Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Matters To Me During Spring Training

The offseason is gone and Spring Training games have already begun.  These games are mere exhibitions and for most players the stats don't matter.  However, for some players they mean everything.  I generally don't care about how a player does in Spring Training but this year I seem to care more than I have previously.  The Mets have more position battles and players looking to rebound from injuries so there is more to watch.

For example, players like David Wright and Ike Davis have guaranteed spots in the lineup so if they struggle during the exhibition games it doesn't mean much, but for Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus, and Luis Castillo, they are competing to play 2nd base.  A .230 batting average in Spring Training could change Murphy's career while it would do little to Wright's.

I'm also paying attention to Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan.  Last year Angel proved to be a more than adequate center fielder while Beltran came back from injury a few steps short.  Carlos still has a little while before he plays in a game but when he does, his defense will be important to watch.  He plays a shallow center field and that hurt him at the end of last year.  If he doesn't have all his speed I wonder if he'll move back a bit.

The main pitching stat I'm following is the ERA of Oliver Perez.  Yes, I simply want that number to get higher.  As much as I try to be optimistic about the possibility of him making the team, the more I'm reminded that he wouldn't just go to the minors last year to get himself together.  I could be watching the bullpen battle or the starting pitchers but bullpens tend to come together in mysterious ways, heck - last year Raul Valdes made the team after pitching in the Mexican League, and so many starting pitchers are needed throughout the season that I'm sure they'll all get a chance at some point.

Not all preseasons are equal.  Players have to earn the right to use Spring Training as the time to ease back into things.  Position battles are one of the few reasons Spring Training stats mean anything at all.  The Mets have a few so we should be amused for about another week before we want real games.

Let's Go Mets!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2 Pictures From Yesterday

Before I post pictures of the workout I'll show you these two pictures:

Kevin Burkhardt:

And my favorite picture (with Mike Nickeas):

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Day At Spring Training

The Mets held their first full-squad workout today and I was lucky enough to be there.  This was my second time seeing a workout so I had a better idea of who and what I wanted to see.  My first time going was three years ago and I was basically only focusing on getting autographs.  This time I wanted to see more of the actual workout and I also wanted to focus on a few specific players.

When I got there the Mets were listening to one of the coaches.  Shortly after that they got into lines and started doing organized stretching.  It was simply the same stretching that anybody who has ever been on a high school sports team has done.  After more running and stretching they split up onto two different fields.  The pitchers and catchers were on one field and the position players were on the other.  They did some throwing and that was the end of separating the pitchers and catchers from the position players.  Pitchers threw live BP to the hitters and the hitters had regular BP with the coaches.  Pitchers practiced pick-off moves with the middle-infielders and infielders took grounders.  Some pitchers threw in the bullpen while others only threw BP.  I wish I could tell you exactly what David Wright or Carlos Beltran spent the morning doing, but I was focused on a few other players so unfortunately I can't.

I focused on Mike Nickeas, Josh Thole, and Zach Lutz.  They all happened to start the workout on the same field so I only saw what was happening on one field.  Nickeas and Thole actually didn't do anything for the first part of practice as the catchers just stood by home-plate and chatted.  Lutz took grounders at third base with Nick Evans.  At the same time pitchers were practicing pickoff moves to second base with the middle-infielders.  Naturally, one throw from Oliver Perez sailed past Luis Hernandez and into center field.

Once that part of practice was over all of the catchers and some pitchers went to the bullpen.  The bullpen was off-limits for fans but I got a sense of the pitchers and catchers that were together when they walked back in pairs.  R.A. Dickey and Mike Pelfrey both threw in the bullpen, Dickey with Thole and Pelf with Dusty Ryan, before throwing live BP for the hitters.  Dickey pitched to hitters that included Zach Lutz and Brad Emaus.  The players continued to rotate stations which mostly seemed to mean the hitters went to different forms of BP before finishing with running and conditioning.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Best Thing About Spring Training

Spring Training represents many things.  It is the literal beginning of a new year of baseball but it is really so much more.

Spring Training represents hope.

It is the hope that your favorite team will be better this year.  It is the hope that your favorite player will finally prove they are as good as you've always thought.  It is the hope the maybe this season will be special.  Every World Series champion has to start somewhere.  The team has to bond and become that succeeds through whatever adversity the season may bring.  The 50+ players that arrive in camp will go through workouts.  The pitchers will all throw seemingly "successful" bullpen sessions and the hitters will claim to have fixed any holes in their swings.  The games will start and players with unfamiliar names and numbers reaching the 90s will get a chance to play.  As the size of big league camp shrinks the names sound more regular, although there are still a few unrecognizable names mixed in.  Shortly the exhibition games become boring and there is no way to know if your team scoring seven runs a game is actually going to be a regular occurrence during the season or if the other team's pitchers are actually minor leaguers. Before you know it there are only 25 names left.  The one or two previously confusing names are now familiar.  This is okay because these players made the team by proving they were good enough.  There is no reason to believe they won't be good enough for the rest of the year.

And through it all there is the hope that this Spring Training means something.  The hope that those no-names will soon be recognized by the rest of the league.  The hope that the hard work of the rest of the team will be rewarded.

This year the Mets have already been given plenty of reasons to lose hope for the year.  Lucky for the Mets, management is not who actually goes out and plays the game.  The players are there no matter who owns the team.  Baseball will be played and that in itself is a reason to have hope.

Let's Go Mets!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

He's Baaaaack

Remember Jason Isringhausen?  Maybe you remember Generation K.  Yes, we all thought that failure of a pitching staff was gone but we were all wrong.  So very wrong.

The Mets signed Isringhausen to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training.  If he can get the ball over the plate he's already better than some of the pitchers the Mets have had recently.  There can never be too many pitchers at camp.  If he does stick around hopefully this tenure with the Mets won't include any garbage can punching induced broken wrists or tuberculosis.

I really thought I avoided Generation K by not being able to talk when it failed.  Oh well.

Let's Go Mets!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reese Havens is Fierce

Mets pitchers and catchers report tomorrow.  Players have been filtering into camp and small stories have been written about most of the players.

Today I found a brief piece about Reese Havens to be most interesting.  Apparently he had surgery on his ribs eight weeks ago.  Not to worry though, Reese has already resumed hitting.  Hopefully this season he'll be healthy enough to have a productive year.  The Mets don't really have a plan for the future of the middle infield so it would be awesome if he got a chance next year or anytime in the future.

In news that might not be so welcome, Oliver Perez is going to get a chance to start during Spring Training.  This is the man that couldn't get into the training complex when he arrived.  But whether he can actually get into camp on his first try doesn't matter here, all that matters is his pitching ability.  Imagining a season worse than last year hurts so I'm going to be optimistic about this.  If he is ever a part of the starting rotation it means he showed he can pitch.  Well, that or something went horribly wrong with the rest of the pitchers.

Every pitcher and catcher that has not already arrived will arrive tomorrow.  Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas were the first catchers to show up so my guys are already ahead of the game.

Let's Go Mets!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The New Man In Charge

The Mets are going into the season with a new manager.  His name is Terry Collins.  Unless you have been living under a rock then you know Collins is known to be a strict manager.  He was even tough when he was a minor league coordinator last season.  He evaluated every minor leaguer before last season and Mike Nickeas admitted he was thorough, saying "If I were to be honest with myself, he was probably pretty accurate."

In Mike's case something worked, maybe the honesty or the help of Luis Natera or both, but he had his best offensive season in the Mets organization.

As the manager Terry Collins will have to use the brutal honesty to help the team.  Players will know their roles.  Players will know whether or not they are succeeding in those roles.  As long as Collins doesn't rip players apart when they are slumping then I don't think the honesty can hurt.  

New managers and coaches tend to give teams a boost.  Let's see how long Terry Collins and his philosophies keeps the Mets going.

Let's Go Mets! 

Happy Birthday Mike!

Mets catcher Mike Nickeas turns 28 years old today.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I Swear It Wasn't All Me

Baseball-Reference has pages for just about every player in existence.  So when the come out with the 200 most popular pages since they started you wouldn't expect any specific random minor major league catcher on the list.  Alas, Mike Nickeas is the 173rd most popular player on the site.  If that isn't weird enough for you then I don't know what is.

In other news, pitchers and catchers report in a few days.  Many players have already reported, although none of them are named Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo.  Some players that have arrived are Mike Nickeas, David Wright, Josh Thole, Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus, Chris Capuano, Fransisco Rodriguez, and Jon Niese.  Baseball is so close I can almost taste it.

As for Joe Smith, because I know you all care, he reported to Indians Spring Training this week.

Let's Go Mets!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

About The Others

It's been a long offseason and some of my favorites aren't on the Mets.  Now is as good a time as any to update on their whereabouts.

Xavier Nady signed a 1-year deal with the Diamondbacks.  He signed before I had a chance to do my annual "Bring Xavier Back" post for the Mets.  Perhaps the best news that came out of this signing (besides the fact that he actually got signed by somebody) is that he'll still be wearing his #22.

As I talked about when it happened, Joe Smith signed a contract with the Indians to avoid arbitration.  He signed well before the arbitration eligible players had to be signed.

Grady Sizemore is continuing his rehab from knee surgery.  He recently resumed baseball activities and seems very anxious to get back on the field.  It will be nice for Grady to finally be healthy again.  It seems like it's been ages since he's played at all.

Mike Jacobs signed a minor league deal with the Rockies with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Yes, he's still around.

That's about it.  If there is anybody I forgot just leave a comment and I might just add them to this list.

Oy Vey

I don't know where to begin.  What do you want to know?  My feelings about the Mets possibly finding a role for Omar Minaya?  If I have enough spare change to buy part of the team?  Whether I would have given R.A. Dickey a two-year deal?  Or maybe some good news to talk about with the confirmation of the Mets as hosts for the 2013 All Star Game?

Maybe I'll just try to connect everything in a meaningless web of confusion.

Well, if the Mets are really tight on money and can't afford to pay another scout a significant salary then I guess bringing Omar back as a scout would make sense.  As long as Omar sticks to scouting and evaluating talent, which he is known to be good at, bringing him back might not be a terrible idea.

R.A. Dickey avoided arbitration by signing a two-year deal with the Mets late last week and passed his physical on Monday to make the deal official.  R.A. said he wants to be best bargain in baseball for the next two years.  I don't really think anybody would mind if he became the best bargain in the game.  Last year he came out of nowhere to lead the pitching staff.  There isn't much expected from the pitching staff this year, so repeating last season two more times would satisfy me.  The contract agreement with R.A. also gives the Mets possibly the smartest pitching staff in the game.

Nobody knows who will be running the team in 2013.  But whoever is will be hosting the All Star Game.  It will be the first time the Mets have the game since the opening season of Shea Stadium in 1964.  It will be the longest any franchise has gone without hosting the Midsummer Classic.  It should be a lot of fun.  I went to Fan Fest and the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008 and that was great.  The Home Run Derby in 2013 will probably be interesting (or more boring than usual) given the dimensions of Citi Field.

Now to the Mets money situation.  It is a confusing situation.  The Wilpons want to sell up to 25% of the team to somebody who is willing to pay the share but not have any control of baseball operations.  I wish them luck finding a taker.  I am not for or against the Wilpons owning the team.  I am bothered by the fact that they didn't tell anybody how bad their money situation really was.  Whenever anybody would ask if the team would be affected by their connection with Bernie Madoff they said there was nothing going on with the team.  They consistently said the Mets payroll wouldn't be influenced.  There is the fact that for a little while there was a no lawsuit against them, but it's still frustrating.  There is no way to know how long the Wilpons will be able to afford to own the team.  However, the minute they can't I'd really like it if they realized they can't and let the fans know.  In the next few years we could see the Mets with new owners.

I said a lot.  I'm not sure how much of it makes sense as I sit in the library while I don't have class.  

. . .
Let's Go Mets!