Time To Play Mets Wheel of Bullpen Fortune

 

While Mets fandom awaits a decision on whether Michael Bourn will be patrolling centerfield of Citi Field, leading off and becoming the catalyst for the Mets offense, we also await the official announcement of Brandon Lyon becoming a Met and another contestant on Wheel of Mets Bullpen.

Counting Lyons, I’m looking at 11 candidates for 6 or maybe 7 spots in the Mets pen, a bullpen that I feel was the biggest reason for the second half collapse the Mets found them in last season. When you have a relief core that allows close to 32 % of inherited runners to touch home plate and also finds themselves in 55 save opportunities and blowing 19 of those precious assignments, will break the spirit of even the most strong willed teams so when you have a team like the Mets that doesn’t exactly ooze self-esteem and pluck, the ineffective pen was more a kick in the gut than uplifting last season. Sandy Alderson realizes this as well and has gone out this offseason to assemble relievers to come to Port St. Lonesome to engage in a big time completion to come North and become a strength for the Mets instead of last year’s failure.

Building a bullpen can be a bit of a crapshoot and last year one of the players Alderson went out on a limb on was closer Frank Francisco, signing the volatile reliever for 2yrs/$12mil, a signing I’m sure the Mets GM would love to take back . Between nagging injuries and ineffectiveness it was a lost season for Francisco. Although Francisco did save 23 games in 26 opportunities, when he entered games with runners on base his percentage of inherited runners left on base was a woeful 67.2 % and he’d shoot himself in the foot many time with walks as well.

With the imminent signing of Brandon Lyons, the back end of the Mets pen should be improved over last year (in the words of Sandy Alderson when asked about whether the pen will be better in 2013 said “how could it be worse?”)  And what we will see in the camp is a good old fashion open completion for not just bullpen spots but for the very important back end of the pen spots.  So looking at the very early morning line let’s see who could or should emerge as the core of the Mets bullpen in 2013.

The guys I look for to make the move to be the 7th inning, 8th inning and closer are Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Brandon Lyon, Josh Edgin, and Scott Atchison.  All five look to be Mets for 2013 but who of these 5 will step up to grab the closers job? I don’t see Bobby Parnell getting the job as he is much more effective in innings 6 thru 8 and last year he started to lose a little bit of velocity on his fastball and he has tried to make his curve to be more effective. Edgin has been on a fast track to the big leagues on the strength of using a hard fastball and effective slider that helped the stout lefty rack up K’s at a 10.53 per 9 IP.  Scott Atchinson may be the find of the off season. He was the one bright spot in the train wreck that was the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Atchinson relies on a solid cutter that he has under great command and last season he stranded 85 % of the runners on base that he inherited which is why I can’t wait to see him pitch this spring. Brandon Lyon could be the guy that takes on Frank Frank for the coveted closers role. The Mets will be banking on getting Lyon back to his effective D’Backs and Tigers days to solidify the back end of the pen and hope that the blown saves and late inning bullpen meltdowns are a thing of the past.

Jureys Familia and Jenry Mejia are two wildcards in the bullpen completion. Should either or both work as relievers or starters? There are varied opinions on the direction of both pitchers and it could boil down to how each are used this spring and if either pitchers shows more at one spot than the other. I could see Familia sticking as reliever more than Mejia who has a starter’s mentality and is also at a point in his career that the Mets love to find pitchers at, second year after Tommy John surgery.

LaTroy Hawkins comes to camp as a guy whose has seen a lot of big league baseball and could be more of an asset as a sounding board for the younger relievers that his work on the mound. Hawkins looks to be a 6th inning guy or a guy to give a break to an overused reliever that is if it makes the team.

It’s Robert Carson’ job to lose as the LOOGY especially with Pedro Feliciano back from rotator cuff surgery (2nd year after surgery seems to be the Mets pattern of obtaining pitching) and Tim Byrdak back in a minor league deal off of last season’s shoulder surgery.

So if I had to put out an early projection of the Mets bullpen I’d rank thusly:

CL Francisco/Lyon

SU Parnell

SU Edgin

SU Atchison

RP Carson

RP Familia/Hawkins

Whoever is not named closer moves to set up role and to tell you the truth; the Mets have the makings of a pretty decent bullpen. Hopefully between Terry Collins, Dan Warthen and Ricky Bones can work this pen correctly unlike last season when there was a communication breakdown between the relievers and the Manager and Pitching Coach. That’s a post for another day.

 

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Was Last Night’s No Hitter The Start Of Something Bigger ?

 

This post will be all over the place, so let me apologize in advance because I still can’t get my thoughts all in one place after watching Johan Santana’s no hitter last night. What has me all verklempt is this was more than just the first no hitter in the history of the NY Metropolitan Baseball Club, it was more a display of what this little thing of ours, being a Mets fan means. If the non-believers don’t grasp the concept of Mets fandom after last night, they never will and that’s their loss.

The look of determination on the face of Santana will stay with me for a long, long time as will the image of Terry Collins who was put in the worst spot of al,l worrying about the health of his Ace and the historical place this game was headed. Later we would learn that Santana would sing his own version of The Weight as he told Collins he was not coming out of this game taking the load off the manager and putting on him.

I thought of Josh Thole, just activated after suffering a concussion guiding Santana along. After a week- ten days of working out in a back field of Pt. St. Lonesome to this electrifying moment, I was hoping his head wasn’t hurting.

I thought about Mike Baxter who went above and beyond the call of duty crashing into the left field wall to make a catch that is now another in memorable catches in Mets history. Watching him come off the field with Ray Ramirez holding his arm, I thought the worst but then this morning I read Baxter quotes where he said “I’ll be ok, it’s not about me it’s Johan’s night”. Baxter typified the all for one, one for all attitude this team has taken on.

I thought about Gary Cohen calling the game on SNY and Howie Rose calling the action on WFAN, they are not just the Mets play by play men, they are one of us. I feel even closer to them since we are all from the same generation who got into Mets Fandom on the ground floor. I’ve always wondered if our paths ever crossed way back when in the Upper Deck at Shea maybe during a Craig Swan start or cheering a Willie Montanez home run, complete with the stutter step home run trot. When the no hitter was “in the history books” as Howie noted, Ron Darling, who was extremely fired up in the late innings of this game, and Keith Hernandez, who was astonishing quiet maybe superstition took over, asked Gary if he thought the no hitter drought would ever be broken and without missing a beat Cohen said “NO” I got a bit misty in the eyes when Gary said that because I knew exactly where he was coming from.

I thought a lot about Johan Santana. I thought about all the hard work he put in to get back on a Major League mound and like Bobby Ojeda said on the post-game show pitching “on back fields in front of tumble weed and three legged dogs”. This is part of the professional athletes life that many fans either ignore or just don’t care about. The work that Santana put in after his shoulder surgery is what separates him as one of the top pitchers in MLB to the guy holding on or trying to get a roster spot. All pitchers at this level can throw a baseball, it’s the few who have the work ethic and the intelligence to make the climb to the top that stand out. When Santana went down with his shoulder injury that needed surgical repair he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He worked his ass off in rehabilitating the shoulder and in getting himself back on his game right where he left off.  After last night’s performance all those days with the physical therapist and then on the back fields of the Mets minor league complex with the sweat dripping off him to the scrutiny of Dan Warthen and Terry Collins in spring training to the skepticism of the media and fan base, wondering which Johan Santana we would see, has paid off big time. What we’ve seen is one of the best pitchers in Mets history and a player with the heart of a lion.

Last night was not about the owner and how much money he has or doesn’t have  nor was it about whether this team is playing over their heads, no, it was about what it’s like when you sign on to become a Mets fan. There are good days and some bad days and then there are days like yesterday that wash away all the bad.  If you’ve decided not to support this team because of your disdain for the ownership, well you’re stupid. If you learned anything last night it’s not about the Skill Sets, it’s not about the Robinson Rotunda, it’s not about the outfield walls and it’s not about the Shake Shack, it’s about the 25 players and it’s about us and for all of you who have been avoiding Citi Field, you better hop back on the bandwagon and buy some tickets and come out to watch this team play because I don’t think they are done making history, the no hitter might just be the beginning of something very special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The United Mets of Flushing

 

I didn’t see any of yesterday’s game as it was Mother’s Day and my kids had no sporting events (all through Little League we never scheduled games on Mother’s Day, I can’t say the same for youth soccer my kids regularly played on Mother’s Day making life difficult for a bunch of families, thankfully this season the schedule worked in our favor) but I received updates on my phone, it’s tough to be sitting in a theater during a play to check my phone when it’s vibrating with Mets news especially when my wife is sitting next to me, so it wasn’t until the conclusion of Perfect Crime did I see the carnage in Miami by left by the Mets bullpen.

So instead of a beyond belief 6-0 road trip the Mets head home to Flushing with a 4-2 mark instead. Now we all would have co-signed for that record at the start of the trip but since the two losses were of the blown by bullpen variety, it made for an angry fandom after the game because as I discussed on Saturday, nothing turns a baseball fans red like a blown save to lose a game, in fact Jon Rauch took to Twitter to lay some knowledge on some fans when it came to commitment to winning and having your teammates back. As we saw with the Frank Francisco taking on inept home plate umpire Todd Tichenor, who by the way is in his first season as an everyday MLB umpire, this Mets team has passion and they seem to have enacted the practice of no teammate left behind as Rauch put on display last night. They win as a team and they lose as a team. It seems some Mets fans are not grasping this concept; maybe some of you are pining for the days of “One Met Said” cowardice we’ve seen in the Mets clubhouse during past administrations.  Thankfully those days look to be over.

Now that doesn’t mean Terry Collins will keep the status quo in the bullpen as the manager stated he has “8 options” to use as a game closer and let’s be honest here Mets fans, you can scream and curse Frank Francisco and Manny Acosta for yesterday and Friday but the toughest thing to build in baseball today is a proficient bullpen. Look at the regal Bronx Bastards, they need help in their pen but even with their unlimited financial resources, they can’t go out and buy a closer to replace the Sainted Mariano the Majestic. So TC may have to go with the hot hand to close games or use a combo of Tim Byrdak, Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch, the three most effective relievers so far, to finish out games.

At the end of last season, Sandy Alderson pointed out that all the blown saves that led to losses at the end of the season were unacceptable and that these types of situation’s can bring down a team. Right now this Mets team is united but you wonder how much that unity can stand if the late game meltdowns continue?

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Let’s Go Rangers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know we are a day away from opening day, and believe me if it were up to me I’d camp out in the Citi Field parking lot tonight, but others in my family don’t share my overzealous Mets fandom, but I must digress from the Mets for a moment to revel in the NY Rangers clinching the #1 seed in the NHL Eastern Conference (some fans are a bit confused, the Rangers are not the Eastern Division Champs, at least not yet) with a rockem’-sockem’ win over the Filthadelphia Flyers last night.

It’s been awhile since I enjoyed a Rangers season as much as this one and I can not wait for the Stanley Cup tournament begins . The Rangers have a great shot at wining the Stanley Cup and yet it won’t be easy but no matter what all Rangers fans know one thing, this team will not be out work or out prepared.

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METS FANDOM: ONCE YOU’RE IN, YOU CAN’T GET OUT

David Brooks has an op-ed piece in today’s NY Times trying to explain to those not of our Blue and Orange persuasion, that once you hitch your fan wagon to the New York Mets, you’re hooked for life.  This paragraph really does sum up what we as Mets fans believe:

So I’ll die a Mets fan, exaggerating their potential, excusing their deficiencies. This week, in Florida, I even detected new virtues in the team. In the early days, the Mets were lovable losers, then miraculous winners, then, in the 2000s, big-spending disappointments. Now they are young and frisky, enthusiastic and charming. I’ll enjoy following this team and exaggerating its promise. I have no choice but to love the Mets. Just as I have no choice but to hate the Phillies.

Brooks is totally on target about this edition of the Mets, they’re an easy bunch to root for.

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THIS COULD BE THE WILDEST OFF SEASON OF OUR METS FANS LIVES

While I was riding the Staten Island Ferry on my way home from the Mets finale at Citi Field yesterday, I was reading over the notes I took during the game. I decided to invoke my “sleep on  it before writing” rule because it was quite an emotional day and even after “sleeping on it” I’m still having a tough time deciphering where this organization is headed, positive or negative. It’s the most confused and befuddled I’ve ever been in my 47 years of Mets fandom.  

Before my stream of semi-conscience begins please turn to page 1986 in your Mets Missalette to read the words of fellow Mets blogger/fan/Staten Islander by way of Brooklyn, Ed “Rusty Jr.” Marcus who lays out the events of yesterday quite eloquently.

Usually when I ride the 7 train to Citi Field, it’s filled with a full platoon of uniformed Mets fans excited to be headed to see their beloved Metropolitans. Yesterday on an 11AM 7 train out of Times Square, I was the lone infantry man in the car. If there was an invasion of Loyal Order of Red Legs. I’d have fought a losing battle.

I spent the time on the train reading this outstanding book, I had no real emotion about the day. It wasn’t until we left the 111 St station and Citi Field was on the horizon, I stared having flashbacks to Mets games of yore, good days, days when you could not get to the ball park fast enough. Games I went to that Tom Seaver pitched in, for some reason the game he struck out Manny Sanguillen for his 200 K back in 1975 to become the first pitcher to K 200 batters in eight straight seasons, popped in my head, another obscure game I was at that flashed in my mind was the walk off home run by Steve “Hendu” Henderson against the Giants in 1975. What sticks out for me in that one is, my friends and I bet on the Mets in this game for the sole reason we had hung out at a bar in Bay Ridge with Pete Falcone the weekend before and he was the games starting pitcher. I have to come clean and let you know we didn’t stay for the whole game, and we didn’t know the outcome until we got back to the neighborhood when we were informed of our “busted ass” luck.

When I got off the train at Citi Field-Willets Point the depression set in. The weather didn’t help that grey muggy one second it’s warm, the next it’s chilly temps, just like our Mets. After a summit on the Shea Bridge that Ed reported on, I headed to the Shake Shack for a burger (the line was long but not the usual four wraparounds) and then made my way to my $2 (Stub Hub-a Hub-a) buck seat in Section 519, just in time to see Jose Reyes’ first at bat of the day. Little did I know it would be his only at bat of the day.

This is why I invoked “my sleep on it rule” because at the moment Reyes came out of the game I was one ornery fucker. What bother me the most and still does was THE WAY he came out of the game. Reyes should have gone to his shortstop position and have Bastia step off and call time and then let Turner enter into the game. Would I have liked to see Reyes play the whole game? Of course, but his coming out of the game to protect a batting title is not unprecedented.

What also conflicts me with Reyes is the fact I really like him as a player and a person and I hope he’s back as a Met next year but if he signs elsewhere I’m not going to be sad or heartbroken. I still feel that Jose wants to stay a Met but I’m sure there will be One Dumb Owner who will make an offer that Sandy Alderson can refuse.

It’s time for us Mets fans to face facts, and the to face those facts we are fortunate to have someone like Howard Megdal to report the facts as he does here in his piece for New York Magazine which lays out the awful truth about the Skill Sets, their finances and the direction the club his headed due to money that would have been funneled into the baseball team will instead go to lawyers, creditors and maybe the Madoff Trust.

If you don’t have the stomach for some tough times in Flushing, it may be time for you to find another rooting interest in baseball because it looks like a very rocky road here for a couple of years. The team in the Bronx may have some openings, especially after the Mowtown Cats sweep them in the ALDS.

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YOU BELONG TO THE $ITI

I will have a longer post on this tomorrow (hopefully both my kids have soccer games so I’ll try) but today my son and I  made our maiden voyage to $iti Field and I’ll just say it was better than I expected. I admit I went in with a bit of reluctence as I’m trying to hold on to the Spirt of Shea but I’ll say this when I walked into the Jackie Robinson Rotunda (I pronounce it RA-TUN-DUH ) I was smitten.

I then met up with glitterari  of Mets fandom and blogdom. Charley Hagerly, Taryn Cooper, Zoe Rice, Greg Prince, Mike Silva his brother Chris and From SNY/Bronx Banter Alex Bleth 

I’ll just leave you with this quick thought on $iti. It has some flaws. Flaws that can be corrected and it will take a bit to get used to. There are things that annoyed me and things that were great about the place and I’ll go into detail on that tomorrow.

When the 7 train pulled up to the Shea, errrrrr Mets/Willets Point Station I go a bit weak in the knees seeing a pile of rumble that we used to call home but then I saw the shinny new house and I said to myself  time to let it go move on I think we all should Move On it’s a new era in Mets baseball

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BAD OLLIE, BAD BAD

Instead of ranting here on the Bad Ollie Experience of yesterday just listen to my rant on Pro Baseball Central from last night. I think I set a record for the most times using the phrase “consistency in the mechanics” Also Ben Kabak of River Ave Blues was on to talk Highlanders.

 

Of all people The Old Grumpy Man has a positive piece on Gary Sheffield joining the Mets.

 

Darren O’Day had a very tough day dealing with the death of Nick Adenhart. The LA Times also chronicles the long list of tragedies that have struck the Angels franchise.

 

You have got to go to the Gary, Keith and Ron site and purchase the new Ralph Kiner shirt. This t-shirt should be standard uniform for all Mets fans it’s absolutely stunning.

 

Thanks a lot David Lennon for now setting of a wide spread panic through out Mets Fandom.

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FAITH AND FEAR IN FLUSHING-THE BOOK

 

 

I was thrilled to come home yesterday and see that my copy of Greg Prince’ book “Faith And Fear In Flushing” had arrived. As soon as I saw the front cover I knew that this is THE book for Mets fans to add to their library as nothing sums up Mets fandom like the picture of Gary Carter and Ray Knight hugging after Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and the bottom picture of Yadier Molina watching Aaron Heilman’ pitch in the 9th inning of <reaches for a Kleenex> Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS go out of Shea Stadium. Best of times, worst of times indeed and isn’t that what being a Mets fan is all about?

This book is more about what it’s like to be a Mets fan and how it is that we became a fan of this team. In fact Greg, shows we are more than fans, this team in imbedded in our DNA we are so hooked we couldn’t leave if we wanted to.

My family and friends know how I live and die with the Mets and they get their jollies by asking me “What team would you root for if the Mets cease to exist”?  I usually turn red and start cursing as that is akin to asking which of my two children I love the most.  As there are no other kids I could ever love like mine and I could never live and die with another team like I do with the Mets.

As far as I’m concerned this book is a must read for all the younger Mets fans. You guys need to know the history of this organization. You need to see your roots. As much as we all love David Wright and Jose Reyes you need to know about Roy Staiger and Teddy Martinez. As much as you all wear your 31 PIAZZA and 17 HERNANDEZ you have to learn about 31 PARKER (Harry) and MILLAN (Felix) and by reading Faith And Fear In Flushing you will be a better educated Mets fan.

This book is for the REAL Mets fan. The fan who couldn’t wait to attain drinking age to have a cold Rheingold  or  open a bank account at Manufacturers Hanover or pick out a car at your NY, NJ Fairfield County Plymouth dealer. The fan who feels that the 7 train is the ultimate stretch limo. The fan who sits in the Upper Deck of Shea and brings his sandwich and can of soda (placed in the freezer the night before and wrapped in tin foil for the ride to Shea) The fan who no matter how bad things are going in there life can smile at the sight of Mr. Met and feel secure that Gary Cohen and Howie Rose are on the job brings us the sights and sounds of Mets baseball. The fan who could sit and listen to Jane Jarvis play the Thomas Organ and for all of us who look to the late great Tug McGraw when things look hopeless and say YA GOTTA BELIEVE!    

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