Browsing Archive September, 2009

Mets Game 157: Loss to Nationals

Nationals 2 Mets 1

The Mets lose their 90th game of the season, to a team who has already hurdled triple digits in losses.

In addition, rookie stringbean Ross Detwiler earned his first MLB win — in his lucky 13th start. The 6’5″, 180-lb. Detwiler scattered seven hits in six innings and disappeared at one point of the game — then magically reappeared when he turned his shoulders square to the TV camera.

Another tough loss for Nelson Figueroa, who spun six innings of six-hit ball, striking out five but allowing two runs to cross the plate.

Notes

The Mets had runners in scoring position in six different innings, but never drove one in. They left 10 on base during the game.

Some guy named Mike Morse went 3-for-4 with a solo homer. He’s a 6’5″, 235-lb. infielder / outfielder plucked from the Seattle organization in late June. He was also a teammate of Jeremy Reed both in the ChiSox and Mariners organizations. The Mets couldn’t get this guy in the J.J. Putz deal?

At one point in the telecast, Kevin Burkhardt suggested that Pedro Feliciano wouldn’t mind expanding his role from LOOGY to setup man. I don’t know if Perpetual Pedro could handle the role, but it certainly would’ve made sense to give him the chance this September. Everyone is in agreement that Feliciano can retire lefthanded hitters with acceptable consistency, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel has bemoaned many times the lack of a “crossover guy”. It’s too late now, but it might have made sense to give Feliciano a shot to pitch against both lefties AND righties, to learn whether he could be that guy, rather than continuing to set up “matchups” in these meaningless games.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Nationals play again on Tuesday night at 7:05 PM. Mike Pelfrey faces J.D. Martin.

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Bring Wally Back, Man

The first shoe dropped when Tony Bernazard was relieved of his services. Most recently, Latin American scouting chief Ramon Pena met the same fate. Additionally, Omar Minaya’s former mentor and current right-hand man Sandy Johnson announced he’d be retiring at the end of the season. Further, the future of the Mets’ coaching staff is “under evaluation”.

In other words, the Mets are cleaning house — and it won’t be long before Jerry Manuel finds himself in a similar situation that his “friend” Willie Randolph found himself in the late spring of 2008.

All signs from the Wilpons are that both Minaya and Manuel will retain their jobs through the winter. It’s the same modus operandi that kept Randolph employed after the infamous collapse of 2007. Randolph was given leniency, but was put on a short leash — one attached to a spiked prong collar. So is history is any indicator, we can assume that although Manuel may begin the 2010 season as Mets manager, it’s no guarantee that he will end the season in the same position.

But who will be the next in line if / when Jerry Manuel can’t get the cavalry to come out guns a-blazin’ in April and May of next year?

Turn back the clock to 1983. The Mets were in the middle of a rebuilding phase that would eventually result in the 1986 World Championship. They coaxed a former manager in their minor league system to come back to the organization and lead their AAA Tidewater Tides.

His name was Davey Johnson.

Johnson led the Tides to the AAA championship — much like he led his other minor league teams to championships. At the time, people considered him something of a loose cannon; a gruff, no-nonsense, old-school player’s manager with a hot temper. He eschewed authority and said what was on his mind, regardless of who he hurt as a result — even if it was himself. But there was one thing that separated this gunslinger from every other manager on the planet — he won everywhere he went.

Johnson knew how to motivate his squad, had a great eye for talent, an even better ability to make the most of the talent he was given, and earned a penchant for developing young players. One of his favorite soldiers was a like-minded, scrappy ballplayer named Wally Backman.

You know the story of Backman the player. You might know the story of Backman the manager. Though he’s found more notoriety for negative incidents, he’s proven himself at every level as a field general. Like Johnson, he’s won everywhere he’s been, with a room full of championship trophies — including one for Minor League Manager of the Year in 2004. He knows how to get the most out of his ballplayers — any of them will readily admit to running through the proverbial brick wall for him. As a minor league manager, he’s followed in the footsteps of his previous mentor and earned a rep for developing young ballplayers, teaching them the fundamentals and a winning approach to the game. The only reason he’s not managing in the big leagues today is because of an unfortunate combination of poor judgment, blackmail, and public relations sensitivity which we won’t get into here. The bottom line is this: Wally Backman wins, he has a strong tie to the last Mets’ World Championship, he develops young talent, and he’s exactly the right personality this organization needs right now.

It’s clear that Jerry Manuel will be the Mets manager on Opening Day in 2010, and that’s fine — the team isn’t likely to be playing “meaningful games in September” this time next year anyhow. A great move by the Mets would be to hire Backman as, say, the manager of the AAA Buffalo Bisons, or the AA Binghamton Mets, for the 2010 season. Somehow, some way, get him back into the organization. Put him in charge of one of your last-place minor league clubs and see what he can do — he just might surprise you. And if he does, you have a manager-in-waiting ready to take over the helm at the big league level when it’s time for Jerry Manuel to move on.

The Mets have nothing to lose by bringing Wally back into the fold — and everything to gain. The organization has suffered its worst campaign in terms of public relations in at least five years, and the fan base is losing hope. Hiring a beloved hero from the past — one with a strong personality, winning track record, and the no-bs, underdog persona that Mets supporters crave — would be the first step in showing the fans that there is hope: Mets do indeed have a plan, and steps in the right direction have begun. And if they’re serious about their commitment to youth, they’d do well to install a man who knows what to do with it.

The restructuring started with the removal of personnel that held the team back; it will continue with the hiring of new personnel — with new ideas and attitudes to push the team forward.

Check out the following two videos and decide for yourself whether the Mets organization can use someone like Wally to shape up the ship and reverse its farm system’s poor reputation.

Wally Backman on Aggressive Baseball

Wally Backman on Developing MLB Players

BTW – The videos are from “Playing for Peanuts” which aired briefly on SNY. Stay tuned for more great behind-the-scenes/deleted footage that show what kind of manager Wally is, because MetsToday firmly believes its time for a change in the Mets organization. It’s time to Bring Wally Back, Man!

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Mets Game 156: Win Over Marlins

Mets 4 Marlins 0

Payback’s a beach …

It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the Marlins’ extinguishing of the Mets’ playoff chances at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, but this game more or less put the kibosh on Florida’s shot at the Wild Card.

Patrick Misch used magic, voodoo, smoke, and mirrors to get through the first five frames, in which he allowed 11 baserunners — yet not one scored. After that, though, he set the Fish down in order, finishing his second MLB win, first shutout, and first complete game.

Meanwhile, the Mets scored four despite the absence of the cavalry — David Wright and Carlos Beltran both had the day off, and well, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes still aren’t back. So Jeff Francoeur picked up the slack, blasting his 14th homerun of the season (9th as a Met), and Anderson Hernandez of all people hitting a solo shot. Those two dingers and a sac fly by Josh Thole accounted for the day’s scoring.

Notes

Francoeur also reached over the rightfield wall to snare a fly ball off the bat of Chris Coghlan to prevent a homerun and preserve the shutout.

Wilson Valdez had three hits and played fine defense at shortstop.

Ronny Paulino drives me nuts; he might be one of the most athletic and skilled catchers in the National League, but his lapses in focus and bouts of laziness make him an enigma. He reminds me of Javier Lopez in a non-contract year.

The Marlins have so much good young pitching, but those youngsters can’t seem to put it together. I wonder if they would benefit from a veteran backstop like Pudge Rodriguez, or a different pitching coach / manager. There seems to be a lot of untapped potential on the Miami mound.

Next Mets Game

The Mets move on to Washington, DC to face the Nationals on Monday night. Nelson Figueroa faces Ross Detwiler in a 7:05 PM start.

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Mets Game 155: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 9 Mets 6

A ninth-inning rally closed the gap, but the game really wasn’t that close.

John Maine was OK through the first four frames, then the wheels came off in the fifth. By the time he exited, his line was: 4 2/3 IP, 7 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 3 K.

We’ll just go straight to the notes.

Notes

Jorge Cantu had another big game against the Mets — he went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles, 2 runs scored, and an RBI. The double in the fifth opened up the floodgates. His average is only .270 vs. the Mets this year, but he seems to have huge games against them — to the point where his performances were so memorable, my wife thought he PLAYED for the Mets (in the past – she knows he’s not on the team now).

My wife also thinks MLB should use the mercy rule. Not the worst idea I’ve heard.

David Wright’s timing is all screwed up. And he admitted to thinking about that inside pitch. I’ve said it before here, and I’ll say it again: the biggest difference between the “modern” era and 25-30 years ago is not steroids as much as the zero-tolerance policy for inside pitches / hit batters. It doesn’t matter how strong you are — if you have one bit of fear, the pitcher has the advantage. Goose Gossage calls today’s game “home run derby” because hitters no longer are concerned about being hit by a pitch.

Sometimes Keith Hernandez says the darnedest things …. for example, in the midst of John Maine’s control issues in the bottom of the fourth, Keith quips, “I like the way John Maine is pitching” — in reference to his hitting Cody Ross with a pitch and proceeding to miss in and up on his next few pitches before hitting John Baker minutes later. Keith seemed to think that Maine was purposely throwing the ball inside, but the truth is that Maine had no clue where the ball was going, and was missing his target on nearly every pitch that inning. There’s nothing good about lack of command. Maine’s terrible mechanics make it very difficult for him to throw the ball anywhere other than up and in to RH hitters, as we’ve covered here on several occasions. (But don’t take it from me — watch his pitches, and count how many run in toward RHs / away from LHs.)

Speaking of illogical thought processes, Ron Darling mentioned that he spoke to Dan Warthen about Maine and asked if there was anything about Maine’s mechanics that would alert him as to whether he was hurting himself. Warthen told Darling that he has a “simple” method of: if he sees Maine’s ball tailing in to the RH hitter, then “he knows that there’s a problem with his arm slot”. Huh? Again, Maine’s usual mechanics cause his pitches to “naturally” ride in to the RH hitter — it has very little, if anything, to do with arm slot, and everything to do with the over-rotation of his hips. Furthermore, Maine’s physical problem is with his shoulder. A low arm slot would put more pressure on his elbow and actually take pressure OFF his shoulder. So again, I’m not getting the logic behind Warthen’s analytics.

Awesome doubletalk by Jerry Manuel during the postgame. David Lennon opened a question to him saying that Maine looked uncomfortable and asked if he was physically OK. Manuel responded that Maine’s “healthy, physically fine”, then closed the answer mentioning “a dead arm” and saying “with Maine health is a big issue”.

The Mets were sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. And they’ve been so, since Opening Day — as Bobby Ojeda also stated during the postgame. I stand behind my belief that the awful fundies would have done in the Mets regardless of the injuries. Under Jerry Manuel, the Mets play bad baseball — it matters not who is on the field.

Ojeda WENT OFF on the Mets’ lack of fundamentals all year. At one point he said, “all this talk about the return of the cavalry, blah blah blah — it doesn’t matter!”. I love you, Bobby.

Ojeda was also convinced that Maine was having a physical issue on this evening. This may have been Ojeda’s best postgame ever.

Two BIG mistakes by David Wright in the fifth inning, on the same play. With two outs and Wright on second base, Jeff Francoeur hit a liner to the outfield. Wright held up at first — apparently, he did not know there were two outs or he would’ve been sprinting at the crack of the bat. Then, he slowed down to a brisk jog about 20 feet before he reached home plate — and Francoeur was tagged out at second base moments before Wright touched the plate. Therefore, the run did not count. In that situation, the manager has to pull the player from the game — I don’t care if it’s David Wright or Babe Ruth.

And as long as we’re talking about poor fundamentals, Omir Santos allowed two balls to get “through the wickets” for wild pitches. In both cases, he was trying to “field” the ball with his glove up off the ground. Young catchers, pay attention: you always, always get the glove on the ground FIRST, and leave it there, and block the ball with your body. In addition, when your knees go down, your feet should go IN together and touch each other behind you. This way, if the ball does get under your glove / through your legs, it will be stopped by your feet and not roll to the backstop. I have seen very few MLB catchers execute this proper technique — mainly because it’s not taught at any level. (But if you live in the NY-Metro area you can learn from me!)

Next Mets Game

The final game of the series begins at 1:10 PM on Sunday afternoon. Pat Misch pitches against Josh Johnson.

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Mets Claim Jack Egbert

jack-egbert1In a surprise move to bolster their pitching staff, the Mets have claimed Jack Egbert off waivers from the Chicago White Sox and added him to their 40-man roster.

I say “surprise” because it’s rare to see a roster move this late in the season.

To make room for Egbert, the Mets moved Fernando Martinez to the 60-day disabled list, as he had his visa stolen and cannot return to the US continues to recover from surgery on his right knee.

Normally, a 26-year-old pitcher with a 5.05 ERA in AAA wouldn’t excite me, but Egbert is a Rutgers grad, Rutherford, NJ resident, and was born in Staten Island. And you know what? I generally like rooting for the local guys. Who knows, I might run into Egbert at the Colonial Diner one morning, and that would be kool (and the gang).

Egbert dominated A and AA ball but has had trouble with AAA. His stuff is ordinary — a sinking fastball that sits around 88-90 MPH and a plus change-up are his main pitches, and he also throws a decent curveball for strikes. His main attributes are durability, control, and ground balls. At best he’s a #5 starter in MLB, but his poor 2009 showing sent his stock in a downward spiral. In short, he’s another Lance Broadway.

I’m fond of this pickup — partially because he’s a local kid and mainly because the Mets are finally adding AAA-level pitchers with a possible future to their AAA squad. Egbert may never make it to MLB with the Mets but at least he has some youth. For years we’ve seen too many has-beens and never-wases stocked in Buffalo and New Orleans — guys who were on the wrong side of 30 and just hanging around (i.e., Adam Pettyjohn, Kyle Snyder, Jose Santiago, Nate Field, Brandon Knight, Brian Lawrence, etc.). This year, Buffalo had nothing more than filler material packing their roster, and it bit the Major League club in the butt when all the injuries occurred. Egbert may have been a disappointment this year but he’s still young enough to make a rebound. In contrast, the Jose Santiagos and Brandon Knights of the world have established themselves as career minor leaguers after, well, spending their career in the minors.

I’d rather not know what I have in hopes that it might be better than I think, than know what I have and be sure it’s not up to MLB snuff.

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