Browsing Archive September, 2010

Mets Game 149: Loss to Braves

Braves 4 Mets 2

So much for playing the role of spoiler.

Well, now that I think about it … they are acting as spoilers for the Phillies, in that they are giving the Braves a chance to gain ground on the NL East leaders.

Game Notes

The Mets wasted another strong effort by rookie Dillon Gee, who went 7 strong innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks, striking out 3 and expending 95 pitches (60 for strikes). He has been impressive in all three of his big league starts, but before we get too excited and pencil him into the 2011 rotation, remember that both Pat Misch and Nelson Figueroa were similarly effective last September, and neither were on the Opening Day roster. Though, next year Gee won’t have to compete with immortal figures such as Oliver Perez and John Maine, so he may have a fair shot.

Strange fact: Gee has allowed only 13 hits in his 3 MLB starts, but 6 were for extra bases (one homerun and five doubles).

In one-third of an inning of relief to start the ninth inning, Bobby Parnell was awful, allowing 2 hits, including a solo homer by the reincarnation of Nate McLouth. I’m guessing this was some kind of a test, to see how he would handle a high-leverage, late-inning situation, since the Mets were only down by one; many managers would use their closer in such a spot. If it was a test, he failed — miserably. On the bright side, there are 13 more opportunities for another quiz.

On offense, Angel Pagan and Jose Reyes both went 2-for-4 from the top of the lineup, with Reyes hitting his 11th homer of the year and Pagan stealing his 35th base. However, the rest of the order managed only 3 hits against Tim Hudson and the Braves bullpen — one of which was a solo homer by Luis Hernandez, who did so on a broken foot. Hernandez fouled a pitch off his foot prior to sending a shot over the wall, and limped around the bases in excruciating pain.

David Wright stole his 19th base but went 0-for-3. He’s hitting .283 at the moment and his OBP has dropped to a startlingly low (for him) .358 — he should be at .390+. I’m faulting his big-swing approach, which has also resulted in an unimpressive 23 homers through exactly 600 plate appearances. At age 27, he should be entering his prime years, not trending downward. But we can’t put any blame on his mentor Howard Johnson (even if we gave HoJo credit for D-Wright’s good years). It’s not HoJo’s fault that Wright hasn’t had consistent protection hitting behind him this year. Hmm … is that really a plausible explanation?

With this loss, the Mets guaranteed that the Braves would have winning record vs. the Mets for the 2010 season. This has been the case every year since 1998, except for 2006.

Next Mets Game

The final game of this series starts at 1:10 PM on Sunday afternoon. R.A. Dickey faces Derek Lowe.


Off Topic: Congrats to Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly and Joe Janish enjoying clam chowder on the Cape

Since the Mets are barely interesting, and will continue to be until at least early November — when the World Series is over and MLB teams are allowed to make announcements again — we will mix in “Off Topic” posts here to provide more engaging content than what we’re getting from the Flushing Futiles.

That said, I want to publicly congratulate a man I worked for a few years ago: Don Mattingly. The Dodgers have announced that “Donnie Baseball” will be their manager after Joe Torre steps down at the end of this season.

From my experience working with him and his company Mattingly Hitting Products, I can tell you firsthand he is in real life the same person he appears to be publicly — a hard working, down to earth, intelligent, open-minded, all-around great guy with a positive, winning attitude and personality that make people want to follow him. At the same time he is completely comfortable in his own skin, and makes you feel comfortable in his presence — i.e., a guy with whom you can sit down and talk baseball for hours on end and forget that you are chatting with an icon whose plaque is in Yankee Stadium’s Memorial Park.

Will Mattingly be a great manager? We may have an idea around this time next year. Already there are people concerned with his lack of managerial experience, but the man he’s replacing — Joe Torre — had neither managing nor coaching exprience when he began his career in the dugout with the Mets, so who’s to say if it matters?

Whatever happens, I wish him the best of luck, and will quietly root for him — except when the Dodgers play the Mets.


Game 148: Loss to Braves

Braves 6 Mets 4

After playing 4 games in Class C against Pittsburgh, the Mets were quickly reminded that Major League teams make few mistakes and usually have to be beaten; the better ones don’t beat themselves senselessly at every opportunity.

Ironically, it was a 21-year-old kid (Jason Heyward) who delivered the fatal blow — when usually you see kids that age down in the C level, not in the bigs. The times they are a’changin.

Heck, if it weren’t for seeing the Pirates play with my own eyes, I might believe the rumors that Class C no longer exists.

But I digress …

The Mets lost to the Braves. It was not a surprise.

Game Notes

Jonathon Niese was given a 3-zip lead early, but gave it up thanks to a 6-run fourth by the Bravos. Thanks to a David Wright error, all six runs were unearned, but that does not excuse Niese’s poor pitching.

Yes, Wright made an error (though, Ruben Tejada didn’t help David’s poor throw). But Niese followed that with several “errors” of his own — most notably, a two-out walk to opposing pitcher Tommy Hanson. Niese struggled with his command throughout his 91-pitch, 4-inning outing. As we’ve noted many times before, Niese — like many pitchers — over-rotates during the leg lift, which results in opening up the front side too early. A pitcher can get away with that if his throwing arm speed is quick enough to get to a good release point before the opposite arm pulls the body too far away from that point. It’s not safe for the throwing shoulder, but it’s possible to throw strikes. However, the timing has to be perfect; if some body part is off by a tenth of a second, the release point will change. With Niese, it appears that his arm speed was too slow — maybe the result of an unprecedented workload this year. It was just slow enough to keep it lagging behind as that front side opened prematurely, and as a result many of his pitches were up and away to the righthanded batters. In an effort to over-compensate for that issue, he was holding on to the ball too long when throwing inside to RHs, resulting in balls too far inside and off the plate. Two things exacerbated this issue: his side-to-side momentum (from first base to third base) and overuse of the slider / cutter. His slider / cutter was flat, with mostly sideways movement and no downward bite.

These issues are very common with all pitchers at all levels, including MLB. Bad mechanics are the rule, rather than the exception, mainly because pro coaches have not been exposed to the silly thoughts expressed by that British guy Newton back in the 17th century. What the heck would that guy know about baseball anyway? Nelson Doubleday wasn’t even born until over 100 years later!

Speaking of bad mechanics, my arm hurts just watching Tommy Hanson. I keep waiting for his arm to follow the baseball to the catcher’s glove on every pitch. He stands completely upright and thus puts all of the pressure of deceleration on his shoulder. Unless he is a freak of nature, that shoulder will give out within the next few years. The sad thing is that he’s using very little of the advantage his 6’6″ height affords him; he could be getting the same or better velocity and less strain on the arm if he’d been taught to fall forward or “drop and drive”. But, you never know; Don Drysdale’s mechanics were scary in a different way, and he threw 250-320 innings a year for ten years before his arm gave out.

Lucas Duda appears to be the woken giant. He went 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI — including his first MLB homer.

The Mets as a team collected 6 hits, and only one after the fourth inning. That one hit was a pinch-hit double by Nick Evans in the 7th. Keep on, keeping on, Nick.

Josh Thole struggled a bit catching the baseball in this game, for whatever reason — maybe because Niese’s command was off. He was boxing the ball frequently, moving around more than I’d like to see, and should’ve been charged with a passed ball that the official scorer ruled a wild pitch. He’s much improved over last year but he’s still too herky-jerky behind the plate; generally a catcher should be more “quiet” back there. It doesn’t help his cause nor development that just about all Mets pitchers have struggled with command this year (not unlike last year, and the year before).

Bobby Cox was thrown out of the game in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes. Again, not a surprise.

Brian McCann showed up to the game with a few shiners and scratches around his right eye. He claims it was the result of falling in his pool. Yeah right. In my day we called it “slipping in the shower”. Whatever one wants to term it, it likely has little or nothing to do with water.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Braves meet again on Saturday afternoon at 4:10 PM, which means we have the pleasure of watching this one on FOX (unless you are one of the few thousand heading out to the Field at Shea Bridge). Dillon Gee faces Tim Hudson.


Mets Game 147: Win Over Pirates

Mets Pirates

If the Mets played the Pirates all the time, they’d have clinched the pennant by now.

OK, that’s a little silly … but imagine how the season might have gone if only the Mets played the Pirates in a 15-game series right after the All-Star exhibition?

Back to reality: the Mets swept the Pirates in a four-game series for the first time since June, 1997, and improved their record to 73-72. That’s one game over .500, folks … woo hoo !

Game Notes

I want to be excited about a four-game sweep — I really do. But this Pirates team is so awful, it’s hard to be happy. Jerry Manuel talked about the Mets “playing good baseball” but it’s mostly nonsense — the Pirates beat themselves in all four contests. Beat the crap out of themselves, in fact. We now know why the Bucs have won only 15 games on the road this year. FIFTEEN. Dear lord.

Mike Pelfrey won his 15th game of the year after allowing only 2 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks in 7 innings and 111 pitches; he struck out 4. He also knocked in the winning run with a single, driving home Lucas Duda.

Speaking of Duda, he broke out of his 1-for-33 slump by going 2-for-4 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and that run scored. The Camptown ladies sing this song …

Angel Pagan also had a big day, going 3-for-5 with his 30th double, a run, and 2 RBI. He also stole his 34th base and made a spectacular, sliding, diving catch in centerfield to rob John Bowker of an extra-base hit and double-up Pedro Alvarez in the fourth. Had he not caught that ball, Pelfrey might not have made it out of the inning and I’d be writing a much different post.

Chris Carter had a pinch-hit, which wasn’t a big deal on its own, but it was his birthday. So, happy birthday, Animal!

I can see why the Braves gave up on Charlie Morton despite a 95+ MPH fastball, and why Morton is 1-12 with an ERA so high it can’t legally be published here. His mechanics are inconsistent and a disaster, leading to release points that are all over the map. Watching his delivery was similar to watching the lightning striking outside my window before the game — dangerous, all over the place, and occasionally followed by a loud “crack”.

Next Mets Game

The Mets return to Major League play on Friday, hosting the Braves at the Field at Shea Bridge. Jonathon Niese faces Tommy Hanson. Game time is 7:10 PM.


Will the Manager Be the Big Acquisition?

Ken Davidoff reports that the Mets are already discussing names for various leadership roles, including the on-field manager:

It doesn’t sound as though Bobby V. is the favorite, however. The Mets will be hesitant to pay Valentine the “star manager” money (think about $3 million annually) that he deserves, and although Valentine and the Wilpons have maintained good relations the past eight years, there might be hesitance to re-enter into a working agreement.

Nevertheless, given that public relations and ticket sales will factor heavily into this decision – there are no new star players coming through that door, so the manager will be it – we can’t discount Valentine II.

Davidoff also suggests that Omar Minaya will be replaced by another GM, but I don’t know how much a General Manager directly affects ticket sales — the average fan (i.e., those that don’t read Mets blogs every day) tends to have more of a connection to the manager in the dugout than the one in the front office.

One must wonder if the hiring of the next Mets manager will be the “big” acquisition of the offseason.

Every winter the Mets make a big splash of some sort to improve the club generate ticket sales. For 2005 it was Pedro Martinez / Carlos Beltran; 2006 it was Carlos Delgado / Billy Wagner; 2007 was Moises Alou; 2008, Johan Santana; 2009, K-Rod / Putz; 2010, Jason Bay. Considering that the Mets are unlikely to shell out the money for a huge free-agent such as Cliff Lee, and don’t have the trading chips to acquire a similarly big name, their “big splash” could well be the naming of a new manager.

Ironically, Davidoff could be right when he states that Bobby Valentine’s salary could be too rich for the Wilpons’ taste. It’s funny that the owners wouldn’t blink at approving $36M for Oliver Perez or $25M for Luis Castillo, yet have serious reservations about spending $3M on Bobby Valentine. Makes one wonder.

But three million dollars for a manager beloved by fans is a heckuva lot less than $85-$100M+ for a 32-year-old pitcher whose presence may have less impact on putting fannies in the seats. This point is especially important when you consider that on his own, Cliff Lee is unlikely to be the “last piece” of the puzzle that sends the Mets into the postseason. The Mets have several issues to address — the health of Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran, the closer role, Jason Bay’s return to form, for example — and one big-name player can’t fix them all. However, a new manager with a track record of success in Flushing and ability to entertain the press will give the franchise a new face to look at, and promote the image of good things to come. Even if the Mets struggle through another losing record in 2011, the combination of new leadership in the dugout and home-grown youngsters on the field will be enough to sell tickets through 2012. Who knows it might even result in a playoff appearance by 2013.

From a business perspective, making a manager the “big” acquisition makes good sense — it’s a low-risk, low-cost proposition that is likely to result in positive returns. We’ll soon see if that’s the “splash” the Mets make this winter.


Mets Game 146: Win Over Pirates

Mets 8 Pirates 7

Thankfully, there weren’t too many impressionable kids in the stands, and hopefully, there weren’t too many aspiring youngsters watching the game on TV — because the Mets and Pirates put on a clinic on how NOT to play baseball.

In the end, the Mets were less terrible than the Pirates, and wound up with more runs than the visitors at the conclusion of the contest. And “contest” is a pretty suitable word, as the “winner” seemed to have won a sweepstakes contest rather than earned a game victory.

Unfortunately, not only was this a three-hour disgrace to professional baseball, but Jenrry Mejia left the game in the third inning with pain in the back of his shoulder.

Game Notes

Maybe I’m being a bit tough on these two teams, but if you saw the third and fourth frames, you’d feel similarly. The Mets played like an A ball club, making errors, displaying poor fundamentals, and Raul Valdes serving up BP fastballs. But the Pirates were even worse, looking like a bad high school JV team, as they handed the Mets 7 runs in the bottom half of the fourth via a multitude of physical and mental errors and just plain bad baseball.

Fittingly, the top Mets minor leaguers were honored in a postgame ceremony.

The boxscore reported an attendance of 29,000. There is absolutely no way there were that many people at the game. I’d be surprised if there were half that many, in reality. The promenade level was almost completely empty, and the lower levels were sparse.

Of the 15 combined runs scored in this game, 9 were earned. Only 3 errors were listed by the official scorer, but there were at least three times as many mental errors and pull-your-hair-out displays of poor execution.

After the game, the Mets reported that Jenrry Mejia suffered an “acute strain” in the back of his shoulder and will receive an MRI right away. You have to wonder why Mejia — who is more or less the crown jewel of the farm system — wasn’t shut down after his injury in late June. Oh, because Omar Minaya still needed reasons to save his job, such as proving his ability to build a minor league system that could produce MLBers. I don’t care if the MRI shows nothing wrong — the Mets absolutely, positively must shut down Mejia for the remainder of the year if they care one bit about his future.

By the way, I stick to my belief that Mejia’s mechanics are flawed and dangerous. The illogical decisions to make Mejia a reliever then back to a starter likely accelerated the inevitable injury.

Next Mets Game

Thanks to the fact they are playing perhaps the worst team in baseball right now, the Mets have a valid shot at being over .500 by Thursday night. If the rain holds up, Mike Pelfrey faces Charlie Morton, who has a 1-11 record and a 9.05 ERA — numbers that hark us back to fond memories of the late Jose Lima.


Mets Game 145: Win Over Pirates

Mets 9 Pirates 1

R.A. Dickey continued the feel-good story of the year, cruising to his eleventh win of the season and enjoying an abnormally ample attack from the Mets’ offense: 9 runs on 14 hits, including 5 for extra bases.

Game Notes

Dickey pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run on 5 hits and 3 walks, striking out 4 and flipping 127 pitches (82 strikes). Either Dickey is for real or he’s a modern-day Joe Hardy. Either way, let’s hope he keeps this level of performance in 2011.

So many positives, it’s hard to spotlight just one or two. Let’s center on Ruben Tejada, who was 3-for-4 with 2 runs scored and came within a few feet of swatting his second career home run. He is red-hot, which means Jerry Manuel will likely be sitting him the rest of the week.

Another feel-good story: Nick Evans, who followed up his game-winning hit the other night with a 2-for-4 day including his first MLB homer of 2010 — a tremendous blast over the centerfield fence.

Carlos Beltran also homered, and doubled, and drove in three. Angel Pagan broke out of his slump with three hits including a double and also drove in three. Jose Reyes was 2-for-4 with 3 runs and an RBI.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Pirates play again on Wednesday night at 7:10 PM. Jenrry Mejia goes against Pat Maholm.


Can Teufel Toughen the Mets?

Tim Teufel gives Rob Dibble a pounding on July 8, 1989

Tim Teufel gives Rob Dibble a pounding on July 8, 1989

The Mets have hinted at hiring their next manager from within; at the same time, many believe that the person will have ties to previous success in a Mets uniform.

At least one individual fits both requirements: Tim Teufel.

Those old enough remember Teufel as the choir boy of the rough-and-tumble ’86 Mets — save for one unfortunate night outside a Houston night club. Though that one night was an off-the-field anomaly for the normally well-behaved Teufel, the second baseman did fit in with his teammates on the field as a hard-nosed, gritty ballplayer who took s%&t from no one.

But don’t take that from me — just ask the 6’4″, 230-lb. (in his playing days) fireballing Rob Dibble, who had his face rearranged by the 6′, 175-lb. Teufel after plunking Tim in the back.

Of course, being feisty is not the only characteristic needed to be a successful Major League manager — it helps if you can manage a team to victory as well. But I bring up the gritty side of Teufel because some feel that such a personality is necessary to “toughen” what many believe is a “soft” Mets team.

Looking at the rest of Teufel’s resume, it’s hard to say whether he’s ready to take the reigns as a big-league manager. His first year managing a pro team was an undeniable success, as he led the Brooklyn Cyclones to a 75-47 record and division title in 2003. After that, though, none of Teufel’s teams have finished with a winning record; over his career as a manager his teams are 337-412 (.450), managing mostly at the A level.

Granted, the talent of those teams may not have been up to snuff. But as with Ken Oberkfell, you can’t glaze over consistent losing when considering someone for a Major League managing job. I was a huge Tim Teufel fan from his rookie year with the Minnesota Twins, and thoroughly enjoyed watching him in the orange and blue — he was one of my favorite all-time Mets. If he was named as their next manager, I’d be happy to see him in the uniform again, I’d root for him, and I wouldn’t criticize the decision, but I’d be skeptical. My feeling is that this team needs a huge change in at least one if not all of the leadership roles, and a Teufel hiring on its own wouldn’t be enough to change my lack of faith in the organization. However, if Teufel were part of several moves aimed at changing the face of the franchise, I’d probably feel better about him in the dugout.

What’s your thought? Why or why wouldn’t you support the hiring of Tim Teufel as manager in 2011?