For the fan in enemy territory

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Minaya made the right move with Molina

It has been an odd series so far in Philadelphia for the New York Mets. The team had a great first game of the series. They obtained a blowout win, led by Rod Barajas and the hot Mets bats. The second game was the exact opposite. The Phillies had the solid pitching and strong offense. Tomorrow night's game will be the deciding game in the series. But an equally interesting news story has been breaking today in the MLB. San Fransisco Giants catcher Benjie Molina is contemplating retirement.

The New York Mets signed the aforementioned Brajas, only after long negotiations with Benjie Molina had failed because Mets management refused to add an extra year. At the time, Mets General Manager Omar Minaya was blasted by media and fans alike for his lack of aggressiveness. I must admit, I was one of those bashing him. I am also one to commend a job well done as quickly as I point out a job poorly done.

In this case, hindsight truly is 20/20. It is doubtful that Minaya and his 'baseball people' saw this coming. It is also doubtful that they even thought this would be a possibility. They most likely didn't extend the offer to Molina an extra year for two reason.

First, the team was most likely shying away from extending an offer for monetary reasons. They did not want to tie that much money into an extra year. That is money they could apply for the future. Which brings me to my second reason, his eventual replacement.

It is no secret that the team holds young catcher Josh Thole in such high regard and plan to make him their future backstop. They signed veteran catchers to help groom him at each level, whether he made it to the majors or not, and they have only committed to short term deals on catchers they thought would be better accustomed to platooning with him as early as next year.

With all of this considered, it is still noteworthy that the team, most credibly Omar Minaya's conservativeness paid off. I would like to offer him a pat on the back. Job well done. Had they signed Molina to the extra year and he retired at the end of this one, the fans and media would have crucified him for overspending and wasting money. I am sure I would have and I am prone to believe that many of my fellow Mets bloggers would have too.

There will be plenty of time throughout the season to criticize him and his bad decisions. For now, I would like to say 'Omar, congratulations, you had one right'. One out of one hundred isn't bad, I guess.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Red hot Mets face their past and tests this weekend

It has been well documented by now, that the New York Mets are red hot. In fact, the hottest they have been in recent memory. They have steamrolled past potential predicted playoff teams such as: the Los Angeles Dodgers without their biggest bat, Manny Ramirez, the Atlanta Braves, whose strong pitching was torn to shreds by the Mets offense, and the Chicago Cubs whose bats have gone cold. The teams that will no doubt begin to make some noise in the summer, but are off to average starts.

The feelings that have been brewing among the New York Mets fan base, are those of optimism, hope and pride. It is a team that has responded to such feelings with a winning streak the likes have not been seen in the Mets Nation for many years. The team has gelled together with a fusion of youth, energy and execution. They have forced mistakes and have taken advantage of those mistakes by the opposition.

The optimism has swelled to enormous levels in the surrounding areas of the fans that follow them. Despite such volume of emotion raging across the northeast, there still are mountains that must be overcome before they truly find success and hope to be able to move on from past failures. One such mountain will be confronting them this weekend, in the form of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Along with the Phillies, come the many skeletons in the closet, caused both indirectly and directly because of the Phillies. We can take a brief trip into the not so distant past. Let us remember the collapse of monumental proportions in September of 2007. Then again, in 2008.

These are both seasons that began and continued with optimism and confidence. So much so, that the players were declaring themselves the team to beat in two consecutive seasons. As the seasons unfolded, we found those players to be wrong. They had an unjustified swagger.

They were coming off of consecutive collapses and to make matters worse, the team that leapfrogged them both times, these Philadelphia Phillies, won that World Series in that span. They were also the National League Champions last season before being thwarted in their attempt for back to back titles at the hands of the other main Mets rival, the cross town New York Yankees.

Last season still must haunt the minds of the fan base and players alike. It was riddled with injury and disheartening lack of execution. Both bad luck and bad play were the main proponents to a season that is in one word forgettable to all involved. It is, however a season, that can not be forgotten. Though we would like to just dismiss it as unfortunate misfortune , it was an opportunity to truly see the team's weaknesses and shortcomings exposed.

With such exposures, come the opportunities to fix them and strengthen the team further. We are seeing, with this hot streak the patchwork of a bad season come to fruition. We are seeing how the organization was able to take a bad circumstance and make it a valuable experience. Now, the depth of this team is stronger and the core group of it is almost as strong.

That same core group and young players that have brought such a spark of energy and aggressiveness are going to be truly tested. The Phillies are a team with strong offense, especially in their own ballpark. They have a decent starting rotation. Many will say they have a great rotation led by their ace Roy Halladay, but I am prone to disagree.

When they traded Cliff Lee, they traded one ace for another, not one ace for two. The rotation is slightly better than last season, but not much better. It is formidable when he is on the mound, but the rest of the rotation appears much like that of the Mets. It is average and questionable with one ace, one standout, one veteran, one inconsistent and one rookie. Just like the Mets.

Not much of a difference when matching up the rotations, but playing in Philadelphia, the offense is a different comparison. From top to bottom, they are loaded and the Mets are hot, but streaks do turn bad while solid lineups in small ballparks usually do not. The real factors in this series will be the bullpens.

The Philadelphia bullpen is unhealthy and at times inconsistent thus far, while the Mets have been solid as of late. With an extra day off, they will also be extra rested. This test is one of importance. Should they lose the series, they may lose confidence and momentum, as well as bragging rights. If they find a way to win the series, it could bolster them to a level of confidence that this team has not had in several years.

They would have bragging rights and as small of a door prize as that sounds, it is significant. When a team feels that they play a specific team better than others, they do. When they think they 'own' a team, they do. That confidence and that optimism pays off in the mind of the athlete. It eventually causes doubt in the minds of the teams that are on the worse side of the optimism.

For several years now, the Mets have been owned by the Phillies. If the Mets can own them, instead of the other way around as past seasons have shown, it could be the beginning of the turn around that all fans have been awaiting. That could catapult them to greatness again.

Tests are essential and are indicative of where a team is at any given time. The Phillies are a benchmark team to the Mets. A team that they can compare themselves to and see what they could be. If they pass the test this weekend, it could be monumental. Fans, media and players alike will all be able to point back to this weekend series and proclaim that this was the weekend that the Mets returned to prominence.

If they do not pass this test, it may very well be the continuation of a downward spiral of mediocrity that they have experienced in the past years. I, for one, am hoping that they pass that test with flying colors of blue and orange.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Adalius Thomas, a better fit for Big Blue than Gang Green?

We are just two days removed from the NFL draft and the player activity continues to swirl. This time, it is centered around the not no surprising release of veteran linebacker Adalius Thomas. Thomas spent last season in the Patriots coaching staff's dog house.

After being late for a 8am team meeting, he was benched along with three other players and suffered through a bumpy season with the once great New England franchise. Now, after his release, he, and others, are talking about a possible reunion with former coach Rex Ryan.

Thomas played under Ryan while with the Baltimore Ravens. He, along with Ray Lewis, formed an intimidating tandem for a once stifling defense. Many believe that the reunion with former coach Ryan is eminent and necessary for both for parties involved.

That may be so, but allow me to bring another team into the discussion that have an equal need and also may be a possible good fit for his reemergence back to the caliber of player he once was. That team, the New York Giants. The Giants, like the Jets are in need of a linebacker.

The Jets need is more to assist in depth at the position, as Vernon Gholston will be moving to defensive end. The team already had talent at the position in the sensational David Harris and the veteran Bart Scott. Thomas may only be used as additional depth and a fill in when the aforementioned players need a breather. Under Rex Ryan's aggressive play calling, Thomas most certainly could shine again.

For the Giants, the need runs a little deeper. Despite what the analysts say, the depth at the linebacker position is not full of established players. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The team cut ties with long time defensive leader Antonio Pierce early this off season. Since then, and some may argue even before that, they have been in need of linebackers.

They drafted two a few days ago in Phillip Dillard and Adrian Tracy, who plays both linebacker and defensive end. The team also has a few players returning with another year's experience under their belt. Players such as Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley, Jonathan Goff, Bryan Kehl, Clint Sintim and Kenny Ingram. However, with the exception of Boley and Blackburn, none of these players are established in the league and for the most part remain widely untested.

This scenario has to considered unacceptable to a franchise that barely missed the playoffs last season and are just a few seasons removed from a championship. They are in contention every year under coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning. They must expect more from this phase of the defense. They need veteran leadership in that linebacker corp for two reasons.

One, if they drafted for the future and believe that the previously mention players are going to be adequate or beyond so, they must have a veteran presence that can properly groom them. A player, who's sheer presence alone can cause opposing quarterbacks to second guess. This is the type of player that Thomas has been and can be again. He can show these youngsters the little nuances of the games that the average player may not be able to.

Second, if combined with the playoff experience of both Boley and Blackburn, Thomas makes the corp instantly credible. He adds depth, leadership, experience and under the right circumstances an example of how to play the position. These are above all what is needed in that group.

I recall watching a play, from Super Bowl 42, where Pierce made an adjustment at the line prior to the Patriots snapping the ball. He called for a different coverage and a different blitzer. The result went in the Giants favor. This is the type of impact that goes unnoticed most of the time, but is essential for the success of a team in a game and a season.

This is the type of impact a veteran leader on a defense can bring. This is the type of veteran leadership that not only Thomas can bring, but the defense would be missing if they go on as planned without such a player.

I am prone to mention that he could also be the type of player who ends up like Lavar Arrinton. A flash of greatness and then gone. Never to regain that form or that level of stature among the players again. Thomas may very well not be worth the risk, for either team.

Then again, if he can prove himself healthy and remorseful, ready to accept a new challenge with an open mind and an open understanding of there being no place for former behaviors, then he may just be worth the risk and pan out properly as expected. If indeed, he does this, he will be not only an asset to either team, but to anyone willing to take that risk.

After examining the needs for both teams mentioned, it may be more worth the risk to the Giants than the Jets. The Jets already have the type of player twice over, that he could be. The Giants do not. That's the difference and that is what Thomas could make for the Giants defense. A difference.