Friday, March 15, 2013

Better Safe Than Sorry

The Mets announced today that David Wright has a strained intercostal muscle and will rest for 3-5 days before thinking about resuming any activity.  It is a similar injury to the one Daniel Murphy suffered earlier in spring training and he is just working his way back into games now.  Obviously, Opening Day is in jeopardy for Wright as that is only 17 days away.

One way to look at this is that David should never have been playing in the World Baseball Classic and participating in all those games lead to this injury.  However, if we want to bring the WBC into this maybe we could look at how it helped.  David Wright said this strain has been bothering him since before the tournament started.  If he had stayed back in spring training he would not have been playing as much and perhaps the injury would not have become bothersome enough to bring up for another week.  This is Wright, the guy who has played through a broken back and a broken pinky.  He doesn't complain unless something is really a problem and the WBC put him in a place where he had to bring it up.

The timing could also be worse than it is.  While it's the second half of spring training, it is still spring training.  The games don't count until April 1 so if David needs a month to recover, he'll spend the first two weeks missing meaningless games.  And even if he misses Opening Day and a week or two of April, he'll come back and be ready for the rest of the season.  He will still have plenty of time to have a successful season.  By the mid-May or June nobody will think about whether or not Wright was there on April 4 because he will be there for the 4th of every month until October.

Let's not forget that David could be back in five days and start the season normally.

The Mets are lucky that they can afford to be cautious with Wright.  If he is out for a month, which is what Terry Collins predicts, he will miss minimal regular season time.  Be thankful David had a reason to deal with this now and not in a week or a month.  Spring training injuries happen but I really don't think this is anything to worry about.

Rest up, David!

Where Are They Now: 2010 B-Mets

The 2010 Binghamton Mets are the reason I know what I know about Minor League Baseball.  2010 was the year I finally thought about seeing Mike Nickeas play in person and even though I went to the game specifically to watch him, I left with an interest in a few other players as well.

Naturally, the first player to look at should be Nickeas.  2010 was the best full season he spent in the Mets season.  He was an Eastern League mid-season all star and made his MLB debut in September of that year.  It was a turning point in his career, as the Mets were ready to release him and he was preparing himself for an early transition to coaching if he didn't turn things around.

In 2011, Mike made his first Opening Day roster due to an injury and suspension of Henry Blanco.  Although he was back in AAA by the beginning of May, he was back before roster's expanded in September and fighting to prove he could be the next year's backup catcher.  After the season Mets officials admitted they were not satisfied with Blanco's 2011 performance and were preparing to start the 2012 season with Josh Thole and Nickeas as their catchers.

2012 brought another appearance on the Opening Day roster as he had the role of backup catcher.  He stayed in the majors until August, when he was swapped for Rob Johnson.  He struggled offensively in the big leagues but fortunately he found his stroke back with the Bisons.  He hit .364 during his month in AAA and was back with the Mets as a September call-up.

Throughout both the 2011 and 2012 seasons he gained experience catching R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball.  His defensive ability lead to his inclusion in the trade that sent Dickey to the Blue Jays.

This year will likely find him back with the Bisons.  His career since 2010 may not have lead to a stable place on a big league roster but it did lead to the opportunity for his first MLB hit, home run, and grand slam.  He was with the Mets to witness history when Johan Santana threw the team's first no-hitter and caught R.A. Dickey's one-hitter against the Rays.

That one-hitter also provided everyone with this awesome gif of the knuckleball in which Mike looks as baffled as one can be by the pitch (yet he still manages to catch it).

2010 was the first year I watched Mike Nickeas and the first year I watched Minor League Baseball.  There are other players from that team that will be familiar to Mets fans so I'll get to them later.

Let's Go Mets!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Never Ending Baseball Season

Why is it such a big deal when pitchers aren't ready for the first round of bullpen sessions?  Why do so many people panic when the shortstop needs an extra day or two before appearing in a game?

Spring training has included less and less training as the years have gone on.  Players are expected to arrive in camp in the best shape of their lives.  If the official report date is February 15, they better be there on February 5.  Players end up spending upwards of two months at the team facilities before six months of regular season baseball.  And the sooner they arrive at the complex, the sooner they're expected to be ready for the season.

Baseball season is already a grind, marathon, and handful of other clich├ęs.  The six month regular season wears on even the best players and the extra month for playoff teams is obviously an additional test.  The demand to come early to spring training isn't always beneficial.  The elongation of spring training is especially exaggerated this year with the World Baseball Classic and certain veterans' routines show just how much spring training is actually needed.

LaTroy Hawkins didn't appear in an actual game until March 8.  Last year, David Wright missed most of the Mets spring training games.  David Wright made it to Opening Day and Hawkins is on track to make it to Opening Day as well.  For players that have secure roster spots there is more than enough time to get ready for the season.  Pitchers don't want to throw too many innings and hitters don't want to take too many swings in games that don't matter.

Spring training has about 1/5 of the games of the regular season.  Add in the first few weeks of workouts and the extra workouts from early arrivals and there is more than enough time to be ready for the season.  Missing a handful of games or starting a few days late isn't going to ruin anybody's regular season.

At this point players are training year round.  It has almost gotten to the point where less training goes on during spring training than during the offseason.  Conditioning schedules are built around individual and official report dates and team workout schedules.  Players that actually rely on spring training to get in shape are criticized for coming into camp overweight or unprepared.  Spring training has turned into a winter long process with the formal camp only being the end of months of preparation.

There was a time when players weren't expected to be ready to throw a bullpen session or take a round of batting practice at the drop of a hat.  2013 is well past that time.  Players are in shape year-round and simply don't need two months of formal spring training.  They get their reps without formal workouts so the uniform is a small change in how they get ready.

Most players are going to be ready for the season regardless of small interruptions to spring training.  It's more important to take the extra time during the days that don't count in order to be there for those that do.  So the next time a player misses a day or even a week of spring training games remember their three-hit day in July is more important than any amount of hits in March.

Let's Go Mets!