Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Center Of Attention

Andres Torres is due to come back from the disabled list tomorrow. With his return, Kirk Nieuwenhuis is expected to move from centerfield to left field while Jason Bay is still out. I have just one question. Why?

Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been outstanding in centerfield. It is fun to watch the diving and leaping and against-the-fence catches. But he has shown more than that. No matter who the Mets put in the corners of the outfield, they'll have more Major League experience than him. Kirk doesn't let that get to his head. He has taken charge of the outfield, covering the ground a centerfielder is suppose o cover, even if it means calling for a ball over a veteran such as Jason Bay or Scott Hairston. Most will think that he's just doing his job and that shouldn't mean anything. However, it was something Fernando Martinez and Angel Pagan failed to do at times so it's nice to see the less experience guy finally take charge.

The Mets have Matt den Dekker in AA playing centerfield. If den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis both have a future with the club Kirk is probably going to be the one to move. But den Dekker should be the only one moving Kirk. That conflict shouldn't be something the Mets face this season. If the Mets are serious about Kirk Nieuwenhuis being a big part of this team they should show it tomorrow. They should show Kirk is bigger than Torres by putting Torres in left field, not Kirk.

Let's Go Mets!

Friday, April 27, 2012

In Defense of Mike Nickeas

I'm sure most people aren't going to read past the title. They're going to think this is going to be me whining about how my favorite player doesn't actually stink and how he is actually the greatest player ever. And then there will be the ones that read the title and get clever and make a joke about his defensive abilities. Well, it'd be nice if you could all shut up for a while and listen to somebody besides yourselves.

I'm sick of it all. He isn't the reason pitchers are throwing meatballs right down the middle. He isn't the reason pitchers are throwing pitches in the dirt and to the backstop. He isn't the reason runners get jumps that leave them halfway to their stolen base by the time the pitch is released. Mike Nickeas isn't the one making errors at second base or on relay throws that go four feet to his right, well out of reach of his glove-hand.

The Mets have gotten off to a fast start yet whenever anything at all goes wrong it's Mike Nickeas's fault. If you're going to blame him for so much then realize when he does something right. Notice when he blocks impossible pitches and stops the runners from moving up a base. Give him credit when he gets a hit instead of just saying his batting average is still lower than all those all star catchers.

I just want to be able to enjoy it when he goes 2-for-2 with a BB and RBI. But it seems the only way I can is of I alienate the rest of the Mets fan-base.

The act is old and tired and I have tried to ignore it for long enough.

Just please stop.

Congratulations Zach!

With a base-hit up the middle on the fifth inning of tonight's game Zach Lutz gained a Major League batting average. In this game it was just another hit in a big inning but for Zach it will be a special moment forever.

Congratulations, Zach! Here's to many more hits and even some home runs!

Let's Go Mets!

So Much Can Happen In Five Years

It has been five years since I created this blog. Five years since I finally found a way to say as much or as little as I wanted to about the Mets. Five years since I started writing about baseball and ended up connecting with some really awesome (and some not-so-awesome) Mets fans.

When I started writing here I didn't know what to expect. I just knew I had stuff to say about the Mets and baseball in general and I wanted to say it. I never expected it to become much. Yet, it has been linked from MetsBlog and has helped me get into college. It has introduced me to my passion and brought me closer to what I want to do in the future.

This blog has also chronicled my life as a baseball fan. When it started my favorite players were David Wright, Xavier Nady, and Mike Pelfrey. Joe Smith was barely a professional baseball player. The existence of Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole would have been news to me.

Now I have not only grown attached to the Mets, I'm attached to their minor leaguers as well. Mike Nickeas, Josh Thole, Zach Lutz, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Josh Satin have all made it to the major leagues. Kai Gronauer has made his way to the Mets system and onto my radar.

Since I started blogging I've written about so many cool experiences. The Mets games where I saw Mike Pelfrey's first career complete game and Josh Thole's second career home run. Two trips to Spring Training that changed my baseball fandom forever by making me aware of Mike Nickeas's existence. My first minor league baseball games that showed me the sport I love in such a close setting that I felt like I could talk to the players. And at Spring Training and before those games I did get to talk to my favorite player and find out how awesome he is.

If I hadn't started writing here I might not have known about Mike Nickeas. The moment at Spring Training might have passed like any other excitement in a 14-year old's life. But it didn't pass and I wrote about and kept following his career and writing about him. I had a place to write about how awesome he has always been and how he exceeded any expectations I had for my first ever minor league game when I finally decided to see him play. I could keep writing about Mike Nickeas now and I could write about him for hours and probably days because I didn't know someone who is the coolest person in my head could actually be so cool in reality. I never would have known that if I hadn't darte writing here. If I hadn't had a place to tell whoever wanted to listen that he was so amazing.

I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't started this blog. I would still be a high school senior preparing to live away from home for the first time. But past that it could all be different. I could be chasing a different dream, trying to reach a different goal.

The thing is, I started writing here and I haven't stopped for five years. I don't plan on stopping any time soon. I love it here and I hope I can keep writing here forever or write somewhere bigger, spreading my thoughts to more people.

As much as I have done this by myself, I could never have done it without all of you. If you didn't read any of these words there wouldn't be much of a reason to write. Thank you for reading as much as you have, even if it has only been up to this sentence. I really appreciate all of you.

Let's Go Mets!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Like This Lineup

Today's Mets lineup features nine homegrown players. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Jordany Valdespin, and Jon Niese have all made their way through the Mets minor league system. A lot of people like to see this. They like to see that the farm system so many experts called weak and barren has somehow found success.

But the doubters are still there. Now they're saying this shows the Mets don't spend enough. Yes, for the past few years their budget has been tight but they still have Johan Santana and Jason Bay on the books.

Wait. Hold on. Does it matter if they spend ridiculous amounts of money on big name free agents? I would rather have them spend the money on David Wright and Jon Niese. The "big market" argument doesn't bother me. Fans should demand winning, not spending. Organizations can create winning teams in more than one way. If the Mets win with their farm system those players could become the big names. Those players could be the ones everyone wants and if the Mets were the ones to sign them they'd simply be locking up their stars.

If the Mets continue to win this team will be easy to root for. The Mets have more homegrown players that aren't in the lineup today. If one wanted to include any player that has spent any time in the Mets system they'd have almost the entire roster. Not many teams can say that. I'd rather brag about that than brag about having the highest payroll.

This lineup is exciting. I can't wait to see it this afternoon.

Let's Go Mets!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

He Finally Made It

It is five seasons and numerous injuries after he was drafted but Zach Lutz has made it to the Major Leagues. He was drafted out of the Division-III baseball program at Alvernia College in Pennsylvania, where his dad Yogi is the coach. Zach was drafted as a third baseman but he has added first base to his repertoire. His biggest strength, though, is his offense not his defense. I guess you could even say his biggest strength is, well, his strength and power at the plate.

I first saw Zach Lutz at a B-Mets game in 2010. He was playing third base and he was huge. He stands at 6'1" and weighs 220 pounds. He is no doubt built to play corner infield. Unfortunately for Zach, the Mets have their future at those positions in David Wright (hopefully) and Ike Davis. One would think that would be the most frustrating part of his road to the big leagues. However, it's not even close.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Lutz has been his injury history. He didn't make it through a week in professional baseball before having a stress fracture in his foot and that became a recurring issue. Last year was probably the most unlucky injury year for him. The Mets had plenty of their own injuries, including a time when both David Wright and Ike Davis were out. Zach Lutz surely would've gotten the call if he were healthy. First, he had a hamstring injury. Right when he was going to return he was hit in the finger by a batted ball during batting practice. The broken finger kept him out for a few more weeks and he missed the call. Once he finally made it back from the hamstring and finger injuries he played a few games then promptly was beaned in the head. He eventually made it back from that concussion but it wasn't long before he was beaned once again. The second concussion ended his season and may have cost him a September call up.

With all of that in mind I'm sure this feels awesome for Zach. He is finally healthy at the right time and he finally got the call. He got off to a great start in Buffalo this season, thankfully showing the concussions are behind him and his power is still around. He hasn't spent as much time in the minor leagues as other players I have followed (coughmikenickeascough) but the almost call ups make it feel like a longer time.

I am beyond happy for Zach. I'm looking forward to seeing him (maybe) get a start or two and crushing some baseballs.

Congratulations to Zach. He has finally cleared all the hurdles and made it. And even if he doesn't stick this time he will eventually. This kid can hit and I cannot wait until everyone knows it.

Let's Go Mets!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012



…more coherent thoughts to come later…

Congratulations, Zach!

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Main Concern

The Mets have looked good this season.  At 8-6 they have impressed even if it's just fourteen games into the season.  Their offense has shown some life and will only improve once Ike Davis starts hitting and if Jason Bay figures things out.  Their starting pitching has been stellar, save two games in Atlanta.  Even most of the bullpen has been solid.  The only big concern I have is with closing.

Frank Francisco didn't look good in Spring Training.  He couldn't seem to get an out but most people looked past it because most of the bullpen struggled during Spring Training.  However, now Jon Rauch is pitching well, Tim Byrdak has returned, and Miguel Batista has been scarcely used.  Bobby Parnell has continued to impress as well.  Francisco has become the weak link in this bullpen and it's frustrating.  I gave Spring Training a pass because everyone struggled and he had knee issues.  He also used the excuse that he would be ready once the lights come on, so I he got another pass for the poor spring results.

But now the lights are on and he still isn't doing his job.  Mike Pelfrey pitched one of the best games of his career and ultimately had nothing to show for it.  Terry Collins had to burn through other bullpen arms because Francisco couldn't get out of his own jam.  Teams are stubborn with their closers.  The Mets have to find a way to not waste the "big offseason signing" while also not sacrificing wins.  The Mets haven't seemed to have a reliable closer since Billy Wagner in 2006, and even that is a stretch.  It would be nice if Frank Francisco worked out but they also shouldn't force feed their "closer" into situations he won't make it out of.  How many quality outings from starting pitchers can they afford to waste?

Hopefully this conflict will just be a distant memory come June.  After all, we are talking about a small sample size.

Ah, well.
Let's Go Mets!

I'm So Confused

Apparently Jordany Valdespin has been called up.  I don't know why and I'm not even going to speculate.

But . . . I mean . . . What??

Let's Go Mets!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More Bad Injury Luck

Sean Ratliff announced his retirement this weekend. He was an outfielder that had made it all the way to AA in 2010. However, during a Spring Training game last year he was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Zach Lutz that broke six bones in his face.

I was really pulling for Ratliff. I fell in love with so many of those 2010 Binghamton Mets, including Sean. It was great to hear he would be playing this season. Now it stinks to hear he won't make it all the way back. And it adds another layer onto the bad luck Zach Lutz has had with injuries, even though he's not the one hurt.

I don't really know what else to say. I just feel for Sean. I hope he fully recovers from this enough to live his life even without baseball.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Josh Thole Can Hit

One of the most puzzling things for me throughout last season and this offseason was the questioning of Josh Thole's offensive ability.

Thole's career MLB batting average is .280 and his OBP is .357.  He had a rough start to the season last year, both offensively and defensively, and that seemed to turn everyone away from him.  However, after the Mets figured out what in the world they wanted to do with the catching situation and Josh got the majority of the playing time his offense returned to form.  He hit .292 from June until the end of the year and his OBP was .372, almost .100 points higher.  His career minor league average is even strong, at .289 and his OBP is also almost .100 points higher at .376.  I know I'm not a stats-genius or anything (I'm nowhere near being a sabermetrician, heck I can barely spell the word), but I know getting on base over a third of the time is not too shabby.

Josh has started off well at the plate this season.  He has had his share of adventures on the base paths and behind the dish but his offense is the last thing anyone should be worrying about.  Thole certainly has a lot to prove defensively.  However, even on that end of the game Terry Collins has been impressed.  Josh Thole may never be an all star catcher but that doesn't mean he is going to stink.  People seem to be surprised at his positive start.  I'm glad people are pleasantly surprised by his offense but it also shows just how little those people know about his ability.

It's amazing when I remember reading about how he would handle his first slump in AA.  Now it's time to see how he's going to take advantage of his big chance in the major leagues.  He survived that slump in Binghamton and I'm confident he'll exceed all expectations now.  I just don't understand why those expectations seem to be so low.

Let's Go Mets!

Monday, April 9, 2012

It Is On My Mind

It really is awesome seeing Mike Nickeas so excited for his teammates. First, with what Matt Harvey said at Spring Training and now just when he's in the dugout. During Lucas Duda's two home run game and then tonight after Kirk Nieuwenhuis's first major league home run and again after the Daniel Murphy walk-off.

I love that he's happy for the rest of the team no matter how he is playing. There were so many interviews during Spring Training in which most of the questions would be about Josh Thole or Mike Pelfrey or Johan Santana, and Mike would have positive things to say about all of them. I cannot imagine how a person could have a more positive mentality.

Keep it up, Mike! You're always a class act.

Let's Go Mets!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

How Sweep It Is (Coming Soon)

I was at the game today and instead of spending the evening writing I spent it uploading pictures from said game. Tomorrow I'll have a link to the photos and a post about how awesome and wonderful Mike Nickeas is.

…and there might be some stuff about the game.

Let's Go Mets!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Win Number Two

First of all, congratulations to Kirk Nieuwenhuis on his major league debut and first two big league hits. The first was an infield single and the second was a line drive to right field. It was awesome to see him make his debut.

And would you look at those Mets! Starting the season 2-0. R.A. Dickey threw six innings, giving up two runs and five hits. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this game was seeing the Mets offensive power. David Wright had three hits, including a home run, and Lucas Duda hit two home runs this afternoon. Josh Thole had two more hits and a run batted in as well.

Another positive from this game, and even from all of Spring Training, is Bobby Parnell's scoreless pitching. He actually ended last season with eleven scoreless outings and continued his dominance this spring. He pitched a scoreless inning this afternoon after his scoreless outing on Thursday. A big part of his success, he says, is that he has learned to pitch his way out of jams instead of trying to throw as hard as possible and losing any command of his pitches. He learned that sometimes it's better to slow things down and locate his pitches even though it can be fun to see the radar gun light up with 102 or 103 MPH. Bobby has also stopped throwing his slider and is instead throwing a knuckle-curve that he learned from Jason Isringhausen last year. It is great to see him growing as a pitcher because he can still throw 98 MPH and blow people away. He has a gift, he just has to know how to use it.

It is only two games but there is nothing wrong with a little optimism. Let's live it up while we can.

Let's Go Mets!

Kai Gronauer Update

Kai Gronauer is on the B-Mets this year. Back in AA, ready to do what it takes to make it to AAA and then the big leagues. The B-Mets season started Thursday and Kai has been pretty solid. He still hasn't made an out.

What are you saying? He hasn't played? No at-bats in the first two games? Oh, the B-Mets have lost the first two games.

Put him in Coach, he's ready to play!

Let's Go Mets!

Friday, April 6, 2012


Congratulations, Kirk!

Photo by Michael G. Baron

Welcome To The Big Leagues!

The Mets made it official.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis is going to be a major leaguer and Andres Torres is going on the disabled list.  Nieuwenhuis will wear #9.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis is going to be a major leaguer.

He's going to be a major leaguer.

With Mike Nickeas.
And Josh Thole.

My favorite minor leaguers are growing up.

Let's Go Mets!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Xavier Nady!

Just a little clip of Xavier Nady.  It has certainly been a crazy couple of weeks for him.

The First Victim

Andres Torres is in fact heading to the disabled list. So now we wait for the corresponding roster move.

I want Kirk Nieuwenhuis, just saying.

Wrapping Up Win Number One

The Mets scored one run. The Braves scored zero runs. Win number one is in the books and it feels great.

Johan Santana threw five scoreless innings and only needed to pitch out of one jam. Ramon Ramirez, Tim Byrdak, Jon Rauch, and Frank Francisco shutout the Braves after Johan left the game and they all looked better than they ever did during Spring Training. Josh Thole, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright all had two hits and Wright had the first RBI of the season. Nine of the pitches Ike Davis saw in his four at-bats were curve balls, which is a pretty bizarre stat.

The only negative from this game is that Andres Torres left after reinjuring his calf chasing a ball in the outfield. He is likely headed to the disabled list. If he does indeed land on the DL the Mets could call up Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Vinny Rottino. Calling up Rottino would require moving someone off of the 40-man roster.

The Mets are now 33-18 all time on Opening Day. No matter what happens the rest of the season, they usually give us one day for nothing but optimism.

Let's Go Mets!

This One Is Special

A week ago Terry Collins made an announcement that assured this Opening Day would be amazing. He said Mike Nickeas had made the team. Nickeas would be the backup catcher. Announcing the backup catcher isn't normally big news for anybody. It isn't normally little news either. But I was ecstatic.

Mike Nickeas has gone from Texas Rangers prospect to that guy the Mets got for Victor Diaz to oft-injured minor leaguer to organizational catching depth to AA all star to finally being a major leaguer. He was the "other" option for backup catcher for a couple of years. He would be with the Mets in September or if someone was injured but otherwise he would hang around in the minors. He did make the Opening Day roster last season but it was only because Ronny Paulino was suspended. He technically didn't earn his roster spot.

So this year it was different. The Mets made it clear they were not going to spend major money on a catcher. Josh Thole would be the starter and Mike Nickeas, Rob Johnson, and Lucas May would compete for the job of the backup catcher. Knowing the pitchers and the organization gave Nickeas a head start but he was not going to assume the spot was his. The Mets told him he needed to improve his offense to make the team and that is what he did. He shortened his swing and changed the way he hit the ball. Some people will see that he didn't hit over .300 and think he didn't make any improvements but I'm glad the Mets saw more than his batting average. They saw the work he put in outside what's in the box score, the stuff the fans don't see, and decided he deserved the job.

(And for those people that want tangible results, in the two days after he made the team he hit a double and a home run. A little confidence boost can go a long way.)

When I try to figure out why Mike Nickeas is my favorite player I never get very far. Yes, there is everything about getting his autograph in 2008 and deciding I would root for him no matter what. However, there is so much more than that.

Rooting for him brought me to minor league baseball and since 2008 I have wanted to read and learn everything about that side of the game. Players like Dirk Hayhurst have written about their experiences in the game and have given the fans a glimpse into the life of a minor leaguer. It's no walk in the park even when you are playing a game for a living. Players come and go, with each draft bringing more prospects and non-prospects into an organization and it takes a lot to stick around.

Mike Nickeas stuck around. I don't know which overused cliché to use. Determination, perseverance, love of the game. Whatever it was, he came back every year, played wherever the Mets sent him, and was leader for whoever was on the team with him. He just always seemed to appreciate playing the fame game. He doesn't take for granted that he gets to play the best game ever for a living. He appreciates his fans, something I will be forever greatful for.

For years I would only know he was in the lineup if I checked the B-Mets or Bisons box score. Knowing that following his season will just mean following the Mets is special. It is an amazing feeling and I'm just a fan. I cannot begin to imagine how awesome it is for him. It's easy to root a guy when you know he has never stopped working hard to get where he is today.

That is why I am wearing my #13 Mike Nickeas jersey today and why I wore it to school the day after he made the team. No matter how many people write him off or have not even heard of him at all won't change him being the biggest name in my book.

Congratulations, Mike! You deserve this roster spot and every second you spend in the Major Leagues.

Let's Go Mets!