For the fan in enemy territory

Saturday, April 24, 2010

After just a week, can Ike salvage the season?

It has been a week of vindication so far for the New York Mets. They began this week with an abysmal record of 4-8, after having only two wins in a six game road trip. When the present home stand opened, it did so with much fan fare for the eminent arrival of minor league standout, Ike Davis.

A questionable roster move given the particular circumstances he was thrown into. It came with many questioning the timing, myself included. With the team off to such a poor start, it seemed as if management were just grasping at straws to fill seats and save their jobs. Thus far, after a week that currently has them at 9-9, it just may have done that.

They have not only won their first series, against the Chicago Cubs by taking three out of four, but have already taken the first two games of a three game series against the division rival Atlanta Braves with one game still to play tomorrow. So, as they go for a possible sweep, let's put it in proper perspective. If they win or lose, they are still within a game of a .500 winning %, either one game over or one game under.

That is not too bad for a team who is missing their original cleanup hitter, Carlos Beltran until at least June and their original starting first baseman, Daniel Murphy for maybe the next few more weeks. The divisional opponents aren't looking too good right now either. Sure the Phillies are mowing teams down as predicted, or are they?

They are only a few games up on the Mets and they have injury troubles of their own. The Nationals and Marlins both are struggling to be consistent and the Braves have had a bad week with the Phillies and now the Mets. The division is still up in the air and yes, it is still very early, but a peek at the division opponents is a good practice to get into.

As the season develops, it could get interesting. So far the Ike Davis experiment has worked out well for the team. The combination of energetic youth, timely hitting and consistent pitching have sparked a winning streak and seemingly a new outlook for a team that was beginning to look stale and uninspired.

Davis has been just what the team and the fans needed, a prospect that has lived up to the potential so far. He has so lived up to the hype that has been placed on him, that his predecessor, Daniel Murphy, has become his understudy and had admitted that the rookie is better than him. This is a surprising and slightly too honest assessment of the situation by Murphy.

It goes against everything that is the nature of competition. For him to concede the starting role after being told he was the man for the Mets all off season, is confounding to me. Is Davis that good, or is Murphy that questionable? The answer may be a little of both.

One thing is for certain, Davis is a very talented rookie, who seems to be up for the challenge of the major leagues. He has been the breath of fresh air for the team to help spark them out of the sewers and up to respectability. The question that remains is, can that spark last through the summer and the fall? Can that be enough to push them past the Phillies and into the playoffs? Time will tell, but for now, we can all enjoy the ride.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Draft Day!

Today is a special day for the NFL fan. It is draft day. For those of you who have been hibernating in a cave for the last 75 years, let me briefly explain. The National Football League once a year holds an event in which the teams that comprise the NFL choose the collegiate players they would like to have on their team. This is called a draft.

For 75 years the NFL has done this in one weekend. It has been a wonderful weekend long spectacle. A live event with more epic magnitude each year. It has been building into a worldwide event in recent years. It has become so massively popular, that this year, the NFL decided to make it last for four days. In prime time no less.

The NFL network will begin coverage at 7:30pm. Imagine this, Deion Sanders, who spent his career being called 'prime time' will be in prime time. It's a great concept, but it is a drastic change for the average fan. I recall since I was young, watching the draft every year. Shutting myself away from the world for two days. Just me and my television or radio.

This year, it will be very different. Just me and my computer and and several friends on facebook who may stop by and the radio, maybe. But instead of having wall to wall, uninterrupted coverage that fans are following, there will be a few hours here and a few hours there. It's like playing a half of football and then playing the second half the next day. It is not a welcome sight for the average fan.

The first round will commence tonight and will be answering many questions. The mock drafts that all of the 'experts' have made many times over by now, will not matter. This will also include my own. My mock draft was ruined when the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb. I'm sure many others were too.

This years' draft class is deep in several positions, but it is not filled with superior talent. There are not many stand out players, despite what the media that covers it may try to tell you. In years past, fans and media alike have speculated over specific 'franchise type' players.

This year does not seem to have many of those, but it does have many talented players. Perhaps a few will develop into elite players someday, but the overall class does not have the potential to match great classes of the past.

Despite the scheduling changes and the lack of headlining prospects, this years' draft is here. It is a time for the fan to be hopeful and honest about their particular team. For example, my team, the New York Giants. They struggled down the stretch last season and they have lost a leader on their defense. They may look to replace the linebacker position tonight, or they may choose to help the depleted and aging offensive line or the once intimidating defensive line.

For the cross town rival New York Jets, who have been very busy this offseason, they may be eyeing a safety to strengthen the already dynamic secondary. They also may be looking for help on the offensive line or the defensive line. The team's needs and the targeted player that is available, may dictate who they pick tonight.

That's what tonight is all about. The speculation and the pageantry of the NFL and more so of your favorite team. For a few moments, your team gaining the attention of the entire football world is truly a majestic feeling. Knowing that for a brief time, all of the football fan base and its media are examining and conversing about your team, to put it simply, is magical.

As a fan, this day is about building for the future and examining the present. It is about being optimistic and realistic. It is a great day. I hope you will enjoy it. Grab your snacks and beverage of choice. Snuggle up with the family or settle in with the friends. It's the next best thing to game day, maybe even better. It's Draft Day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Demoting Jacobs could be mistake

The New York Mets had a seven hour marathon on Saturday night with the St Louis Cardinals. It was a 20 inning endurance test, that the Mets prevailed in. However, recent reports have indicated that not all of the players survived the stamina trials of the day. Mike Jacobs has been designated for AAA.

This is a curious move, as it begs two important questions. Before those questions are asked, however, one last look at Jacob's numbers so far. The team has played just 11 games. In the games, Jacobs has drawn the ire of Mets fans all over the country with his high strikeout rate. In 24 at bats, he has 7 strike outs.

This is about a one in three rate, or 33%. That's not a good rate. An average batter is supposed to strike out half as many times as they walk. With only three walks, he has walked half as many times as he has struck out. This is the exact opposite.

He has one home run and only two runs batted in during that span, as well. His numbers don't lie. He has been one of the players on the roster that has struggled early. Among others on the team, he has been inconsistent at best. So the following questions remain.

First, is this a response to a bad start by the team, and if so who's next for demotion? Second, will this eventually lead to promoting Ike Davis to fill the roster spot? The first question is in more need of an immediate answer. The team has been off to a slow start after having such high expectations to begin the season.

Last night's performance came in a midst of inconsistency and struggling execution. The twenty innings was full of inabilities to respond to clutch situations. That inability has caused the team to have even more questions. The fan base may have finally gotten into General Manager Omar Minaya's head.

He recently suggested that he's be content if the team loses two games in St Louis. This is a realistic assessment, but not what Minaya has normally been inclined to admit to. This mentality is one of settling for mediocrity. It is good to be realistic, but it is also an indication that Omar doesn't believe in the team that he put together.

If that is the case, than the team may make even more moves in an attempt to shake things up. They are expecting both Daniel Murphy and Carlos Beltran to be back at some point this season, but the news on their rehabilitation is not as good as originally anticipated a few weeks ago.

In light of this and a slow start, it may cause Minaya to become desperate as he sees his job withering away like a frail flower in the cold of the early winter frost. This desperation could lead to a terrible trade or an even worse decision to rush one of their young players to the major league team. That brings me to the second question. Will Ike Davis be brought up to replace Jacobs on the roster?

The immediate answer is no, not initially. The team called up reliever Toby Stoner to take the roster spot vacated by Jacobs. This is probably only the result of playing a 20 inning game the night before. The bullpen must be tired and the prognosis of John Maine against the Cardinals in not too optimistic, given his recent struggles to find his mechanics.

When the team's bullpen does rest up enough and following their next off day, it is not out if the question to see Davis with the big club. This holds one key problem. Is he truly ready. It was said just a few days ago, that the team feels he's in need of more grooming in the minors, now they face the decision whether to bring him up when he's not prepared for it.

If he is brought up and struggles when facing major league pitching, his confidence will be shaken. If that happens, the franchise could waste another young and promising player. It is possible that he succeeds and he does well, but it is also possible that he struggles mightily and therefore does not live up to the hype that has been put on him at the highest level.

Mike Jacobs may have not have had the best of starts, but this move is a troubling one if it does not pay off. If it does not, the team will be searching for more shake ups and not have the options available to be competitive.