ST Game 1: First Impressions
Judgments made on the first game of spring training are unfair to players. We pundits are holding their every move under a microscope. Further, we’re freaking out at the slightest aberrations and screaming with joy at the smallest accomplishments.
But that’s what happens when you’re without baseball for four months.
Watching yesterday’s first spring training contest, I tried very hard to be fair, and to filter my feelings while evaluating our beloved Mets. The final score is meaningless, so there will be no dwelling on it. Similarly, the hits, errors, and pitching lines mean nothing (sorry statheads). What does matter, is how players “look” — are they in shape? stronger? healthy? energetic? confident? mechanically sound?
One thing I noticed, above all, was how much I love watching these Mets. Nearly every batter who came to the plate, I was saying out loud, “this guy’s a great hitter to watch”. Likewise, I was very excited to watch the arms on the mound — and disappointed that Joe Smith was not summoned. You know it’s spring training when you’re bummed out by not by a loss but by not getting to see a sidewinding ROOGY with little chance of making the team.
Herewith my first impressions of selected individual players, in no logical order:
Jose Reyes – he looks thicker and like he’s filling out, based on his face and neck. He looks more confident at the plate, and “tight” as far as his swing goes. By “tight”, he looks more controlled as the pitch comes in, and seems to be letting the ball get deeper in the zone before committing. If he keeps this approach, he might walk 100 times and hit .300 again.
David Wright – made a few really nice plays on tough hops at third base.
Damion Easley – exactly as I remembered him as a regular 2B in Detroit: sloping shoulders make him look like he’s wearing his big brother’s uniform, a long loopy swing that seems mismatched for his undersized frame. I’ll reserve further judgment, because I look at him similarly to the way I looked at Jose Valentin this time last year — which was, why the heck did we give this guy a contract?
Shawn Green – didn’t look so hot at plate, as he was swinging and missing wildly. Hopefully its a function of getting used to his “old” mechanics. (He claims to have found a flaw with his hands going forward that robbed him of his power the last three years.)
Rick Peterson – dude, where’s the jacket? I half-expected to see gruesome scars or burn marks on his arms, figuring there was some logic behind wearing a jacket all the time.
Oliver Perez – totally inconsistent mechanics, off balance on most pitches. I know it was only his first time out, but Perez looked as unpredictable as last year. Watching his follow-through, he often finishes with his face completely turned around, facing shortstop. This is the result of too much side-to-side momentum and not enough up-and-down. I understand he has a low 3/4 arm slot, but he has to get a little more on top of the ball to get that nasty movement back. On occasion, he does get it right, and his resulting pitches are filthy. Repeating his mechanics will be his spring goal. The unJacket will have his hands full getting Ollie ready.
Carlos Delgado – looks great. A true pleasure to watch this guy swing the bat.
Ben Johnson – he hit the ball to the opposite field all three times at bat, which can be a good sign from a guy who’s a power hitter. He’s a hustler on bases and in the outfield is equally aggressive getting to the ball, and showed a strong, accurate arm. It’s clear he’s hungry to win a spot.
Alay Soler – looks like he lost a few pounds, thank goodness — though he still needs to shed another ten to 15. Another guy who occasionally has too much side-to-side and not enough up-and-down in his motion. For Soler, though, it’s more critical, as he’s more of an overhand guy who needs to get the leverage. He showed a helluva nice changeup.
Billy Wagner – he may have thrown one forkball … if so it looked good.
Mike Carp – he’s a big boy. Ron Darling mentioned that Gary Carter says Carp reminds him of Mike Jacobs. However, he reminds me of Darrell Hammond from SNL.
Lino Urdaneta – looked pretty impressive in his short stint. Solid, easy motion, good body, 93 MPH with command. Could be an interesting pickup.
Aaron Heilman – looked to be throwing more overhand than last year, wonder if he’s making a conscious effort to stay on top after the elbow surgery? He showed that nasty slider a few times, the one he shelves once the season starts. (Yes, Virginia, Aaron does throw a third pitch!)
David Newhan – looks like nothing special, but he did drive in two runs. He’s the kind of guy who will do the little things no one notices that win a ballgame.
Anderson Hernandez – will he ever hit ball out of infield? After seeing Rafael Belliard on the Tigers’ bench, I wonder if that’s AHern’s ceiling.
Julio Franco – I love him, but his bat looks so slow and now his vision is going. Several times he took two balls over middle of plate and gestured to the ump as if he was getting hosed. Either Julio needs to get his eyes checked, or it’s part of some ploy to entice the pitcher to throw it over the middle again. Of course, the moment I yell at the TV “retire already!” he goes and gets a 2-RBI basehit up the middle.
Ruben Gotay – can you say aggressive? He’s a swinging machine. Todd Cruz reincarnate.
Jon Adkins – solid, simple, efficient mechanics that are easily repeatable. Overhand curve. Sinker that runs in hard on RH. Why can’t he make the team?
Carlos Gomez – only saw him for a flash, but he looked tall and speedy. Face resembles AHern’s.
Ruben Sierra – ooof. Again, I’ll reserve judgment.
Moises Alou – does he really pee on hands?
Howard Johnson – great to see him in the Mets uniform again, coaching first base. His toupe, transplant, or Avacor treatments have made him at least ten years younger.
New Hats – what is with those crazy striped hats that make everyone look like Ronny Belliard? Trash ’em ASAP please.