Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘Daniel Murphy’ Category

Double Comeback! What Does It Mean! (Something Nice, 4/27/11)

Posted by JD on April 27, 2011

I have to apologize in advance for this post. This series was never meant to be a recap: it was meant to highlight the reasons why watching Mets baseball was enjoyable even when they didn’t walk away with a win. Games like this were not what I had in mind when I came up with this re-occurring bit.

Why am I apologizing? Because the “Something Nice” tonight was the top of the eighth and ninth innings. Is that a cop out? Yes. But it was one thing after the other: Jose Reyes getting jobbed at third, Dan Murphy tying it with a “Blue Collar Blast” (copyright Amazin’ Avenue), Jason Bay reaching on an infield single, Willie Harris benefiting beating out a bunt due to some ugly defense, Chin-lung Hu’s first RBI as a member of the Mets, Josh Thole’s fielders choice RBI, Murphy’s two-run double, and Francisco Rodriguez closing the door. I guess if I had to pick one player I’d go with Murph, but everybody deserves credit for the win (especially the Nationals).

I tried to tweet my feelings about this win immediately after the game ended. I’m not sure I said it right, so I’ll try again here. I fully understand that it’s April and this was a game between two teams that have lost more games than they’ve won. I know this game does not represent a “turning point” in the same way that I know it’s not an indication that the Mets have “figured it out” or that they displayed a willingness to “do whatever it takes to win.” This win symbolizes nothing: it’s just 0.62% of the schedule. I get all that, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that this game was freaking awesome. “Double comeback! What does it mean!”

Not all that much, but boy was it fun to watch. If you watched (or listened) to this game and didn’t get at least a little caught up in it, well, I’m sorry: I’m not sure what to say to you. But if you did? If you cheered wildly when Murph went yard, died a little when Wilson Ramos gave the Nats the lead again, perked up a bit when Hu drove in the tying run, cheered wildly when Thole got the winning “ribeye steak”, and totally lost your shit when Murph doubled in some insurance runs*? Hang on to that. Soak every second of it in. Set your DVR to record the replay and watch it as much as you want: it’s in the books.


Posted in Daniel Murphy, Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Josh Thole, Mets, Something Nice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Something Nice

Posted by JD on April 21, 2011

It’s been a frustrating season for Mets fans. The team’s slow start has sucked the enthusiasm from a large part of the fanbase as the losses pile up and the local media piles on. And, quite frankly, it’s gotten to be a bit much for me.

Now, I’m not telling you to stop reacting negatively. You’re a fan: you have every right to express your displeasure in whatever (legal) way you see fit. Heck, I’m sure there will be times when I submit to my frustration and join the chorus of boos. It happens, however unfortunate it may be.

But, being as there’s still more than 140 games left, I’m going to mane an effort to stay positive. In the spirit of a wise cartoon rabbit, rather than saying nothing at all, I’m going to make a point to say something nice about the Mets after each game, no matter how frustrating the action on the field was.

Of course, I chose a day when I couldn’t actually watch the game (I was far too wrapped the NY Rangers’ double-overtime loss) to start this new bit. So, we’ll go with the obvious: Dan Murphy hit his first homer of the year (and first since 2009). Murphy’s homer was also his 15th career home run (I love that the guys over at Amazin’ Avenue call them “Blue Collar Blasts”), which moves him into a six-way tie for 92nd on the franchise’s career home run leaderboard. Joining Murphy are Jerry Buchek, Del Unser, Mackey Sasser, “Super” (I use the term very loosely) Joe McEwing, and the immortal Victor Diaz.

See? I bet you lost sight of the fact that Dan Murphy reached an important career milestone last night. Things are already feeling more positive around here…

…well, not so much. But it’s a start, and it’ll due until things change on the field.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Mets, Something Nice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Nick Evans, And The Battle for Bench Spots

Posted by JD on February 27, 2011

Jack DiLaurio had a decent debut season with the 1969 Mets, a less-successful second season with the Astros, and was out of the majors (never to return) before his third season started. Reading his SABR Bio Project entry I was struck by his approach to his situation. I don’t know if “fatalistic” is accurate, but DiLaurio knew that his path to the majors was blocked in the Detroit organization by better pitchers. He realized that, at age 26, he was running out of time to realize his dream of making the majors and consigned himself to retiring if he didn’t make the team in 1969. Fate intervened (in the form of then farm director Whitey Herzog pushing to first trade for, then promote, him) and DiLaurio made some useful contributions to the Miracle Mets, but his struggle to make the majors really stuck with me.

In terms of the current roster, I can’t help wondering if Nick Evans feels that same desperation (again, not sure if that’s exactly the right word, but it feels close) DiLaurio felt. The Mets’ treatment of Evans has been puzzling at best. Originally an injury replacement for the concussed Ryan Church, Evans made the jump from AA on May 28, 2008 and it was impressive: 3 for 4 with 3 doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored. He was sent down on June 4th after hitting just .174/.208/.304 in nine games, but came back on July 10th and steadily improved. His final line: .257/.303/.404 in 119 plate appearances. Not great, but not bad either (he was only 22 at the time).

Evans didn’t make the club out of spring training (Gary Sheffield took his spot at the last second) and split the season between AA Binghamton, AAA Buffalo, and the Mets. 2010 wasn’t much different: he opened the season in Binghamton, was promoted to Buffalo, and spent September with the Mets. What’s more, he spent most of his time in the minors even though it was apparent that Ike Davis was solidifying his claim as the first baseman of the future.

To this fan, it appeared as if the organization was neglecting his development. Yet, there was reason for him to be optimistic about his chances: not only did a new management team take over with a mandate to limit off-season spending, but Fernando Tatis was allowed to depart as a free agent. Tatis filled the role most suited for Evans: right handed hitter off the bench who had some power and could fill in adequately as a corner infielder and outfielder. With Terry Collins elevated from farm coordinator to major league manager, it seemed as if Evans had a clear path to the majors.

And then the Mets signed Scott Hairston. A second baseman who can play all three outfield positions capably, Hairston is a right-handed hitter who has good power, especially to pull. He doesn’t play first or third, but when you consider that both Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy play third and Murphy was an above-average first baseman for the Mets in 2009, Hairston’s versatility in the outfield suddenly loomed as a major road block for Evans.

I see the bench competition unfolding like this: Ronny Paulino (Mike Nickeas until Paulino’s PED suspension runs out) as back-up catcher, Chin-lung Hu as back-up middle infielder, the loser of the Emaus/Murphy second base competition, Willie Harris as back-up outfielder/lefty pinch hitter/pinch runner, and Evans or Hairston.

In my eyes, Harris’ presence negates the advantage that Evans has over Hairston, and vice versa. Evans advantage? Corner infield. Willie Harris has played 28 games at third. Hairston’s advantage? Center field. Harris has played 230 games in center. Evans is out of options, but Hairston was signed to a major league deal.

It will come down to who performs better in Spring Training, which is how it should be. The competition should bring the best out of both players and will strengthen the Mets’ bench. I just can’t help but wonder what Evans’ frame of mind is. He’s 25, which is young in real-life terms but dangerously middle aged for a baseball player who hasn’t established himself as a major leaguer. Does he doubt himself at all? Is he hoping to be traded or released or claimed on waivers, to get a fresh start somewhere else? Is he feeling emotions similar to what DiLaurio felt? It’s not the biggest story in camp this year, not by a long shot. But it’s intriguing enough to merit watching.

I don’t know (can’t know, really) who will help the Mets more this season. Hairston has a longer track record and is more athletic, so it seems to me that he has to be the favorite. But I feel for Nick Evans, and hope he has an excellent spring training. And, I hope that he’ll be given a fair shot to win a job on the bench. If he gets a shot and fails, so be it. But given his performance and how well he’s handled being bounced around over the past two years, he’s earned a fair chance to win a spot.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Mets, Offseason Moves, Spring Training, Terry Collins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Subway Thoughts

Posted by JD on May 4, 2010

While riding the subway home and thinking about the Mets, this crossed my mind (it didn’t cross my keyboard till sometime later, but you get the point):

  • Daniel Murphy – Howard Megdal had an excellent summary of the Mets options for Murphy over at MLB Trade Rumors. I’m particularly interested in seeing how he handles second base. Russ Adams is currently getting the bulk of the playing time at second for the Bisons, so it’s not as if Murphy would be displacing a prospect. He still has value to this club as a reserve, but as Megdal explains, mastering second base would increase it quite a bit. Remember, he’s under the Mets control for the near future and if he doesn’t get back to Flushing until September, he won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2012 season (he currently has one year and 58 days of service time). His future is probably as a utility man, but it can’t hurt to see if he can handle second base full-time.
  • Terry Collins – Brian Costa of the Star-Ledger posted a Spring Training Q&A session with Terry Collins, the Mets minor-league field coordinator (hat-tip to Metsblog for linking to it). Aside from explaining what a minor-league field coordinator does, Collins discussed some of his personal philosophies regarding player development. Of particular interest:

“We’re going to try to slow the process down just a bit. I know everybody wants to rush players to the big leagues. I think that can be a hindrance as much as it can be a help. I do believe players need to be challenged when the time comes. They need to learn how to fail, because they’re going to be humbled in the big leagues sometime. They need to learn that in the minor leagues, how to get through those things. So when the time is right, we’re going to challenge them. But to put them over their heads right now and let them drown, I don’t think that’s fair. I believe in playing with confidence. I really think that means something. And I want to move players up, not back.”

Collins’ approach is part of the reason why I’m glad Murphy is going to Buffalo instead of taking Frank Catalanotto’s spot on the roster. If the Mets are willing to put Murphy in a position to succeed, I’m willing to give them the chance to do so, even if it weakens the major league roster in the short term. They need to maximize their available assets: getting Murphy regular playing time does just that.

  • The Bench – There’s been a lot of talk about the bench over the past few weeks. Robert James at Surviving the Citi had wrote a nice post today highlighting their deficiencies. Gary Matthews Jr., Frank Catalanotto, and Alex Cora have no spot on the team in my opinion, but I can’t lump Henry Blanco and Fernando Tatis in with them. Blanco can’t hit a lick, but I think his impact on the starting rotation alone is worth his presence on the bench. Let’s face it: he’s the best defensive catcher in the organization, hands down. And as popular as it is to trash Tatis, I think he’s a perfectly adequate bench player. Able to play every position except center field, he’s a fine insurance policy against short term injury. Yes, he’s struggled at the plate. But his performance over the past two season has earned him an extended chance (believe it or not). As for the other three, how about cutting them and calling up Jason Pridie, Chris Carter, and Ruben Tejada? It’s too much to ask, but a guy can dream…
  • Chemistry – Back-to-back national television appearances gave me a headache, but not for the usual reasons. This time, it was the continual references to how the locker room has improved, how the Mets have a new focus on “team-oriented” players, and how “locker room chemistry” was a major reason for their improvement. Ugh. Spare me. I’m sure Alex Cora’s a great guy and I realize he’s not going anywhere (my previous bullet aside, there’s no way the Mets eat his contract), but I’m sick and tired of intangibles. I haven’t been able to calculate the exact amount of money I would spend, but I would pay a considerable sum to never hear them mentioned again.
  • Ernie Harwell – This isn’t a true “Subway Thought” because I learned of his passing during the game. Mr. Harwell was a treasure of the game, and his passing hit me a little harder than I expected: my first thought was of Bob Murphy, and the emotions I felt when he passed. There’s a blog post or two in there, but I just can’t write it tonight. RIP Mr. Harwell: we’ll miss you.
  • Rubber Game – As I was typing this post, the Mets managed to survive back-to-back home runs from Joey Votto and Scott Rolen, thanks to a solo blast from Rod Barajas. The three game losing streak is over and the Mets now have a chance to improve their record in rubber games to 1-4. Jon Niese: you’ve got next.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Mets, Subway Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Hyperbole, Thy Name is Ike Davis

Posted by JD on April 19, 2010

Ike Davis arrived today to much fanfare. Davis was on fire in Spring Training and Buffalo and, given how poorly the current crew of first basemen have played in Daniel Murphy’s absence, it’s no shock that Mets fans are happy to see him.

Twitter, in particular, was alive with Davis chatter which, though it got to be a bit much at times, was a refreshing departure from the doom and gloom that has surrounded he Mets since Opening Day. And there was some great stuff out there: examples include Michael Baron’s photo galleries of Davis and Hot Foot’s Ike Davis facts tumblr (which cracked me up – that kind of thing always gets me). It was a good day to be a fan and and a welcome diversion.

But there was another theme out there that made me shake my head. If you spent any time on line I’m sure you saw it at least once today: the comparison of Daniel Murphy to Wally Pipp, a well-meaning comparison that, in my mind, treads uncomfortably close to the land of unfair expectations.

As the story goes, Pipp took a day off in 1925 because of a headache and Lou Gehrig took his place, launching his famous Iron Man streak. Pipp became an afterthought, known primarily for losing his job and, as a result, getting compared to almost every player that’s lost their job to a younger player.

But the comparison usually doesn’t work. With all due respect to Murphy, Pipp was a far, far better player with an established resume. Just take a look at his stats: he lead (or tied for the lead) the league in home runs twice*, finished in the top-10 and 15 in MVP votes twice as a Yankee (and once as a Red, after he lost his job to Gehrig). Murphy has a future in the league, probably as a utility player, but to compare him to Pipp is stretching it a bit.

*With 12 and 9 home runs, but still…

And that brings me to a bigger point: if you’re explicitly comparing Murphy to Pipp, you’re implicitly comparing Davis to Gehrig. If you’ve read this far, I hope you know I’m exaggerating a bit: I didn’t actually see anyone make that comparison and even the most ill-informed fans I know wouldn’t go there. But the level of hyperbole did get pretty high, pretty fast, and I worry that some folks may have unjustly exaggerated expectations for Davis.

I’m as excited to see Davis play as the next guy, but let’s try to keep it reasonable. It’s hard enough just to play in the major leagues, never mind to play as well as John Olerud. I actually did see this comparison made in a good way, as it was said that he probably won’t be as good as Olerud (and I apologize for not having a link to the tweets in question). There was another reasonable comparison to Adam Laroche, who’s not quite as good as Olerud but still a solid major leaguer. It then becomes a game of degrees: if comparing Davis to Laroche is reasonable while comparing him to Olerud is unfair, the gap between is a substantial gray area, and you can start talking yourself into something that’s not fair to you or the player.

So, I warn you against setting your expectations for Davis too high. We have a litany of examples of the angst this can cause: Generation K, Lastings Milledge, and Carlos Gomez, to name a few (and you could probably throw in Mike Pelfrey, Eddie Kunz, and Fernando Martinez, too).

We’re all fans and we all enjoy the game in different ways. The hype generated by Davis’ promotion presents us with another opportunity to express ourselves, and it’s awesome the way the Mets community came alive in response to it. Let’s all enjoy Davis’ debut: his future begins tonight, and it’s a big day. I have a feeling he’ll be just fine, but let’s try not to burden him with unreasonable expectations all the same.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Mets | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »