Archive: July 10th, 2009

Mets Game 85: Loss to Reds

Reds 3 Mets 0

There was a game? Who knew? I thought the important Mets activity this Friday night was the trade of Ryan Church to Atlanta for Jeff Francoeur. And then when I saw Jeremy Reed in the #5 spot, I figured it was either a joke or the Mets were simply canceling the game.

Not that I don’t like Jeremy Reed — in fact, I very much like Jeremy Reed and am ticked off that he is unlikely to be playing much anymore. But he shouldn’t be batting fifth any more than Luis Castillo should be batting 8th … or Nick Evans second … or … anyway, I digress …

As it turned out, the Mets did play a game on Friday night, even though Francoeur will not be arriving into New York until Saturday. There are hot dogs and Shake Shack burgers and Hoegaarden beers and Blue Smoke pulled pork sandwiches to sell at the world’s largest bar with live entertainment, after all.

Bronson Arroyo — the righthanded Randy Wolf, i.e., the Mets’ kryptonite (according to Coop) — pitched a nine-inning, four-hit shutout for his ninth victory of the season.

Joey Votto hit a solo homer in the fourth to give Arroyo all the runs he needed. Brandon Phillips stole home and Laynce Nix hit another solo shot to give the Reds unneeded insurance runs.

The loss wasted a nice performance by Fernando Nieve, who allowed three earned runs on eight hits in six innings. You can’t ask much more from a fill-in fifth starter.

Notes

The Mets put six balls into the outfield. No Mets baserunner made it beyond first base.

For the seventh consecutive contest, the Mets had neither a stolen base nor a homerun. Hmm … no small ball, no big ball … what exactly IS the Mets’ offensive strategy?

It was Bronson Arroyo’s second career shutout — the other one came in 2006.

Dan Murphy had half of the Mets’ hits, and the others were collected by, of all people, Argenis Reyes and Fernando Nieve.

I find it hard to believe that the Mets’ perceived “lack of talent” was the reason they couldn’t hit Bronson Arroyo, when Reyes and Nieve both stroked hits. This has little to do with skillset, and everything to do with mental preparation, approach, and focus.

Cry all you want about the Mets’ “depleted” lineup. But I’m looking at the Reds’ lineup — with three guys sporting sub-.300 OBPs, their third baseman hitting worse than most pitchers, and some guy named Ryan Hanigan behind the plate — and not seeing anything resembling “The Big Red Machine”. This Mets team is due for a labotomy.

Next Mets Game

The Jeff Francoeur Era begins on Saturday at 7:10 PM. Johan Santana goes to the mound against Johnny Cueto. Jeff Francoeur plays right field. It’s anyone’s guess who hits cleanup, but my money’s on “Frenchy” — assuming Jerry Manuel determines that he’s had “a good BP session”.

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Mets Trade Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur

The Mets have traded Ryan Church to the Atlanta Braves for Jeff Francoeur, according to GM Omar Minaya.

My initial, gut reaction is, I’m going to miss Church, who never really got a true opportunity to play every day under Jerry Manuel, but in Francoeur, the Mets get a younger, more physically talented outfielder, who plays the game the right way — much like Church does. My next gut reaction is, “whoa, why were the Braves so eager to rid themselves of a young, highly talented, local boy like Francoeur? What do they know that they’re not telling us?”

From all accounts, though Francoeur was the golden boy in Atlanta as recently as a year and a half ago, something changed when GM Frank Wren gained full control of the club’s personnel. Some kind of rift between the two occurred that was never healed, and Wren has been looking to move Francoeur for months (most recently he offered him to the Marlins for Cody Ross).

Similarly, something occurred in Jerry Manuel’s head that caused him to hate Ryan Church. We don’t know what, we don’t know why, and the two can deny it until their deathbeds, but the writing was on the wall: Manuel didn’t like Church, and the organization as a whole never saw Church as an everyday player. Going to Atlanta and Bobby Cox will be an outstanding change for Church. I believe very strongly that Church, under Cox and playing “the Braves Way”, can and will blossom into a good, not great, complementary everyday rightfielder.

Meantime, Francoeur’s change in scenery could prove equally fruitious (damn I hope so!). Clearly, he strikes out way too much, and doesn’t take pitches, and that will drive us nuts. But he also has the raw talent to be a star. Whether he realizes that potential is anyone’s guess — and part of his problem is he’s as stubborn as a mule when it comes to changing his approach. If he doesn’t ever “get” the idea of plate discipline, he’ll be the offensive version of Oliver Perez — an eternal, frustrating enigma.

What I do like about Francoeur is he appears to have a strong personality, and maybe he can be the guy who turns the tide in the clubhouse. He plays hard, and if he’s performing well, he could be an influencer / leader. We’ll see.

Interesting to note that Minaya mentioned — about 18 times — that Francoeur is “an everyday player”. I wonder if the front office is sending the message to Jerry Manuel that Francoeur WILL BE penciled into the lineup every single day, and enough with the inane mixing and matching.

Minaya also pointed out that Francoeur is “better suited to Citi Field” because, “…although Ryan Church was a very good fielder, players around the league will tell you that Jeff Francoeur covers a lot of ground …” and, “…he has a very strong arm.” Wait, Omar … didn’t you just describe Ryan Church? Doesn’t Church cover a lot of ground, and have a very strong arm? Meh.

So much for Jeremy Reed’s chance to get some playing time — with Francoeur coming in and Angel Pagan off the DL, Reed goes back to being Gary Sheffield’s late-inning caddy.

Also strange, during the press conference, was Minaya’s comment that “guys who pull the ball are able to take advantage of that left field wall” in Citi Field, and Francoeur fits that definition of pull hitter. Really? Where’s the evidence? Because two or three opponents jerked hanging curveballs into the left field seats? Because Sheffield planted one or two out there? Until the “Soot Monster” is lowered by 30 feet and brought in another 30, righties are going to have a tough time sending one over the fence (or otherwise “using it to their advantage”).

I hope this deal works out well for Francoeur and the Mets; I know it’s going to work out for Church and the Braves. Occasional MetsToday contributor John Fitzgerald suggests that “Frenchy” is the next Mike Marshall (the bigfooted first baseman, not the wacko pitcher). It’s an intriguing comparison.

Thoughts?

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Quick Preview: Mets vs. Reds

reds-logoThe last time the Mets and Reds faced each other was the first three games of the year. The Mets came out of it 2-1, brimming with confidence, and seemingly on their way to making a serious run at the NL East crown.

How times have changed.

Since then, the Mets have suffered injuries, curled into the fetal position, and are waiting to be put out of their misery. Meanwhile, the Reds have played a fairly even season, and if it weren’t for a bizarre string of four straight losses to the Royals and Nationals in June, they’d be right in the thick of things at the top of the NL Central. Though they’re sitting in fifth place, they’re far from out of it, only 4.5 games out of first and maybe one player or hot streak away from making a serious run.

Interestingly, the Mets are in a similar position in the NL East — fourth place and 5.5 games out — but they’ve all but thrown in the towel. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

With both teams in similar places, this last series before the break holds significant importance. One of the teams will head in with at least two losses, and, depending on what happens with their division leaders, those two losses could be the first nails in the coffin.

Game 1: Fernando Nieve (3-2,2.73 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (8-8, 5.85 ERA)

Fernando fell back to earth in his last two starts, but I have to say I still like what he brings to the table — when he can bring it, that is. If Nieve can throw that hard sinker for strikes, and complement it by getting one of his other off-speed pitches over the plate the majority of the time, he can win. Unfortunately, his lack of command has been his undoing. Arroyo is having a tough year, but is the righthanded Randy Wolf when it comes to the Mets — and seems to turn it up a notch when pitching in the New York spotlight.

Game 2: Johan Santana (9-7, 3.29 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (8-5, 3.45 ERA)

After a Bob Gibson circa 1968 start, Santana has been rather pedestrian over the last month and a half, to the point where one must wonder what the heck is going on. Cueto has the stuff to match Santana pitch for pitch on a good day, and it would be just Johan’s luck for that to occur — though, there’ll surely be someone else to blame in the event of another loss.

Game 3: Mike Pelfrey (6-4, 4.52 ERA) vs. Aaron Harang (5-8, 3.89 ERA)

Funny how Big Pelf often draws a similarly tall opponent. The 6’7″ Harang is having an off year, but he’s always a threat to dominate. Yet, for whatever reason, he’s always had trouble against the Mets (8.56 ERA over the last three years against them). As mentioned in our last series preview, Pelfrey can go either way — he can be outstanding or awful, and there’s no logic to predict which. This one’s a tossup.

Final Thoughts

In April, I predicted that Joey Votto would be the NL MVP. Though the rest of those predictions are looking pretty awful (i.e. the Diamondbacks would win the NL West!), so far Votto is making me look somewhat intelligent. He’s hitting .354 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 54 games, and if not for a stint on the DL due to stress and dizziness, he might be vying for the Triple Crown.

Outside of Votto and Brandon Phillips, the Reds don’t have much firepower (OK, Jay Bruce has 18 jacks, but he’s hitting only .208). In many ways, they resemble the Mets — a team that was originally built depending on the homerun, but unfortunately the strategy of waiting for the long ball has often left them dry. Unlike the Mets, however, the Reds don’t steal many bases (only 47), and their team batting average is a paltry .248. That said, it’s no surprise that they’re 14th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored. Beside the disappointment of Bruce, Ramon Hernandez has lost the starting catcher’s job, Laynce Nix has won a job in left field, Edwin Encarnacion has fallen off the planet, Jerry Hairston is the best they can do at shortstop, and they’re trying to find ways to fit Jonny Gomes’ bat into the lineup.

Despite all that, their lineup still looks more dangerous than what the Mets can muster — though, that’s only on paper. In the reality of Citi Field, many of the Reds’ fly balls should be outs on the warning track, and their lack of speed is a major detriment on both sides of the ball in spacious Citi. If the Mets can keep their chin up, there’s no reason they can’t compete with Cincinnati in these three games — even without the Fantastic Four.

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Window Shopping: Nationals

In our latest edition of Window Shopping, we look at the Washington Nationals. Since they’re on a pace to threaten the ’62 Mets record for losing — and win the Bryce Harper sweepstakes — they should be sellers. Problem is, you have to actually offer something of value in order to make a sale. And not unexpectedly, the Nats strongly resemble a dollar store.

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