Archive: July 30th, 2009

Mets Game 101: Loss to Rockies

Rockies 4 0Mets 2

You can’t win ’em all.

Poised for a sweep, instead the Mets finally fell to the Rockies, fulfilling their manager’s prophecy that there is no such thing as momentum in baseball.

Although he allowed 4 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks in 6 1/3 innings, Jonathan Niese had nothing to be ashamed about. He battled all night and came up with big pitches in tight situations, before running out of gas and giving up a two-run homer to Clint Barmes.

Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa limited the Mets to two runs on three hits and three walks through 6 1/3 to claim his ninth victory.

Notes

Though he was laboring all evening — and on an oppressively hot and humid evening at that — I can sort of understand why Jerry Manuel pushed Niese out there for the seventh. With the score tied, Niese was looking at a no-decision had he left the game, and the opposing pitcher was leading off the inning. Manuel was likely hoping Niese could gut his way through three more outs and give the offense another chance to give him a shot at a win. But once De La Rosa led off with a double (even if it was misjudged by Angel Pagan), all bets were off, and Niese should have been removed on the spot — regardless of his pitch count (he was a still below 100 at that point).

In the postgame, Bob Ojeda kept harping on the fact that Niese was “pitching without his best stuff”. I’m not sure I agree, mainly because I don’t know what Niese’s “best stuff” looks like just yet. Obviously it wasn’t his “best stuff” as in “the best he’s ever pitched in his life”, but he did have a nasty, sharp-breaking 12-6 curve, and that’s his calling card. Niese struggled with the command of his fastball, and for all we know this issue might be par for the course at this point in his young MLB career. In other words, let’s see this kid pitch at this level for 15-20 games before we form expectations and decide what his “best” is. Otherwise, we may talk ourselves into thinking he’s better than he is, and measure him against unrealistic expectations — similar to what many did when Dan Murphy’s promotion coincided with a once-in-a-lifetime hot streak.

The Mets literally stole the first run of the game. David Wright attempted to steal third and was thrown out by a good five feet — but the umpire inexplicably called him safe. Moments later Jeff Francoeur lifted a long fly ball to the right field wall to score him easily. I think everyone will agree that the breaks have been going the Mets way recently — and it’s a long time coming.

Angel Pagan was caught trying to steal home in the first inning, on the front end of a first-and-third double steal. Very questionable move, but I think the Mets need to continue being aggressive — both to score runs and to keep the games interesting for us fans.

David Wright was 7-for-13 in the series. In contrast, Clint Barmes had only two hits — but both were dingers.

Next Mets Game

The Mets begin another four-game series against an NL West club when the Arizona Diamondbacks come to Flushing on Friday night. First game begins at 7:10 PM, with Livan Hernandez facing Doug Davis.

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Mets Game 100: Win Over Rockies

Mets 7 Rockies 0

Break up the Mets!

The steamrolling juggernaut known as the New York Mets flattened the Rockies for their fifth consecutive victory.

The Mets’ offense singled Jason Hammel to death in the second inning, giving ace Johan Santana an early five-nothing lead. They tacked on another two, but Santana needed only one, as he shut out Colorado through seven strong innings. Bobby Parnell and Tim Redding hurled scoreless frames to complete the victory.

Meanwhile, it was Cory Sullivan day at Citi Field. Sullivan played spectacular defense in left field and went 2-for-4 with a triple, a run, and one driven in — the first of the ballgame.

Notes

Every Met other than Santana collected at least one hit, and the team totaled 11 — 5 of them for extra bases.

Santana allowed only 4 hits and one walk in his 7 scoreless innings.

The Rockies had one chance to get back in the game, in the top of the fourth. With the score still 5-zip, they loaded the bases against Santana with two outs and slugger Ian Stewart at the plate. Santana got ahead 0-2, but Stewart tied into a changeup and drove it deep down the rightfield line, just foul. After a several more fouls and a few balls, Stewart finally went down swinging to end the threat and the inning.

What happened to Jason Hammel? Truth is, his location wasn’t all that bad — most of the hits against him came on pitches low and possibly out of the strike zone. But the Mets came out swinging aggressively and “hitting them where they ain’t”. It was borderline bizarre to see so many hits in such a short amount of time — a nightmare for the young righthander.

Jerry Manuel continues to play down the idea of “momentum” — he dismissed the idea during the postgame interview. I don’t get it, especially since he is a self-proclaimed old-school, “feel” guy who eschews modern stats and sabermetrics. Every other experienced, old-school baseball man will tell you that momentum is a major factor, both in a ballgame and over the course of a season. I would argue, in fact, that his negativity from a month ago sparked inverse momentum to depress the club. It’s very simple: winning breeds confidence and confidence leads to better performance, which leads to more wins — and that cycle is defined as momentum. And as Yogi Berra said, “90% of baseball is half-mental”.

Strangely enough, Manuel will talk about “going on a roll” or a “hot streak” when the “cavalry” returns. Don’t those terms relate to “momentum”?

Next Mets Game

The second game of the doubleheader and the final game of the series occurs tonight at 7:10 PM. Jonathan Niese faces Jorge De La Rosa. If Niese continues to pitch like Jerry Koosman, this game is in the bag. If not, I blame Jerry Manuel for poo-poohing the concept of momentum.

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Mets Lead MLB

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Mets now lead MLB in press conferences since the All-Star Break.

Elias also announced that today’s conference held by Minaya broke the all-time record for most apologies in a 48-hour period.

Well done, men!

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If the Mets Buy

When the team was more than 8 games behind in the Wild Card standings, Nepopolitans GM Omar Minionaya insisted that the team would be “buyers” rather than “sellers” at the deadline. This, of course, came as a surprise, since they were window shoppers last year at this time — a time when they were atop the NL East but desperately in need of one or two final pieces to solve the puzzle. If they were so close last year and didn’t “buy”, why would they “buy” now?

But we have tired of trying to figure out what’s going on in the minds of the Nep’s front office — it’s a futile and frustrating exercise. Most likely, it’s the four-game winning streak, which has lifted the hopes of the fans and fed the Mets’ hype machine. If the Mets make a deal now — even a little one — it could be enough to incite many fans to buy tickets for August and September. So with a little more than 24 hours left to wheel and deal, let’s consider what Minionaya might try to procure.

A LOOGY

The Mets have needed a second lefthander to team with Pedro Feliciano since … well, since forever. The never-ending auditions of Pat Misch, Ken Takahashi, Casey Fossum, etc., has not uncovered a gem. Maybe the Mets can swing a few A-ball suspects for someone like John Grabow or Joe Beimel — but in the grand scheme of things, would such a deal make a difference?

First Baseman

Forget it. The Mets are committed to Dan Murphy at first until Carlos Delgado or game 162 — whichever comes first. So get used to second baseman-type production from the first base position, and hope against hope that the Mets can make up for it at another position.

Left Fielder

The player that would have fit perfectly here was Ryan Garko, but the Giants beat the Mets to him. Mark Kotsay might have been a nice pickup for the short-term, but he also was scooped up. Ben Francisco or Wladimir Balentien would have been an upgrade over the current menagerie being thrown out there. Heck, Wily Mo Pena would’ve been nice to try out right now, but that possibility was muffed. No use crying over split milk. The list of players left include Ryan Spilborghs, Mark Teahen, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Willingham, maybe Luke Scott and Ryan Freel. Of that group, Hermida has the most upside, but I don’t see the Fish dealing within the division. Willingham would step right into the middle of the Mets’ order, but the Nats likely will ask for too much in return. Teahen is the one that may make the most sense, but the Royals are looking for a centerfielder — which would mean, I presume, Angel Pagan, who is currently igniting the Mets’ offense. Would KC take Jeremy Reed or Cory Sullivan, along with a prospect along the lines of Nick Evans?

Catcher

Unless you believe Omir Santos is the long-term answer behind the plate, the Mets will need to get a catcher for 2010. If there was a young catcher available for less than a king’s ransom, it would behoove the Mets to make a deal. I don’t see that happening — they’ll take their chances on finding another fill-in or former Expo over the winter (Michael Barrett should be available).

Pitcher

The Mets needed a solid starting pitcher going back to last July, and the best they could come up with was Livan Hernandez. Say all you want about the “brilliance” of plucking Livan off the scrap heap, but it glazes over the “stupidity” of bidding against themselves for Oliver Perez, over-paying for Tim Redding, and counting on John Maine to come back at 100% health. One junkyard pickup doesn’t make up for purchasing three zirconias at the jewelry store. Unfortunately, everyone needs pitching, and few good arms are available, so if the Mets were to trade for anyone of value, it would cost them dearly. A Halladay deal isn’t happening, so the Mets will cross their fingers on the theory that the thirty-six-million-dollar man and young Jonathan Niese can hold up the back end of the rotation — while also hoping that Mike Pelfrey will make more steps forward than backward and Livan will continue to stymie bad-hitting teams.

Shortstop

If it hasn’t happened by now, it’s probably not happening — the Mets appear committed to Alex Cora while pretending Jose Reyes is coming back. I don’t know — maybe the Mets make a move for someone like David Eckstein. If Angel Berroa continues to stink up the joint, it’s back to Argenis Reyes, Wilson Valdez, or Jerry Manuel’s .220-hitting protege Jonathan Malo.

Conclusion

I think the Mets make some kind of deal, for no reason other than to make it appear as though they’re trying — and also to help push away the tiresome Omar Minaya – Tony Bernanzard – Adam Rubin debacle. I’ll go on a limb and say the Mets’ best trade partner is the Royals; perhaps they make a deal with them for Teahen and Freel or Willie Bloomquist. Or, they can hold onto the message that “good players can still be had after the deadline” and pick up some garbage like David Dellucci or Chris Shelton.

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Trade To Be Announced?

According to Bart Hubbach’s Twitter feed, the Mets have sent down Elmer Dessens and promoted catcher Robinson Cancel.

Furthermore, Omar Minaya has a press conference scheduled for 11 AM.

Does this mean Brian Schneider has been dealt for a LOOGY?

Stay tuned.

** UPDATE **

As suggested by commenter “Ellie” (Hendricks?), the Mets promoted Cancel to fortify the bench, as Schneider’s legs are ailing.

Though, the definition of “fortify” could be called into question, as Cancel is hitting .218 with a .266 OBP and .259 SLG at AAA Buffalo. It was Cancel or Rene Rivera, and Cancel is already on the 40-man roster.

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A Whirlwind of Deals

While the Mets remained status quo over the past 48 hours, a number of trades were made among postseason-contending teams. Let’s break them down.

Phillies obtain Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco for prospects Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson

Wow. The Phillies get a Cy Young winner and a very capable (and relatively young) fourth outfielder in return for three minor leaguers. Granted, those prospects are top-notch, but they are still prospects — not proven MLBers. Further, the Phils did not give up any of Kyle Drabek, JA Happ, Dominic Brown, nor Michael Taylor, their four most coveted youngsters.

Lee steps right in to give the Phillies the best one-two lefty starting combo in MLB. Francisco is a talented offensive force who runs the bases well and has gap / doubles power that could evolve into homerun power at Citizens Bank Park. He is, however, a notorious streak hitter who runs scalding hot and ice cold — not unlike current Phillie Pedro Feliz. This trade more or less locks up the NL East for the Phillies.

Mariners trade Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock to the Pirates for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson.

Finally, the Bucs find a taker for Jack Wilson, a hard-nosed, good-fielding, light-hitting, overpaid shortstop. Snell was an eternal enigma who requested a demotion to AAA to get his head straight. Both will do well in Seattle, and the Pirates will be happy with the players they received. Cedeno steps right in to Wilson’s position at shortstop, and Clement is essentially a lefthanded-hitting version of Ryan Doumit — an offensive-minded catcher with some holes behind the plate, and who may eventually find a home at 1B.

White Sox trade Brian Anderson to Red Sox for Mark Kotsay

The Red Sox had DFA’d Kotsay to make room on the roster for Adam LaRoche, so the fact they received anything for him in return is gravy. They get Anderson, who is essentially a hyped-up version of Jeremy Reed, and can stock him in AAA. The White Sox get a veteran bat who will be used immediately in return for a player who was unlikely to ever meet previous expectations. Good move for both clubs.

Giants acquire Ryan Garko from Indians for minor leaguer Scott Barnes.

This was the deal the Mets needed to make — obtain a slugging, under-30, inexpensive first baseman / outfielder who can fill in at 1B and the outfield corners and be a candidate for regular duty in 2010. Unfortunately, the Mets don’t have ANY minor league pitching prospects at the AA level who are coveted by other teams, so such a deal can’t happen — at least, not without the Mets overpaying (as usual). After being drafted out of St. John’s last year, Barnes rocketed through the Giants’ system, and despite being in the minors, could be ahead of where Jon Niese is right now. But since the Giants have tons of young pitching at the MLB level and throughout their system, he was expendable. This is what is defined as “depth”.

Giants acquire Freddy Sanchez for minor league pitcher Tim Alderson

In a matter of 24 hours, the Giants replaced one-half of their infield, adding much-needed offense to their feeble-hitting lineup. In Sanchez they get a solid singles hitter who will step right in to play second base, which has been something of a black hole for San Francisco this year. They did, however, give up a solid pitching prospect in Alderson — a 20-year-old who was ranked the #4 prospect in the Giants’ organization, and the 26th-best prospect in all of baseball. But again, the Giants are loaded with young arms, so it’s not a big deal for them. Maybe they overpaid, but, you have to give up something to get something — especially at the trade deadline. The Bucs, who are going nowhere, did well with this deal.

Final Thoughts

The Phillies deal, obviously, is the one that on the surface most affects the Mets. But the Giants also made moves that should significantly improve their club, and since they’re unlikely to oust the Dodgers in the NL West, they are a major obstacle in terms of the Wild Card.

The Mets likely won’t make a deal — partially because they don’t have the parts to spare, and mainly because they look at players returning from the DL as their “acquisitions”. The problem with that thinking is, you don’t know when those players will return, nor if they’ll return at 100% right away. For example, Jose Reyes might be back by mid-August — but will he be able to run at full speed? Similarly, when / if Carlos Delgado returns, how long will it take him to get his timing back? And will his hip allow him to swing with the same force he had before? Will either Billy Wagner and J.J. Putz be able to crack 90 MPH when they come off the DL? Lots of hopes and wishes — which has been the Mets’ strategy for three years running.

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