was enough to give them both an A+ for the day.  This is the part of the game where a plethora of unfamiliar names are heard from (in my case) my computer speakers.  It’s exciting to here youngsters get a shot at the big leagues.  There is still no word on Sean Green, who left in the first inning while looking gingerly at his right hand.  Murphy just got on base for the third time today with ANOTHER opposite field hit.  Pagan’s single gives him 3 hits and a walk for the day so far.  Wow.  It seems that everyone is producing hits.  Reed scores Murphy and picks up an RBI in his first at bat of the day.  Mets-8, Orioles-3.

2:54 Cora gathers a stand up double with yet another opposite field hit.  It seems to me that the Mets have been doing nothing else all afternoon.  It seems as if Mauel’s batting practice technique is working well so far.  Opposite field doubles are good to hear.  Maybe even better than home runs.  Speaking of home runs: I have yet to hear one in 2009.  The Orioles announcer kindly just reminded me that the Mets bullpen accounted for 29 blown saves last year.  The top of the fifth inning comes to an end thanks to a great throw from Montanez, beating Cora to the plate.  This reminds me of another one of my favorite sights of spring: the clearing of dust over home plate.  Suspense like no other.  Mets-7, Orioles-3.

2:35 Castillo picks up 2 more RBIs in the top of the fourth inning with a double, although it was partially misjudged by Luke Scott in the outfield.  That gives him 4 RBIs in just the first half of todays game.  Nick Evans also garnered another hit, making him 2 for 2 thus far.  Murphy has also looked sharp with a walk in the first, and an infield base hit here in the fourth.  Church picks up 2 more RBIs by slicing a single in between second and third with the bases loaded.  The Mets offense is looking perfect, led by Castillo and Church.  The second and third outs come when Ramon Castro hits into a double play.  Mets-7, Orioles-2.   

2:14 Duaner Sanchez came out to pitch for the first time and immediately walked the first batter he faced: Adam Jones.  The next batter, Luke Scott, was issued a free pass on four straight pitches as well.  Uh-oh.  Flashbacks from last season come back to me. 2 Adam Jones scores on a line drive from Salazar.  Salazar is caught in a run down which ends the third inning.  However, Sanchez really only accounted for 1 out in the inning as the other two outs came as a result of poor running on the part of the Orioles. Mets-3, Orioles-2.

1:58 Ryan Church just doubled off the wall, scoring Pagan.  The Mets now lead 3-1 thanks to 2 RBIs from Castillo and the RBI from Church.  It seems like both Church and Castillo are well on their way to proving to the Mets fans that they are primed for solid seasons.  Castillo is trying to prove that he can be healthy, and produce as the everyday player at second base, finally giving New York a solid player at the middle bag.  Church is also trying to back up his claims that he has completely recovered from the concussions that continued to nag at him all last season.  It’s hard not to believe Ryan when you hear a ball hit that hard into the wind.  First solid contact that I’ve heard during the 2009 season.  Man, thats a good sound.  So far so good.

1:09 It’s here! As I type this, Sean Green is walking out to the mound at Ft. Lauderdale to face the lineup that the Baltimore Orioles have put together for this first game in the MLB’s Spring Training schedule.  Although only 3 players in the Mets lineup today are expected to start later on in the season (Murphy, Church, Castillo) it is still a chance for fans to finally listen to live baseball again.  Valentine will be playing third, Pagan will be occupying center field, Nick Evans will take the place of Delgado at first, and Cora will get a chance at shortstop.

In fact, right when I was about to start writing about Sean Green, who got the start today, he was taken out of the game.  He came off of the mound after giving up an
RBI hit to Wiggington.  He immediately looked down at his right hand, which seems to indicate a minor blister.  This is disappointing as I have been looking forward to seeing what kind of stuff our new righty has.  He will be replaced by Pedro Feliciano for now, however.

More coverage to come.  Until then, enjoy the first day of exhibition games!  

Why we love Jose Reyes

Okay.  I’m just going to come out and say it: I think that Jose Reyes is the best thing since sliced bread.  I mean, think about it.  Sliced bread, as far as I’m concerned, serves three main purposes in life:

1.) To be used as ends to a delicious turkey and swiss sandwich

2.) To be placed in a toaster, and then smothered with butter

3.) To be taken to the park so that hungry, blood-thirsty (that’s a story for another time) geese can be fed

Now lets take some time to see the main purposes that Jose Reyes serves in life:

1.) He brings energy to New York.  There are only a few players in the Major Leagues that continue to maintain the high level of energy that Reyes brings to every single ball game.  I absolutely can’t stand it when players such as David Ortiz, etc. make solid contact with a ball and then begin to watch it before they even consider running.  Often times it will be a home run, but there are also those times that this portrayal of lolligagging leads to a missed opportunity.  Reyes hustles out every ball.  Period.

2.) He has a solid fielding glove.  Stuck right in the hot spot of the diamond, Reyes’ fielding percentage of .974 for 2008 ranks right up there with some of the best fielding shortstops in the league:  Vizquel (.993), Rollins (.988), and Jeter (.979). 

3.) He steals bases.  A lot.  Although his numbers dipped a little last year, he still was second in the league with 56 steals, only getting caught 15 times.  This makes him an essential factor to the National League “small ball” play, because he gets into position to score.  By making the pitcher nervous he can also create enormous opportunities for Wright, Beltran, and Delgado.

4.) His 19 triples gave him the lead over every single other player in the big leagues last year (See “hustle” in number 1).  Watching Reyes’ helmet fly off of his head as he legs out a triple is one of the most exciting things to watch in sports.  

Okay.  So now we now that Reyes’ usefulness far outnumbers that of sliced bread.  Maybe the fact that Reyes is the first infielder to have 78 or more stolen bases in a single season since Maury Willis stole 94 bases in 1965 still doesn’t impress you.  Or maybe Reyes’ ability to bat around .300 from both sides of the plate doesn’t make you realize how much of an asset he is.  Maybe you can’t see how much his energy effects not just his fans, but all of Shea Sta….I mean, Citi Field.  Maybe you’re one of the thousands of people that laugh at me when I say that I would take Reyes over Hanley Ramirez any day.  Sure, Ramirez is a hybrid shortstop that continues to elevate the game in every at bat.  He can run, hit for power, hit for average, and he can steal bases.  In 2008, Ramirez accounted for 122 runs, produced 177 hits, pounded out 33 home runs, stole 35 bases, and still managed a .301 average.  Reyes accounted for slightly less runs with 113, and also hit for a some-what lower average at .297.  Even though Ramirez had 12 more runs and 17 more home runs, however, Reyes made up for those deficits by garnering 27 more hits, 3 more doubles, 15 more triples, and 21 more stolen bases.  And all the while he is playing much better defense than Ramirez.  If you’re following me by now you’ll see my point.  Although his numbers may be slightly less than Rameriz’s in certain areas, Reyes CREATES OPPORTUNITY.  Remember, a triple is the next best thing to a home run and Reyes had 15 more than Ramirez.  Stolen bases also help to set up scoring opportunities.  Reyes also struck out 40 less times than Ramirez over the course of the 2008 season.  That’s a lot of missed opportunities for the Marlins.

All in all, I’m not here to criticize Hanley Ramirez in the least bit.  He is definitely one of the best on the field at any given time, and he has a very successful career ahead of him.  I’m just here to shine some light on why Jose Reyes makes me proud to be a New York Mets fan.  He is one of the main reasons why I can’t wait to watch the Amazin’s play everyday, and I look forward to seeing how well he produces at a different spot in the lineup.  So here’s to you Jose Bernabe Reyes: I’ll be right behind you every time you round second base throughout the entire 2009 season.  And then some. 
P.S. Spring training starts tomorrow!! Oh how I wish that I could be in St. Lucie to watch the Mets and the Orioles :(  I haven’t even subscribed to Gameday yet so I might not even get to listen to it if I don’t hurry!! 

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