For the fan in enemy territory

New York Fan in South Jersey Daily Headlines

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mets position battles can help youngsters


One week into spring training, and one thing is beginning to become apparent. The New York Mets are developing a log jam at several positions. First, the much unheralded, well documented off season sported multiple catcher signings. Most fans, by now, are well aware of the many catchers that the team signed and tried to sign.

They are all competing for probably only two spots on the major league roster. Omir Santos, Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Josh Thole, Chris Coste and Shawn Riggans constitute the current list. That's six players, again, competing for probably only two spots. This is the definition of a log jam. They spent the money on Barajas, so he will be in the majors.

Blanco and Santos are the main competitors for the backup spot behind the plate. It doesn't appear there will be three catchers, so from those two players, probably will emerge the backup, given injuries. Coste and Riggans will be only competing for what level of the minors they will be placed in.

Thole is the future, but he needs seasoning, so he will stay in the minors for another year. It's an important decision between the other catchers as to who will understudy Thole and help groom him. Barajas will be the bridge for this franchise before Thole takes over regularly.

Then as the off season was winding down, the team created a slight problem again by stock piling outfielders. There are three starting spots and probably only two reserves. The leading names involved in that, are Jeff Francoeur, Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Gary Matthews Jr, Nick Evans and Fernando Martinez. There are a few others, but not anyone else with a realistic chance at making the majors. That's seven players for four or five spots.

It was rumored earlier in the week, that the Cincinnati Reds were interested possibly in a trade for Matthews, but they adamantly denied it. However, in just today's Mets radio broadcast, the announcers were still referring to it being a possibility. Do they know something that we do not?

When Beltran comes back, if Beltran comes back healthy, he will bump someone out of position.
It will not be Bay or Francoeur. It will be Pagan or Matthews. If Matthews gets traded for a pitcher, then it becomes clearer that Martinez may be the only odd man out. However, as the log jam occurs and Manuel is looking for a spark, a good spring could lead to a roster spot for Martinez over Pagan. Evans will probably need more time in the minors to work on his fielding. I do not expect him to be a factor this season. This is barring injuries.

They feel that last season helped Martinez to get a taste of the majors. In the following years, it will be a tremendous learning experience that he can look back to in order to draw from. Make no mistake about it, the franchise still sees him as a major league outfielder, just not this year, again, barring another injury.

Now, as spring training is unfolding, it would appear that the same scenario is occurring at first base. The players in the jam at first are Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Fernando Tatis and Mike Jacobs. That's four players for probably two spots as well. Perhaps, one of those players will make the roster as a backup for another position, but don't expect that to be Murphy or Davis.

Many reports have also claimed Frank Catalanoto may be in the mix there somewhere because Jerry Manuel likes him. Catalanoto plays multiple positions, but at this stage of his career it is unknown just how much of a contribution he can provide off of the bench. Still, with last season still fresh in the collective minds of the franchise, a utility infielder who can play the outfield too, would put him at an advantage.

Tatis will be on the roster, probably as a backup for third but will play first primarily this year. Ike Davis has had a brilliant spring thus far. He has hit extremely well and has the baseball sense that comes with the pedigree from being the son of a former major league pitcher. He does, however need grooming. Expect him to be in the majors later this year, but not in the beginning.

For now, Murphy will probably win the starting job with Jacobs staying on the roster for a very important reason. He has more power. He has the type of power off of the bench that can be feared. They need that in the lineup, he is a great DH option for later in the season. He also can be an emergency backup catcher. That too is important. Keep in mind, given last season, the team has made it no secret that it is now going forward as if they are preparing for injuries.

This is the type of mentality that will hold a team back. Personally, I believe Jacobs would be a terrific asset to the lineup, but Murphy is one of Manuel's guys. He's not going anywhere. With all of this in mind, the Mets have a very bright future. The depth of talent is extraordinary.

They didn't have enough depth last season, but they did fix that this off season, which was a main goal. For that, we have to applaud Omar Minaya. The outlook next season, at this time, could include, Davis, Martinez, Evans and even Ruben Tejada in the lineup in Queens and being very productive along with Bay and Wright. Wouldn't that make the Mets amazing again?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Reyes of hope may be fleeting


This has been a difficult week for the New York Mets. In particularly, it has been especially difficult for one Jose Reyes. Your heart really has to go out to him. At the beginning of the week, reports had surfaced about a connection he had to Dr. Galea in Toronto. Galea is under investigation for using illegal substances to treat clients in rehabbing injuries.

Then, it is revealed, that Reyes was only questioned in the investigation because teammate Carlos Beltran had tipped them to Reyes. He then, has the only bright spot of his week in the form of a triple in his first game.

This is followed by days of being penciled into the lineup only to be scratched before game time for medical reasons and was sent back to New York for further evaluation. Those medical reasons were revealed today and the news may not be very good. Jose Reyes has, by his own admission, an overactive thyroid.

The condition can be easily treated and could just be another weird health issue in a long list of strange issues for this ball club. However, this may be an unpredictable condition when translating to sports. All sarcasm aside, this could potentially become a horrible break for the team and even more bruising to a young player entering his prime. Unfortunately, if this becomes more serious, it could become a major factor in his ability to play everyday.

The condition has several symptoms and side effects. Among the many, are fatigue, lack of concentration, weakness and nausea. These are all symptoms that are in and of themselves, not horrible, and certainly not insurmountable. However, combined, they can be damaging to a ballplayer.

If caught early and with the proper treatment, Reyes will be just fine. Let's hope and pray for that. Not just for the triviality of the Mets future or their season, but much more importantly, for Reyes. This is one of those incidents where the story of a person and their ailments must transcend the sport. This is not a question of a few weeks, as is initially being reported, but could be a factor for his career if he is unable to properly adjust to it.

If not treated correctly or in a timely manner by this medical staff, the condition could worsen. Of course, this is the same medical staff that had declared J.J. Putz fit without an examination, so we can hope. For right now, the ineptitude of the current medical staff is not the story, but Reyes is. How he adjusts to the treatment will be the key.

He is a bright spot with a wonderful future if he can be completely healthy from this. Only time will tell, but there most definitely will be an adjustment period if it doesn't entirely go away. Let us all hope that it does. If not, then the league will not be the same. If this leads to nagging health issues that effect playing time and performance, that would be most unfortunate. It would lead to a more unstable league and cause us all to miss out on the sensation that is Jose Reyes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jones is Chipper about the Mets


This time of year brings out many mind boggling stories. There is one in particular that has caught the attention of the fan base of the New York Mets that is extra disturbing. The Mets have a new fan. Larry Jones. You may have heard of him. He goes by the name Chipper. That is correct, Chipper Jones likes the Mets this year.

The same Chipper Jones who had repeatedly bashed the Mets in years past and repeatedly slammed their new home last season. Does anyone else find this as disgusting as I do? I'm sure he was just trying to pay the team a compliment. I'm sure, especially now that his best friend, Jeff Francoeur is a Met, he wants to be on their good side.

This is an impossibility. He can never be on their good side. At least not in the minds of the collective fan base. He can not be allowed to be in the good graces of that fan base or the team, for that matter, if the team cares about their fans. This is a man that has hurt the Mets and their fans for many years in all kinds of ways.

How many big hits has he had against this team in this city? Too many. Now he wants to pay them a compliment. I completely understand the attempt. I can understand someone giving their main competition a compliment and scouting them at the same time. I can even understand him not wanting to create further bad blood now that he has friends in that organization.

What I can't understand is why he feels the need to even talk about the Mets in the first place? He is solely more responsible for many tears and yelled curses in Queens over the past several years, than any other player.

We could mention any Phillies player or Marlins player. We can even talk about the Yankees. Let's not though, I really don't want to remember the pain right now. I'd rather draw a bath and light some candles before I do that, just so I get in the mood.

Chipper Jones is a major reason that the Mets haven't had as many playoff appearances as they should have. He is also a major reason that the Mets have not gone as deep into the playoffs as possible. In a word, he is the devil. The devil loves the Mets chances. We are officially entering the armeggedon. The Mets and Braves are friendly, the world is coming to an end. Where's chicken little when you need him?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beltran, Castillo go against the family


In the midst of the New York Mets kicking off their preseason slate of games in Florida, come two different and eyebrow raising stories. The first, and probably the biggest, involves Carlos Beltran. This time it's not about surgery, but it is about his injuries. By now it is common knowledge to the Mets fan, that federal investigators questioned Jose Reyes over the past weekend.

These questions were centered around his visits to a Dr. Galea in Toronto. Dr. Galea is under investigation for treating several players of all sports with performance enhancement drugs to help in the healing of injuries. Among the long list of athletes that Galea has treated are Reyes, Tiger Woods and Dana Torres. What was not known, until yesterday, is that Beltran was the person who told them to question Reyes.

Beltran's response to the investigation was "I have nothing to worry (about), nothing to hide," Beltran said. "I just went there for an opinion for my knee."

Beltran went to Canada to treat his injuries last season and was feeling better until digressing early this off season. He is currently recuperating from late off season surgery and plans to rejoin the team at some point this season.

The worse part of this story may not be Reyes or Beltran being investigated. Believe it or not, the worst part of this story may be Beltran giving Reyes up to the feds for questioning in the first place. In the words of Don Corleone "never take sides against the family". They are teammates and have been for several years. There is a friendship built through the years that exists on the premise of trust.

I understand that it is the government, and it is an investigation of fraud and cheating, but this is still giving up a teammate. Did Beltran do the right thing here? Did he have to tell them to talk to Reyes or could he have just answered the questions and kept quiet. Is this breaking the locker room codes in some way? Only time will tell as more details are revealed, but opinions will continue to be formed all over the city until the all of the truth is told. Then we will know what should and shouldn't have been said.

On to a similarly themed story. It was also written early this week that Luis Castillo had spent the off season at home in the Dominican Republic. What he did, however, was the controversial part of the story. He trained with a fellow Dominican, named Emilio Bonifacio. Which is not an abnormality. This type of thing happens all of the time.

The trouble is Bonifacio plays not only for a team in the same league, but the same division. He is the leadoff hitter for the Florida Marlins, a division rival, who has had it out for the Mets since 2007 when they felt the Mets players were showboating too much. He is a young, explosive player with massive potential and if taken under the right wing, could be a dangerous player against division foes, like the Mets.

Perhaps, this is an innocent scenario, but what if they shared insider secrets. What if they tipped each other off to opposing pitchers and things of that nature. This may not be the case, and let's hope not, but what if it is? Players always train with those on opposing teams in all sports, but baseball is a different type of sport.

Athletes can't share too many damaging tips in most other sports. Perhaps football comes close, but baseball is all about reading pitchers and body language. I don't believe I've heard of rival players training together before this. I've heard players from other teams that aren't rivals training together, but not rivals.

Would Jerry Rice have trained with a Dallas Cowboy? No. Would Phil Simms thrown passes to Art Monk in the off season? Never. There must be respect for competition and the teammates you currently have. Is this a slight against his fellow Mets? Is this a slight for Bonifacio to his Marlins teammates? Maybe not, but this is a sure sign that the competitive fires don't burn as hot as they used to in sports. That may be a problem.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mets calling on Adrian


The biggest news coming out of New York Mets camp today isn't the game against the Atlanta Braves or the triple by Jose Reyes. According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, the Mets have reached out to the San Diego Padres for a possible trade involving all star slugger Adrian Gonzalez.

This is an aggressive move. Besides not really having the players in the system that would move a player of that magnitude, it also tells a bigger story. The Mets have proclaimed all off season that they were comfortable with Daniel Murphy, even after traveling to scout Carlos Delgado and signing Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis.

They have Ike Davis in the wings. Perhaps they are discussing moving him and one of their younger pitchers not named Mejia. It is a good sign that they are on the offensive, for a change, however they are asking for the impossible. They do not have the type of talent in the minors for this. They do not have the type of talent in the majors for this, short of the core group.

This conversation between the teams is a good start. It is an important step in the process. Perhaps, they can catch San Diego in desperation and add a tremendous bat. So far, it is just a rumor, but rumors lead to news.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Major League and the Mets





If you grew up in the late eighties and early nineties, you remember the movies Major League (1989) and its sequel Major League 2 (1994). It was centered around a ragtag group of no name, little talent athletes playing for the Cleveland Indians. The team concept swept through the clubhouse when it was revealed that their first season would be their last. The team unity and drive helped them overcome enormous obstacles and win their division with hilarity ensuing along the way.

We have had our own ragtag crew over the years right here in Queens, New York. They are known more commonly as the New York Mets. I believe it's time to recognize our 'Major League' characters. Let's introduce them, shall we? First, leading off Willie Mays Hayes, better known as Roger Cedeno, and as his understudy, Jose Reyes lately. I chose Cedeno, because his career with the Mets had injuries and highlights. It was short lived. He was always dealing with something. Last season, Jose Reyes has become a closer version of Willie Hayes, as he too has been hurt. In the words of Ricky Vaughn, "That limp is the best acting you've done all season".

Next up, Mike Piazza as the wily veteran Jake Taylor. I know Piazza's numbers would crush Taylor's head to head, but keep in mind, Taylor was always hurt and playing through the pain while being the standout leader. That is Mike Piazza in a nutshell. He was the leader and he always played through pain, so much so that he tried to change positions, just to stay in the lineup longer. At second base, we have Roger Dorn, played by Luis Castillo. This is probably the best fit, because neither one had any range in the field or pop in the bat.

Tsuyoshi Shinjo will be playing the part of the fan favorite "kamikaze"Tanaka. Shinjo was solid in the field, but not much power in the bat, his effort made him a favorite. As, Rube Baker, we have Paul Loduca. He, like Baker, couldn't thrown anybody out, but had the heart you want in a player. Last, but not least for the lineup, is Pedro Cerrano. The Cuban crusher with a bad attitude will be played by Carlos Delgado. Why? It's simple, my friends. Since Delgado has lost all of his range, he is most likely the most eligible to pray to Jabu for a job.

Moving on to the pitching. The over the hill, crafty veteran who is in love with Jesus, Eddie Harris will be played by Al Leiter. I chose Leiter in a narrow vote over Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine. Leiter didn't have much heat and he used what he had to get batters out. The part of the young fire baller, who often gave up monster home runs, Ricky "Wild Thing' Vaughn will go to Braden Looper. Looper was a closer for the Mets, but found some success as a starter elsewhere. He could give up some moonshots, but at times could get the job done.

I'm sure those reading may have their own list and may completely disagree with mine. That's okay. It's not the point. The reason I bring up Major League is to show that the Mets are in the same position as the Cleveland Indians were before that movie came out. Between 1980 and 1994, the average season record for the Indians was 70 wins and 83 losses. That's with two strike shortened years thrown in. After that movie, they went into a up slide of success. It didn't happen immediately, but it happened. They made the playoffs a few times and even managed to make it to the World Series before blowing it.

Another example, the Anaheim Angels. They had several seasons of heartache and bad play after 1986. After the remake of 'Angels in the Outfield' came out, they made the playoffs a few years later and then won a World Series. Even the Chicago Cubs can brag success after 'Rookie of the Year'.

It is time for some of these New York celebrity fans to convince Hollywood to make a Mets movie. What's Kevin James doing now? He and Jerry Seinfeld are the biggest celebrity Mets fans in the world. Maybe they can get together. Is it a coincidence that the Mets collapsed the same season 'King of Queens' was canceled. I don't believe so. Come on Hollywood, pitch in. It's time for the Mets to shine on the big screen and hopefully then on the big stage too.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mets bullpen woes will help Beimel



As February comes to an end, we can take a look back at the present condition of the New York Mets after an interesting month. Upon examining the ball club closer, the Mets have the potential for a solid bullpen. However, just as the stadium is falling apart, so may that bullpen be as well. This is an area of the club that I have broken down previously, but there are several stories emerging that may cause another look.

First, the dynamic closer Francisco Rodriguez. He has pink eye and is quarantined from the rest of the team for the time being. It will heal, so as long as he doesn't spread it, this is not a concern.

Next, on the agenda, is Hisanori Takahashi. He is throwing impressive sessions down in Florida, which is fantastic news. The problem here is that his work visa hasn't come through yet, which is troubling news, but not the worst thing to hear.

Last week, it was reported that Kelvim Escobar has a 'weak arm'. It has been discussed how he could affect this bullpen due to his experience. Recent reports from New York Mets spring training, have stated that not only is his arm weak, but it is also behind schedule and will most likely cause him to miss the opening of the season. It is this recent development, that the Mets should be concerned with.

This announcement causes a stir in the franchise that will force the Mets brass to over spend to outbid another franchise searching for relief pitching. This announcement puts players like Joe Beimel in an advantageous position. He goes from demanding a job, to being in demand. He can now wait for the bidding war to be over.

Make no mistake, there will be a bidding war. The Cubs, among other teams who are getting injured players, are in need of bullpen help. That is why Beimel decided to wait, instead of jumping on an offer this late into the winter. He did the same last year and ended up with Washington.

This begs some important questions. Why? Why does the franchise have to get into this prediciment in the first place? Why would a franchise that has the type of revenue and the willingness to spend it, waste money on a injured pitcher that hasn't shown health in more than two years? This is a franchise that has just had possibly the worst injury season in the history of baseball, maybe sports. Then, they sign a pitcher who had credibility, but too many questions.

The answer may be harder to hear than most fans would like to admit. The reputation of the Mets is getting steadily worse. Perhaps, the free agents that are worth having, wouldn't return any of Omar Minaya's phone calls, until they are out of options. Is it possible that the franchise has sunk so low into embarrassment that players would rather sign with the Nationals than the Mets?

I seem to remember a few players, just this offseason that wanted to come to New York. Even they went elsewhere, either by lack of aggressiveness on the part of the Mets or by choice. The point is, there was a time when being a sports franchise in New York came along with a welcomed challenge that players wanted to embrace.

Now, they would rather play somewhere else. While there is nothing wrong with the Royals, Nationals, Marlins or Brewers, still they are not in New York. The fan base is far smaller and the teams do not have the type of revenue to consistently improve around those free agents just signed. I am not advocating for gloom and doom.

The truth is that there is enough depth in this organization to replace Escobar, without question. He may,also, come in late and be a real impact. There still is hope, that's what March is all about, hope. The reality is that the season hasn't even started yet, and the Mets have a pitcher they signed just for the purpose of strengthening the bullpen, whose injuries leave that same bullpen weaker. We've heard that word before haven't we?
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