For the fan in enemy territory

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mets must be road warriors this time

The New York Mets have had a wonderful record in the friendly and warm confines of Citi Field. They have excelled to a robust 24-10 record at home, 32-28 overall. Their home record is the best in the league. Their glaring weakness so far has been on the road.

They are an abysmal 8-18 in other team's parks, which ranks third worst among all MLB teams. They have an upcoming schedule, however that could change that. It includes three favorable match ups in their next nine games. First they travel to Baltimore to take on the Orioles. The Orioles are 11-18 at home and a putrid 17-43 overall. The worst record in baseball.

The Mets then travel to Cleveland to oppose the Indians. The Indians are also a struggling team this year. They are 23-36 overall, and 10-16 at home in Cleveland. Finally, the Mets travel to the house that George built. Not George Herman "the Babe" Ruth that is, but rather George Steinbrenner.

They visit the new Yankee Stadium in part two of the subway series. That is the only pure test on this road trip as the Yankees are 19-7 at home in New York and 37-23 overall. However, this is the same Yankees team that the Mets took two out of three from just nearly three weeks ago in Queens.

That confidence combined with the momentum of a solid road trip going into that series, should make the Mets well prepared to face the cross town nemesis. Overall, if the Mets can have a successful road trip, it would be the team's first such road trip of the season.

That would be the start of a little more swagger and a much needed boost in the club house for a road weary and opposing crowd shy team like the Mets. This is first series with Baltimore to start things off will be very important.

If they can establish the momentum here, then it can carry them through to Yankees stadium with a chance at a more than just average road trip. That is a necessity for this team to address the questions of whether or not they are a contender. It all starts on the road. It all starts tonight.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mets fans need to root against Maine and Beltran

This season has been full of surprises for the New York Mets. They have shown dominance at home and futile efforts on the road. They have had several injuries to key players, but these injuries have been considered a blessing to some.

They have taken advantage of injured players and their vacated roster spots. Most notably, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Carlos Beltran. They have done this, by inserting hungry players to take their place. Players like Angel Pagan, R. A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi.

Take Dickey and Takahashi for example. They have combined for a 7-2 record in 9 combined starts. Their era's are 3.20 and 3.80 respectively. Compared to Oliver Perez and John Maine, who are a combined 1-6. Both are also sporting an era over 6.00. Granted, Dickey and Takahashi have amassed this combined record in half of the combined starts, but still impressive nonetheless.

It is an estimated 8 starts for the Dickey/Takahashi duo and 16 for the Perez/Maine combination. Still, this has been a breathe of fresh air for not only the ball club, but their fan base as well. Another case in point would be Angel Pagan. In his time with the Mets, he has shown flashes of greatness, only to have that fire extinguished by injuries.

Now he seems as healthy as ever and also as productive as ever. In his time so far this season, he has made the most of his opportunity. Going into today's double header, he has a .294 batting average with 4 home runs, 4 triples, 25 rbi's and 11 stolen bases in 56 games. In other words, he is not just taking advantage of his chance, but also of the ball park he is playing in.

While Carlos Beltran has been ridiculed and critiqued for his poor decision to have surgery nearly a month and a half before spring training, Pagan has flourished. With all this good, warm sunshine on the roster, must come news of rain. Not the rain that forced a double header today. But rather an interesting tidbit of news on the rehab front for the club.

According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, Maine and Beltran are making progress. Maine is preparing to make a few starts in the minors with the AA Binghamton club. He begins his stint with the AA team on June 13th. Also, Beltran has been starting split squad games down in Port St. Lucie under the careful watch of Mets brass and trainers.

This is all good news for them, but not necessarily for the team. If the Mets are to continue their rise in the standings and preserve team unity, they need to keep these hungry players around as long as they can. Keep in mind the players that are being discussed in rehab assignments are part of the old regime.

Beltran has been under the continual microscope over the past few seasons due to his repeated comments about division rivals and rivalries. His stats when healthy, have been wonderful, but he is not the best club house presence. Some may even call him stale air as opposed to the fresh air of the youth that has been pumped into that locker room as of late.

Maine has been scrutinized over heart and passion after comments in spring training and poor outings so far in the season. He is considering a move to the bullpen upon his return, which shows he is thinking of the team's needs. Still, how effective will he be if he continues to show a lack of intensity, especially in that role.

Oliver Perez has been a constant distraction in the locker room and in the media. His open refusal to be demoted to the minors to work out his problems and unproductive outings, have left him ostracized by both the media and the fans. Perhaps even the players may have alienated him for his selfishness as well.

This was followed by a controversial decision by the Mets to place him on the disabled list. That move has been investigated by the MLB and has since been approved. The transaction, though, was done in odd timing. A supposed injury to a disgruntled, struggling and cancerous to the club house type of player, is a curious move indeed.

All of these players may be nice people, as written and reported countless times by the Mets and their media affiliates, but they are not helping the team with their controversy or their selfishness. The replacements, however, are helping the team in several ways. If these players are in fact riding a hot streak in their careers and the Mets are catching lightning in a bottle, than they must be given every opportunity to succeed.

By succeeding individually, the team will succeed collectively. That is the common goal. Team work, dedication and energy. These present players are exhibiting those qualities. The old regime has proven one thing. They can't stay healthy long enough to be successful enough to make a run to the World Series.

The nucleus of this team is not getting younger and their time and prime are dwindling down. Game by wasted game, season by wasted season. The Mets roster has been turned over more times than a hamburger in a frying pan these past few seasons. While the same few players that the franchise has been built around are stuck in mediocrity, the team as a whole has either come up short or come up lame.

If they are to contend, they need passion, heart and confidence. I have previously written about this in an article entitled "Five things the Mets need to seriously contend".

In it I wrote the following:

" The swagger I speak of is that of confidence, not so much arrogance, but a realization that you're good and can match up with anyone. They had that once, and they need to reacquire it, or else they will be doomed to mediocrity."

These players bring that energy and confidence to every start and every at bat. If the Mets and their fans want all of the players to bring that energy and that air of confidence, then the Mets need to hang on to players that invigorate others. These players not only do so, but they make the team stronger, deeper and more exciting. That is something that has been missing for a few years now.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Nick Evans deserves better

A few years ago, the New York Mets had a sensational and up and coming player in their minor league system. That player is Nick Evans. In January, published a list of the best prospects in the Mets system. Bleacher Report's Matt Esposito wrote a wonderful breakdown of it. However, Evans was not on that list.

In the 2008 season, he was brought up with much fanfare. In the 50 games he played in that season, he hit two home runs. Not very impressive, but for a rookie and for only having limited at bats (109), that's not too bad. He was used more as a bench player and so 28 hits in 50 games is not terrible for a player used in a limited capacity.

Players like Fernando Tatis are allowed to stay on the major league roster with far less production. Not that I'm picking solely on Tatis, but there are players who have been on the major league roster this season who have been just as unproductive for the Mets as Evans was as a rookie in his 50 games.

The following season, he really did struggle. During the 2009 campaign, he only hit one home run in 30 games, or about half of the production in a little over half the time as before. His numbers in the minors for both of those seasons are quite the opposite. In 2008, he hit 14 home runs, while batting .311, while in 2009 he had 13 homer runs.

He has more than proven that he can hit in the minor leagues. He has not been given the opportunity to settle in and adjust at the major league level. While Ike Davis is tearing it up in Queens, he has been given the chance to play consistently.

That opportunity to play everyday is making him a better player all around. No one questions that he can hit in the minors because he already has proven that. He was given the chance to hit in the everyday lineup for the major league team and he has responded.

Evans was never really given that chance. Suppose Ike Davis was a bench player for Jerry Manuel's team right now. From the bench, having an at bat every other day and a start once a week, do you think he would be able to adjust to the majors as well or as quickly? I do not.

Yet, that is what happened to Evans. Unfortunately, he is in a bad position. He either has to wait for an injury at the big league level or he has to wait for his contract to expire to sign with another team that may give him a chance in the majors.

Either way, he is wasting away in the minors. He is not growing as a hitter as well as he could in the majors. He has proven he can hit minor league pitching. Many may argue that he didn't hit major league pitching when he had the chance. But those limited roles aren't enough to truly gauge a player.

If the Mets had any interest in wanting to properly develop him, they would have kept him in the majors. Some players need to adjust at the major league level. He may be one of them. With that said, I highly doubt that he will get that chance again.

He has played outfield before and not very well. There are too many better outfielders in the system to consider before him. He currently plays first base for the AA ball club, the Binghamton Mets. This season, he is hitting .285 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI in 48 games as an everyday first baseman.

The trouble is, there are no spots open on the major league roster for that position either. He might make the roster next season as a bench player if the Mets part ways with a few aging veterans, but in the mean time, his bat and his youth is wasting away.

As the trade deadline looms in July, the Mets may or may not become active, depending on who you were to ask. If they have no immediate plans for Evans, perhaps they should consider trading him before his contract runs out. If so, he could parts ways with them and they would end up empty handed.

This way they could still get something for his talent. If they have no interest in using that talent in the majors or no need to use it, then the wise thing to do would be to acquire someone that can be used for that talent.

Most fans would not want to admit this, but it is the smart thing to do. Instead of stock piling young players that will just waste away in the minors for season after season and that they have no plans of using, use them as trade bait for someone the team needs right now.

Evans has proven he can hit in AA, the Mets need to fish or cut bait with him. Utilize him with the big club or use him for the big club. Either way, he deserves better than this.