Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

Bringing the fun back

Bartolo Colon pitches against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field on June 13, 2014 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Bartolo Colon made a bid for the history books on Wednesday afternoon when he retired the first 20 Seattle Mariners he faced. Robinson Cano broke up the perfect game with two outs in the seventh inning.

Only the most wildly optimistic fans expected the New York Mets to keep playing at the 9-3 pace they started the month of July. Watching the Mets drop two out of three to the San Diego Padres last weekend wasn’t very enjoyable , but a 3-3 record at this stage of the post- All-Star Game road trip isn’t bad.

It’s fun to talk about the possibility of Jacob de Grom as the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year, or watch as Bartolo Colon makes a bid to become the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game. (Sure, Robinson Cano had to go and spoil the unbelievable story — but retiring 20 batters in a row is still pretty impressive.)

Even though the offense has been going AWOL a little too much for my liking, I still feel like the Mets have a chance to win most games. That 90-victory target that Sandy Alderson keeps distancing himself from was always a pipe dream, and the 2014 Mets can’t overcome the math that says they dug themselves too big of a hole in the first half to get back in the pennant race.

But I look at this team, and I see no reason why they can’t put together a winning record in the second half. And if they can do a bit better — 34-27 from here out — the Mets could have their first “winning” season since they moved to Citi Field.

And in 2015, who knows? The starting rotation and bullpen should both be team strengths. The four infielders have been fairly solid this year. (I certainly owe Ruben Tejada an apology – he has been much more productive than Stephen Drew.) Travis d’Arnaud is beginning to establish himself as a major league hitter, and the outfield hasn’t been as bad as we feared.

To move to the next level, Alderson is going to have to upgrade a few lineup spots – left field and shortstop are the obvious spots, but first base and center field are also possibilities. And it certainly would help to have a manager who makes better in-game strategy decisions than Terry Collins.

But for the first time in several years, I feel optimism about where the Mets could be headed. More importantly, they have been fun to watch this month.

Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

Collins gives Tejada a vote of confidence, but he really has no choice

Ruben Tejada (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Ruben Tejada (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Ruben Tejada has more errors than hits this spring, but manager Terry Collins gave him a vote of confidence on Thursday.

“I talked to him today about trying to relax a little bit,” Collins said, according to  Michael J. Fensom  of The Star-Ledger. “I said, ‘Listen, you’re the shortstop here. Your name and your number are going to be in the lineup. Go be the player we know you can be.”

It’s nice that somebody is showing a little faith in Tejada, no matter how misguided it might turn out to be. After all, there’s really no one else in camp now that can play shortstop every day at the major league level.

With about two and a half weeks to go until Opening Day, it looks like the Mets will start the season with a shortstop who inspires little confidence in team officials or fans.

If Sandy Alderson and Fred Wilpon really believe the Mets should win 90 games, it’s time to find the money to pay Stephen Drew or make a trade for another shortstop who is better than Tejada.

Continue reading “Collins gives Tejada a vote of confidence, but he really has no choice”

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With three weeks left, uncertainty remains at 1B & SS for Mets

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Opening Day is about three weeks away, and the New York Mets have not really found clarity on many of the major issues they faced going into spring training.

Ike Davis flails at a pitch on Saturday (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Ike Davis flails at a pitch during a game last season. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Terry Collins wanted to get Ike Davis 90 to 100 at-bats this spring, but that’s not going to happen. On Monday, Davis was limping around the clubhouse in a walking boot intended to protect his sore right calf. He played in two games before getting injured, hitting a home run and striking out three times in six at-bats.

Unbelievably, Davis had not gotten an MRI yet even though he’s been out of action for nearly a week already. According to Newsday’s Anthony Rieber, Davis hopes to play again by the beginning of next week. Collins hopes to get Davis into minor league games as the DH this weekend, according to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin.

The primary challenger to Davis for the first base job is Lucas Duda, and he’s been out of action for most of the past week with a hamstring injury. He managed a double and a home run in seven at-bats before landing on the injury report.

Neither candidate has been able to stay on the field long enough to win the job.

Ruben Tejada (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Ruben Tejada (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

At shortstop, Ruben Tejada looks like a man who’s confidence has been shaken by all his unnamed critics in the Mets’ organization. He certainly hasn’t impressed, and I will be shocked if he isn’t booed loudly during Opening Day introductions at Citi Field.

To data, stopgap veteran Omar Quintanilla has gotten the most playing time at shortstop this spring: 30 innings in five games. Tejada’s played there in 26 innings over four games, and career minor leaguer Anthony Seratelli has 21 innings in five games. Despite all of the early camp discussion of giving Wilmer Flores a chance to play there, he’s only gotten six innings over two games.

That’s not really showing much of a commitment to anyone.

The Seattle Mariners continue to send scouts to Mets games, so there has almost certainly been at least some discussion about a trade involving Mariners infielder Nick Franklin… but the cost in prospects is likely to be high. Will Sandy Alderson be willing to pay it? Should he? My Magic 8-Ball says “Ask again later.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka makes his Mets debut on Aug. 23, 2013 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

One area where clarity does seem to be developing is the starting rotation. Daisuke Matsuzaka seems to be the favorite for the fifth spot, though it’s still too early to say with any certainty and I disagree with the choice. His main competition, veteran John Lannan and youngster Jenrry Mejia, seem to be getting consideration for the Mets’ bullpen.

After lefties Josh Edgin, Steven Matz, Adam Kolarek and Jack Leathersich were among the first round of cuts Monday, Collins talked about getting Lannan some work out of the bullpen soon. (Someone should let the Mets’ skipper know that Lannan is not a prototypical lefty specialist – for his career, both lefty and righty batters have an identical .755 OPS against him.)

And though Mejia wants to start, it looks more like the Mets are considering him for the bullpen. Consider that Dillon Gee pitched four innings in a “B” game on Monday morning, while Mejia worked two innings in relief of him.

There’s still time for everything to shake out, and Opening Day lineups matter more to fans than they probably should anyway. Just ask Collin Cowgill.

You can follow Paul’s Random Baseball Stuff on Facebook or Google+, see my photos on Flickr and Instagram, and follow @Paul_Hadsall on Twitter, where I talk about about a variety of things in addition to baseball.

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Thoughts on today’s Winter Meetings developments

Curtis Granderson signed 2008 Allen & Ginter baseball card from my collection
Curtis Granderson signed 2008 Allen & Ginter baseball card from my collection

The Mets officially introduced Curtis Granderson to the media today, and the new Mets’ cleanup hitter did his best to land on tomorrow’s back pages.

“A lot of the people I’ve met in New York have always said that, ‘True New Yorkers are Mets fans,'” Granderson said. “So I’m excited to get a chance to see them all out there.”

I don’t know anything about “True New Yorkers,” but I do know that the Citi Field crowds are going to be sparse most days unless the team can get fans excited again.

And Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon told reporters today that the magic isn’t back just yet.

“I think we’re still building,” he said. “I mean, we’d like to win next season, of course. But I can’t tell you what other moves Sandy is going to be able to make between now and opening day. We’ve got a long way to go. This is the second day of the winter meetings.”

I can think of one easy move the Mets could make, assuming Wilpon family finances aren’t an issue – sign Stephen Drew and stop pretending that anybody other than Ruben Tejada really wants him to be the team’s shortstop next year.

But of course it’s not a financial issue, according to Wilpon.

“Right now it’s a baseball decision,” Wilpon said, ” because Sandy hasn’t come to say, ‘Gee, we have to go sign Stephen Drew,’ or anybody else for that matter. …

“I haven’t heard him say that that’s the best thing to do with our resources,” Wilpon added. “He hasn’t come to me and said, ‘Gee, if we had X, we would go take somebody like that.’ So there’s still discussion on who we’re looking at in a trade scenario and what else might be out there.”

And you know what? Maybe Alderson is pursuing a better option on the trade market and all this talk about Tejada is intended to help his bargaining position.

Or maybe the Wilpons have created an environment where Alderson knows not to even bother asking for more money to run the baseball team, just like Bob Cratchit learned not to ask Ebeneezer Scrooge for more coal, no matter how cold it got.

Justin Turner poses for a photo with me during a Mets Social Media Day event in 2012.
Justin Turner poses for a photo with me during a Mets Social Media Day event in 2012.

But hey, not every baseball decision comes down to money. Alderson said as much to Jorge Castillo when the Star-Ledger reporter asked the GM about the hatchet job rumors spread by an “unnamed source”  that Justin Turner was let go because of a lack of hustle.

Maybe I missed something – I certainly wasn’t focused on the Mets during the second half of the season (for reasons not really related to their performance) – but I did not see anything that made me question Turner’s work ethic. And I’m more than a little bit tired an “unnamed Mets official” being a source for these types of stories.

One bright spot: Jeremy Hefner, another Met who was non-tendered, will likely return to the organization on a minor league deal while he rehabs from Tommy John surgery next year.

And I just found this amusing: Jason Bay reportedly has an offer to play for Japan’s Yomiuri Giants next season. I hope they’re not expecting a big-time slugger.

Posted in Baseball, Baseball Cards, Uncategorized

Minor Mets moves

Steve Matz 2009 Bowman Draft Picks autograph card 030/500
Steve Matz 2009 Bowman Draft Picks autograph card 030/500 (If you are seeing a baseball card image with rounded corners, it is just because that’s how my blog theme displays photos)

The New York Mets added minor league pitchers Steven Matz, Jeff Walters, Jacob deGrom and Erik Goeddel to the 40-man roster today, the deadline for shielding them from this year’s Rule 5 draft.

You can check Mets Minor League Blog for more on these guys; I’m not going to spend a lot of time writing about players I’m not very familiar with.

I just thought this would be a nice chance to show off the 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks Steve Matz autograph card I picked up for a couple of bucks recently.

With the roster currently full, the Mets will have to remove someone before they can sign a free agent or select a player from another team in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft.

Ruben Tejada (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Ruben Tejada (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

In other news, Sandy Alderson yesterday offered a weak defense of his decision to delay Ruben Tejada‘s September call up just long enough to make sure he wouldn’t earn credit for a full year of major league service time.

“I think our position is that we have very wide discretion in how we call up players in September,” Alderson said. “In the case of all of these players, we exercised that discretion and brought some up at a particular time and some up at a later time. That was totally within our right to do.”

Somehow, I think that an arbitrator would see things differently if Tejada and his agent do follow through with the grievance process. (I also think Tejada should be focused on proving that he belongs in the major leagues, or he won’t have to worry about when he becomes eligible for arbitration and free agency.)

 Tejada, Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores are all taking part in a voluntary fitness camp for disappointing players in Michigan this month, along with several minor league prospects. Let’s see if any of them are still Mets on March 31st, 2014 and if it has any tangible benefits.

Considering some of  the hot stove chatter surrounding the Mets, I would not be shocked if Tejada and Omar Quintanilla end up sharing the shortstop position again next year, despite Alderson’s reported desire to upgrade there.