Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Lots going on, both with me and with the Mets. I'm going to be out of commission for about the next 10 days, because of the move. So I wanted to check the mailbox and update the Mets' news.

First of all, the Mets traded Jason Phillips to the Dodgers for Kaz Ishii. Ishii will be the number five starter, replacing Steve Trachsel, who will be sidelined until further notice with the back problem we mentioned last week. Ishii has control problems, which have been well documented. But as I've talked about - a lot - Rick Peterson is the best in the business, so I'm looking forward to seeing Ishii work. The positives everyone has been bringing up, opposite the walks Ishii allows, is that he wins games. So the runners might get to first, but Ishii doesn't give up a lot of hits, so the runners don't advance very much. And, personally, I've seen Ishii do well on a winning team, which can't be said for Trachsel. So I think the Mets didn't lose much here, and they might just have ended up with a better pitcher.

The loss of Phillips doesn't hurt very much. Ramon Castro now becomes the backup catcher, and he's good defensively. The Mets probably lose something offensively, but Castro has some pop, evidenced by the fact that he did hit a game-winning homer in Tuesday's spring training game.

The Mets, by the way, have the best winning percentage of any baseball team so far in spring training. This is not encouraging for me, because whenever the Mets do very well in spring training (much like the Jets during the exhibition season), they have an awful regular season. That may change this year, but I don't pay much attention to the fact that they do well in March.

In other Mets-related spring training news, Joe McEwing was released. He had no chance of making the team, and I guess the Mets got no interest in a trade. The Astros and Cardinals were said to be interested in McEwing - he ended up getting signed to a minor league contract with the Royals on Wednesday. The bench is now shaping up like this: Chris Woodward, Marlon Anderson, Miguel Cairo, Kerry Robinson. Andres Gallaraga looks like he'll start the season in the minors - despite a recent hot streak. The Mets figure their subs can all split time at first base. (I feel like I'm missing another big bench name.) Victor Diaz will be the starting right fielder if Mike Cameron does not make it back in time...but it's looking more and more like Cameron's wrist will be ready by Opening Day. If that's the case, Diaz will start the season in the minors, because Willie Randolph's priority is getting Diaz plenty of playing time and at-bats. So he'd rather Diaz play every day at Triple-A than sit on the bench in the bigs.

That about catches us up on the spring training news. Oh, one more thing - I read today that Aaron Heilman has gone back to his college windup, rather than the windup he had adopted with the Mets, and he's on a pretty good streak right now - four scoreless innings Sunday, and a good bullpen session. That bodes well, if someone else in the rotation gets hurt.

Now it's time to look at the mailbag, a couple of days late:

"Hey JohnnyMets-

Let's take a look at who's on the 2005 Mets this year ... Pedro Martinez*, Doug Mientkewicz, Cliff Floyd, Brian Daubach .. is it time we start calling the team the AAA Flushing Red Sox??

-Your Wife"

Wow, cheap shot from the co-inhabitant of The House sponsored by DirecTV. It'd be nice if she checked the spelling of Mientkiewicz.

"Dear JohnnyMets,

Kaz Ishii doesn't seem like a bad No. 5. He averages about 160 innings.

He's gone 36-25 in his 3-year ML career, with a 4.30 ERA. Though his K-BB ratio fell to almost 1-1 last year, which could be a cause for concern.

Are you pleased with the trade? Do you miss Jason Phillips already? Who will back up Piazza? How will Ishii's stats translate from Dodger Stadium to Shea?

Dave in Brighton"

Dave, good questions. I addressed some of them above, when I talked about the trade. But I do like it. Phillips proved to be streaky, if nothing else. You don't know if you're getting the guy who hit .290 a couple of years ago, or the one who hit .200 most of last year. Ishii will be solid. I do think his stats will transfer from Dodger Stadium to Shea quite well - they're both notorious pitcher's parks....and Ishii has a great defense behind him with the Mets.

One more thing I remembered as I wrote about Ishii, and thought about Trachsel's back. Kaz Matsui's back has been bothering him recently - he's sat out a few games. Hopefully he gets better - it'd be a shame if the Mets' middle infield starts the season injured, like it did last year.

OK - I have to go, quite possibly for a few days. Thanks for reading - and when I write next, Opening Day will be right around the corner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sorry for not posting anything in a while, folks. It's been a rough couple of days. Here's what went on in Florida while I was in bed with a 101-degree fever (pause for sympathy):

Good news and bad news:

We'll start with the good news. On back to back days, I believe those days were Saturday and Sunday, Tom Glavine and Kris Benson pitched very well. Glavine pitched four perfect innings before he left his game, and Benson went three perfect before giving up a couple of hits and a run or two in his game. I'm starting to get a good feeling about Kris Benson this year.

The bad news is that Pedro Martinez's* start was rained out on Monday. Again. It's his second straight start that's been rained out...and I think it might be three out of four. The Mets have been keeping him on a schedule so that he would be pitching every five days up to and including Opening Day, so it remains to be seen whether or not they keep doing that to keep him on schedule, or to get him to face some real game action.

The really bad news is that Steve Trachsel has a bad back, and likely will start the season on the disabled list. Trachsel has had this problem nagging at him, apparently, all spring, and finally had it checked out the past couple of days. No official word yet, but it doesn't look good that he'll be ready in April. The Mets won't need a fifth starter until midway through April, and right now it looks like Matt Ginter is the front-runner for that spot. Ginter played pretty well for the Mets in his spot starts last season - if I remember correctly, he was often the victim of a lack of run support (story of the 2004 Mets), but I remember him pitching well...I think he was the starter in one of the games during the Mets' sweep of the Yankees. But I also remember him throwing a couple of clunkers, so let's hope the good Ginter heads north.

Let's check the mail:

"Two quick Q's...

1 - The Mets developing a new network....would it be called MESS?? Mets Entertainment Sports Station?? METS ON MESS!!!

2 - The Mets signed Brian Daubach. Why? Don't they know he's horrible??

JMDBSDC Southern Bureau"

Kevin-long time since we heard from you. Not funny about the MESS. I'd say they call it the Mets Entertainment Television Station. METS.

And the Mets do have Daubach in their system right now, as well as former Red Sox backup to the backup's backup catcher Andy Dominique (who was horribly mis-named in an article in the Daily News, I think, when Pedro Martinez* first pitched...I wish I could remember what he was called - it was hilarious....but I guess you had to be there). Anyway, quick thing about Daubach (aka SCAB). (Speaking of scabs - it is such a shame that these ballplayers are so cold to the replacement players - do you know that Kevin Millar is still not in MLB 2005?!?! It just doesn't seem fair. The MLB Players' Union is a bunch of selfish pigs. If I had the chance to make some money as a major league ballplayer, albeit a replacement player, I would have taken that chance too. That's the only thing I sympathize with Daubach about. Now I will continue to rail on him.) Daubach is the only player in baseball who still acts like he's in Little League when he gets a 3-0 count. On the fourth pitch, no matter where it is - even if it's right down the pipe - he will start walking down to first. This has to piss umpires off. Because he never, ever, ever as long as I watched him play, ever got a close 3-1 pitch called in his favor. I think the umpires told him to cool it off a couple of years ago, because his last year with the Red Sox he didn't do it as much. But, man, that always annoyed me.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Not much going on down in Florida. The Mets had their spring training game rained out on Wednesday, and scheduled starter Pedro Martinez* threw a simulated game instead.

Steve Trachsel will start in Fort Lauderdale against the Orioles. He's reportedly added a slider to his repertoire this year, and plans on unveiling it in that game.

The only other noteworthy thing is that Mike Cameron has come out and said he doesn't want to be traded. Well, thanks for finally coming around, Mike. This upsets me a wee bit. Here's why. Cameron is all whiny and unhappy about moving to right field because the Mets added someone who is considerably better than him (and almost all other major league baseball players) with the glove and the bat at his position. So Cameron raises a stink, says I'm not happy about switching positions, I want a trade. He hangs around until he sees what the Mets have on the field, and realizes, hey, this isn't so bad...we're actually a decent team. I think I want to hang around here. So he tells his agent to tell the Mets, if you're looking to trade me because you think I want to be traded, then forget it. I don't want to be traded. It's just the epitome of the spoiled ballplayer.

I think Cameron realized a couple of things: 1) He does not like playing center field at Shea Stadium (evidenced by his pathetic performance there last season....maybe not pathetic, I should probably say disappointing). 2) There was a good amount of pressure on him to relieve the Mets' defensive woes last season, and he didn't exactly meet those expectations (remember missing the cutoff man against Minnesota when the Mets were swept? That still sticks in my craw.). I bet Cameron sees himself having a big season because he's in a very low-pressure slot - batting seventh and playing right field. (At least I see him having a big year.) And 3) Cameron and Cliff Floyd are really, really good friends, and Floyd probably convinced him to lay off the trade talk, because he needs Cameron to be a good right fielder so other teams don't notice that Cliff Floyd is the only defensive weak link on the team (outside of maybe catcher).

Anyway, that's about all I have for today. 25 days until Opening Day.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

To be quite honest, in case you were wondering, I've had enough of this snow. I don't even want a snow day on Wednesday...I just want the snow to stop. I want the temperature to stay above 40 degrees...I'll even take 35 degrees at this point. Even 30. Baseball season can't get here soon enough.

Sorry about the lack of postings the past couple of days. School. So the Mets won their spring training game Tuesday night. Kris Benson pitched 3 innings (41 pitches), gave up one earned run, and 3 hits.

A lot has been going on since I've last written. Cablevision is in a fight with Time Warner Cable (I think, I'm not even really sure how this thing works - I try to pay attention, but it either makes me really mad or bored and I stop reading the articles about it). Basically, it means MSG Network and Fox Sports New York will be dropped from Time Warner Cable. That means most Mets games (and all Knicks games, but who really cares about that...come on) will not be seen on TV for Time Warner subscribers. That means the House, sponsored by DirecTV, in Framingham, Massachusetts, can get Mets games, but Joe Schmo in Queens, right down the street from Shea Stadium, can't watch the Mets on TV. (Of course, I'd tell Joe to get off his fat butt and go to the game, but I'm 200 miles north of him, so I guess he can do whatever he pleases.) Anyway, this happened last year around Opening Day (I think), but the two arguing sides reached a deal before the blackout happened. Now, the blackout has happened, and the channels have been replaced on the cable outlet, so I'm not sure there's any turning back. Now I've written a whole paragraph on something I don't care about...and both of my readers have probably already tuned out.

FYI - the Mets are rumored to be developing their own television network for next season. The Mets network would try to rival YES, the Yankees network...but nothing's decided on that, I don't think. The Mets' contract with MSG/FSNY doesn't go beyond this season.

So, back to the on-the-field stuff. Jason Phillips is lighting it up so far in spring training - he even legged out an infield hit on Monday. However, he had two poor throws from behind the plate in that game. He will probably make the team as the backup catcher...and he doesn't figure to get much time at first base this he'd better work on the behind-the-plate stuff and keep his focus there.

The Mets' bench is shaping up this way: Miguel Cairo and Chris Woodward look like they'll be backup infielders, along with Marlon Anderson, who can also play outfield. Phillips will be the backup catcher (remember, Vance Wilson was traded to the Tigers in the off-season), and he doesn't figure to get much time at first because Andres Galarraga looks like he's going to make the team. Galaragga is one home run shy of 400 career homers, but the Mets think he has more than just one homer still in his bat.

So who does that leave out? Well, for one, Joe McEwing. McEwing is a nice guy to have around a team (he has been the biggest mentor to future Hall of Famer David Wright since Wright joined the major league team last summer), but let's face it - McEwing's production has gone down. The last time I remember him being effective was 2000-2001. Look for McEwing to be traded before the Mets come north - rumor has it the Cardinals (where McEwing is still a fan favorite) and the Astros are interested in McEwing's services.

In other trade rumor news, Aaron Heilman has given up three homers in three appearances so far this spring, and overall has been pretty disappointing as a New York Met. But other teams have interest, namely the Pirates, Cubs, and Diamondbacks. So don't be surprised to see a deal involving Heilman before the year's up.

Well, it's Wednesday, so it's time to check the e-mail-bag:

"Dear JohnnyMets,

After a week (or so) of spring training, here's how they stand in the NL East

Team W-L GB

Atlanta 5-0 --
Washington 4-1 1
New York 3-3 2.5
Philadelphia 1-4 4
Florida 1-6 5

Is that how you pick 'em to finish?

Dave in Brighton"

Well. Dave, I certainly don't expect the Braves to go undefeated, I think the Mets will be better than .500, and I don't think the Marlins will finish in last place. I will probably make predictions right before the season starts, so I'll hold off on that for now...but I will say a couple of things.

First of all, as loyal readers of my site will remember, I think the Phillies are a bunch of chokers, always have been, always will be. And with the improvement of all the teams in the NL East, I think the Phillies have last place written all over them. And I've said it before, I'll say it again, you can't discount the Braves until they actually do NOT win a division title. Hopefully this will be the year that happens, but until it happens, I don't know how you can pick against it (although when I make my picks, I almost certainly will pick it to happen).

Anyway, thanks for the e-mail - again, I will make predictions later in the month.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Mets had their Thursday night spring training game with the Cardinals rained out.

I will just make a few comments about the Wednesday game before I go to bed:

-Kaz Matsui reportedly played a good second Dave aptly pointed out. It seems his only miscue was the ball that fell in between he and THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED, Jose Reyes.

-Another good note about Matsui - he plays up the middle, or at least further up the middle than Doug Mientkiewicz expected. This is a good thing, says Mientkiewicz, because Mientkiewicz can range far to his right. So he says it gives the Mets maximum coverage on the right side of the infield with Matsui positioning himself where he does.

The Mets have a really good infield right now - I'm can't wait to see them play for real. That's all I got for tonight. Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I'm not feeling too well right now, so it's a good thing Dave from Brighton did all the work today. Without further ado, here is Dave's summary of the Mets' first spring training game (I have italicized his entry, just so it's clear we're reading his thoughts):

I almost missed the start of the game because I had to shovel snow out of my spot on the street. Lousy Smarch weather. In contrast, it’s beautiful and sunny and breezy at Space Coast Stadium (cap. 8,100) near Viera, Fla., spring home of the DC Nationals, who beat the Mets 5-3 the first spring training game for both teams.

ESPN was kind enough to open this afternoon’s coverage with the final out of the 2004 World Series, accompanied by the WEEI radio call. It’s nice to have baseball back on TV, and I’m celebrating with two hot dogs and a Bud Light.

Some of the Mets regulars did not make the one-plus hour trip. Most notably, Mike Piazza remained in Port St. Lucie. This means Jason Phillips did the catching and Doug Mientkiewicz hit cleanup. I know JohnnyMets isn’t a Mientkiewicz fan, but “Eyechart,” as he’s called on the Sons of Sam Horn board, will always have a place in my heart. Even if he is a ballhog.

In case you were wondering, Jeff Brantley says moving Piazza back to catcher full-time is a good move. The rest of the broadcast crew is Dan Shulman on play-by-play, Sam Ryan on the field, and former Mets GM Steve Phillips to do color. This is like having John Kerry do color at the State of the Union address.

The Mets Lineup
SS Reyes
2B Matsui
CF Beltran
1B Mientkiewicz
C Phillips
3B Wright
RF Diaz
LF Valent
P Glavine

Pitchers tend to be ahead of batters early in spring training, and the top of the first confirmed that. Though Nationals starter Tony Armas, Jr. had a little trouble finding the strike zone initially, going 3-0 on Jose Reyes (I’ll leave out Reyes’ usual moniker), he ended up with a 1-2-3 inning, getting Carlos Beltran* looking to end the inning. Beltran* made up for this later with a rocket up the middle.

Tom Glavine started for the Mets. I’ve always liked Glavine and thought that one day he’d pitch with Pedro Martinez*. Of course, I thought they’d both be on the Red Sox when it happened, so I guess I was only half right.

Glavine turns 39 this month, with a 262-171 lifetime record over 18 seasons. Had he stayed with the Braves, he might have hit 300 wins, but he’ll need a pair of 19 win seasons to get there by age 40. I’d take the under, for entertainment purposes.

Glavine had a 3.60 ERA in 200+ innings last year, but went 11-14 because of the Mets anemic offense and troublesome infield defense.

One of the keys to the Mets’ success will be how that defense improves, with Reyes playing short and Kaz Matsui at second. They looked good in the first, turning a 4-6-3 double play, a play sometimes described as nifty.

Reyes’ throw was a little low and off target, but Mientkiewicz dug it out, something Red Sox fans came to expect last year. On a high, weak bouncer in the second it looked like Matsui and Reyes both waited for the other to commit to the ball, resulting in an infield single. But in the third Matsui made two good-looking charging plays, one of them barehanded.

The Nationals are basically last year’s Expos, with a few additions. They brought in veteran Vinny Castilla at third, Cristian Guzman to play short, and Estaban Loaiza for the rotation. They also took a risk on hothead Jose Guillen in the outfield.

Steve Phillips on the Nationals: “They’ve done a great job with the uniforms. The colors look great.”

Glavine looked good for his first outing of the spring. Some rust, including a 58-foot curve in the first and a HBP in the second (which he erased with a pickoff throw when the runner was going). 24 pitches in 2 innings work. Braden Looper relieved him, getting some work against the Nationals starters.

Reyes delivered the Mets’ first hit of the spring with 2 down in the third but did not try to steal. Reyes was thrown out twice in an intra-squad game earlier this week. Naturally, JohnnyMets took this as a good sign. Other bloggers might say that if you can’t steal off the Mets battery in spring training, you’re in trouble.

Nationals Double-A righty Michael Hinckley had some control trouble in the fourth, leading to a pair of Mets runs. Beltran scored on a Jason Phillips single, and Mientkiewicz scored on an error.

The Nationals tied it in the bottom of the fourth with a 2-run homer from Guillen. It came off righty Aaron Heilman. He went 1-3 in 5 starts for the Mets last year, with a 5.46 ERA. Jeff Brantley and Steve Phillips say Heilman has good stuff, but sometimes has trouble with command or situational pitching. He recovered nicely after the homer, working away with offspeed stuff for a strikeout then getting a 3-1 grounder to end the inning.

Against the tallest pitcher to ever play in the majors, the Nationals’ 6”11’ Jon Rauch, Matusi managed to drive the ball about 360 feet to left-center and have it bounce off Endy Chavez’s glove for a two-base error. He scored on another two-base error when Jeffrey Hammonds misjudged a Jason Phillips fly ball to left. Phillips accomplished this despite his creepy glasses.

The Nationals again answered the Mets in the bottom of the inning, on a homer from non-roster invitee Keith Osik. Again off Heilman. Again he recovered nicely after the home run.

The bottom of the 6th was for former Yankees, with Felix Heredia on the mound and Cairo replacing David Wright at third.

Steve Phillips on Wright: “He has that twinkle in his eye.”

Another replacement in the field: Andres Gallaraga at first. He’s one of my favorite players. I hope he makes the Mets 25-man roster, because he needs just one more homer to reach 400 for his career.

One of the major problems facing the Mets this year middle-relief and set-up work. As I mentioned earlier, Glavine is getting old and Martinez’s* struggles beyond 100 pitches are well documented by the Fox Television Network, meaning reliable 7th and 8th inning work could make or break the Mets’ season. So the late innings of spring training games are a great time to assess the team’s options for relief.

In the 6th, Heredia picked up right where he left off in the 2004 postseason, throwing some light BP and giving up a run. Of course, there were 2 errors in the infield behind him, one by Cairo and another by Danny Garcia at second.

And in the 8th, lefty Mike Matthews was unable to pitch around 2 more errors, both from Garcia. He gave up one run.

Heredia’s and Matthews’ games were the difference in the game, the Mets losing 5-3.

So the 2005 Mets are 0-1. I suppose that doesn’t mean much, since it’s spring, except that New York has never won a game when John doesn’t write the summary, all but guaranteeing this is the first and last guest write-up on JNYMDBSDC.

Dave in Brighton

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Before I get to the mailbag, I want to make one more comment on the rotation. It doesn't effect the rotation this year, but it's something to keep an eye on down the road.

Mets first round draft pick Philip Humber is having a good spring so far. People like the way he throws, and he says he's learning a ton from guys like Pedro Martinez*. It also can't hurt that Humber gets to hang around Rick Peterson. Peterson took a bunch of pitchers to Alabama to have their motions recorded on some high-tech computer thing - Humber was among the pitchers who went. So we'll keep an eye on Humber throughout the season.

Also, good news from the Mets' first intrasquad game. Jose Reyes was picked off twice by Mets' minor league pitchers. This is good news because he was rarin' to go. He has shown in this one game that he is again THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER WHO EVER LIVED. He just needs to stay healthy, because I want to keep writing that.

Funny note - apparently, future Hall of Famer David Wright got hit by a pitch in the game, and the pitch was a very slow change up, but Wright let out a girlish yelp right before he got hit. His teammates let him hear about that one.

OK. Now to the e-mails:

"Dear JohnnyMets,

While doing preparatory work for my stint at the helm of THE GREATEST
BLOG THAT EVER LIVED, I read today that Mike Cameron's hand is hurt
and that he might miss opening day.

What did he do? Punch a wall when they signed Beltran*?

Dave in Brighton"

Good one. Actually, I feel bad for not reporting this - Cameron's hand has been hurting him since the end of last year - he had surgery during the off-season, and should be back in April, but it might not be Opening Day. He says he thinks he will be back by the opener, Willie Randolph isn't saying anything. Cameron took some swings the other day against soft tosses, and has felt no ill effects, so that's good news...things are progressing. In the meantime, Victor Diaz took Cameron's place in right field in Monday's intrasquad game.

Dave will be writing in this space Wednesday night for Thursday's blog...recapping the Mets' first Grapefruit League spring training game (hence the preparatory work he was doing). Thanks, Dave.

The snow gods were kind to me, giving me a snow day on Tuesday. Now I need to respond in kind and get to bed, so I am refreshed when the school gods take over on Wednesday. Enjoy Mets spring training baseball!! (1:05pm, ESPN)