Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘Spring Training’ Category

Spring Training Wrap-up

Posted by JD on March 30, 2011

The final game has been played (the Mets won, if you care) and the final roster decisions have been made. Next stop: Miami. A couple of thoughts before Opening Day:

  • Jason Bay is injured. You didn’t think this wouldn’t happen, did you? Not Bay’s injury specifically, but an injury to one of the team’s better players. I may be reading too much into my Twitter feed, but I think it’s fair to say that Bay’s injury solicited a fair amount of “same old Mets” reactions. Sure, it’s not a good thing. But injuries happen, especially to soon-to-be 32 year old outfielders. I could be alone here, but I think it’s at most a minor set back and is not at all related to anything that happened in 2009 or 10. Bay will be back at some point, he’ll be healthy, and he’ll probably exceed his 2010 production levels. Until then, some combination of Lucas Duda, Scott Hairston and Opening Day starter Willie Harris will tide the team over.
  • Speaking of Willie Harris, he’s starting in left field on Opening Day. Well, that’s sub-optimal. But after they sing the anthem and watch the fighter jet-flyover, Opening Day is just one of 162 games. As long as Carlos Beltran stays healthy, the threesome listed above should be able to roughly approximate Bay’s production.
  • Speaking of Carlos Beltran, he’s apparently healthy. Or, at least as healthy as he’s likely to get this season. I’ve made no attempt to hide the fact that I’m a big Beltran fan and I’m extremely happy that he’s going to play on Friday. I’ve come to grips with the fact that he’ll never be the player he once was: those days are over. But I’m excited about his bat. Maybe I’ve read to many articles, too many beat-writer tweets from batting practice or minor league games, but it sounds to me like his bat (and, just as importantly, his batting eye) are still as good as ever. He may not be able to cover ground like he once did and I’ll probably hold my breath every time he rounds first on his way to second, but he’ll help this team. I have no doubt about that.

I’m on record over at Mets Fever saying that I think the Mets will “go 87-75 and finish 2nd. I don’t think that will be good enough for the Wild Card, but they’ll be in contention late.” Despite recent developments, I still feel that way. Sure, it’s a bit optimistic and quite a few things have to go right, but I think they’ll get some breaks*. And even if they don’t, I refuse to dampen my optimism. Our long, cold winter is finally over: Mets baseball is back and we’re about to embark on another 162-game summer. Let’s get ready to enjoy it for all it’s worth.

*That’s as far as I’m willing to “show my work”. As much as I admire (and struggle to employ) statistical analysis and forecasting, I was unwilling to peek too far behind the curtains for my pre-season prediction. I’m aware of the flaws this team has and I know that banking on a few breaks to go the Mets way is lazy, but I’m going all in on optimism. Will I be disappointed if they don’t win 87 games? Not unless they lose more than 83: this team is better than last year’s. Anything in-between is acceptable to me, and I chose to bet on the high side. So there you go. And Let’s Go Mets!


Posted in Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Mets, Spring Training | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Taking Shape

Posted by JD on March 23, 2011

The 2011 Mets’ roster is rounding into shape.  The first round of cuts, comprised mostly of prospects who had little chance of making the roster, took place on March 11.  The second round (which took place on March 19th) can be categorized as a group of AAAA players who had an outside shot (at best) at winning jobs, Dillon Gee, and Luis Castillo. Monday, Oliver Perez finally (mercifully) got the ax and today Justin Turner was optioned to Buffalo.

This is the exciting part of Spring Training for me: the final week or so, where the last few spots on the roster are sorted out. I tend to like the longshots and underdogs: that’s why I’m rooting for Nick Evans to find a spot on the bench. I guess Willie Harris is technically also an underdog, but I can’t help but feel that Evans’ upside outweighs Harris’ by a long shot (and Carlos Beltran’s knee may give both players an extended tryout). The second base competition is a slam dunk for me: I’m rooting for Brad Emaus to win. It’s not that I don’t like Luis Hernandez: the broken-foot home run that ended his season was awesome, but he’s a total non-factor offensively. I mean, Baseball Reference shows that his nickname (or middle name, I can’t figure it out) is “Mendoza”. If any team actually offers an asset for Hernandez, Sandy Alderson & Co. should jump on it immediately. So, two of the competitions are easy for me to diagnose.

The open bullpen spots are a different story. With the exception of Mike O’Conner, all of the remaining candidates have something to offer: Manny Acosta was solid last season after being picked up on waivers from the Braves; Pat Misch has performed above his limited stuff and has gotten results despite being less than overpowering: Pedro Beato is young, throws hard, and probably has the most upside of the bunch (and, as a Rule 5 pick, has to be offered back to the Orioles if he doesn’t make the major league roster); Jason Isringhausen has been a revelation as a reclamation project this spring, and Blaine Boyer has impressed members of the front office with his performance this spring. I’m all for carrying Beato. Beyond that, I can’t make up my mind, and I couldn’t be happier. Each of the candidates are viable major leaguers who probably won’t get through waivers. It’s a breath of fresh air: the Mets have a surplus of viable candidates for the last pitcher in their bullpen.

Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I’m happy with the way they’ve managed their roster this season. I’m content to sit back and watch the players battle it out over the next week or so, reasonably content that Alderson & Co. will make a good decision. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that way, and that’s the best part of spring training so far.

Posted in Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, Mets, Oliver Perez, Spring Training | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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 »

Spring Training Is Over

Posted by JD on April 3, 2010

Well, it’s been fun. Sort of. Ok, not really. There are a lot of question marks surrounding our favorite team as they make their way north, to say the least. But ready or not, here they come. The next game (and the 161 following it) will count. For posterity’s sake, here’s the cast of players the Mets will start the season with:

Starting Pitchers
Johan Santana
John Maine
Jon Niese
Mike Pelfrey
Oliver Perez

Sean Green
Hisanori Takahashi
Ryota Igarashi
Fernando Nieve
Jenrry Mejia
Pedro Feliciano
Francisco Rodriguez

Rod Barajas
Henry Blanco

Mike Jacobs
Luis Castillo
Frank Catalanotto
Alex Cora
Fernando Tatis
Ruben Tejada
David Wright

Jeff Francoeur
Angel Pagan
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Jason Bay

Those are the players you’ll see during introductions on Monday. Jose Reyes will knock someone off that list in a week or so and Carlos Beltran will do the same sometime in May (fingers crossed).  Personally I’d have taken Nelson Figueroa and Chris Carter north in place of Mejia and Jacobs. But that’s just me, and my paycheck doesn’t have a Mets logo on it. And so it goes.

For better or worse this is the team we’ll be rooting for when the gun goes off. It’s certainly not my vision of an optimized roster, but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt. It’s a long season and anything can happen, but it’s asking a lot to expect this group to be much more than a .500 team. I wouldn’t say it will take a Miracle to make the playoffs, but it might. Either way, it will be interesting to see how they meet the challenges that come their way.

I guess there’s really nothing left to say but this: Let’s Go Mets!

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Schoeneweis Redux?

Posted by JD on March 23, 2010

Scott Schoeneweis was released by the Milwaukee Brewers today. Well, he wasn’t exactly released. Apparently, they informed him that he would not be making the roster and he packed his stuff up and left. The Brewers won’t officially release him from his minor league contract until Thursday (the date on which he could elect free agency), but it certainly seems like he’s free to contact other clubs. The Mets have been reported to be interested in Joe Beimel, but he reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies. Could the Mets turn to Schoeneweis to fill that role?

It’s certainly possible, but I’d have to advise against it. Allow me to clarify: I like Scott Schoeneweis. During his time with the Mets, he was largely a steady contributor in the bullpen who had a few high-exposure incidents that dogged him. For example, he started off 2007 by allowing two earned runs in 14 innings (over 17 appearances). He followed this with a three game stretch against the Brewers, Cubs, and Yankees (at Shea) where he allowed 11 earned runs in three innings. Two weeks later, he added a two game stretch against the Phillies (who were loaded with lefty hitters) where he allowed four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. His game log shows more of the same. It didn’t help that he had another three-run outing against the Phillies in August, and our parting image of Schoeneweis that season was equally unfortunate, as he gave up a meaningless run in the final game of the season against the Marlins.

2008 was even more unfair to Schoeneweis. Booed on Opening Day, Schoeneweis actually had an above average season, pitching to a 126 ERA+. He still struggled with the high-profile big inning: as an example, he gave up three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Yankees (again at Shea). He was often greeted by boos even though he was actually one of the more consistent relievers in the pen that year, but it all came to a head in his final appearance as a Met, in the final game at Shea Stadium.

Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Robinson Cancel walked to lead off the inning. After Jose Reyes popped out to right, Carlos Beltran blasted a home run to deep left-center* to tie it. The stadium erupted (I was there). After Brian Stokes came in and preserved the tie, and the Mets failed to score in the bottom of the inning, Schoeneweis was called in to do the same. Three pitches later, Wes Helms took him yard, effectively ending the Mets’ season. Sure, Luis Ayala replaced him and gave up a homer to the very next batter (Josh Willingham), but you could see ( even from the upper deck) the physical toll that home run and the ensuing boos took on Schoeneweis.

*In my opinion, people tend to fixate on the called strike three in 2006 and ignore moments like these. What a convenient (and bankrupt) argument.

In a weird way, what happened after the game forever endeared him to me: he broke down in front of the cameras. I couldn’t find the video, but I remember the quote (from the AP): “I’m still kind of in shock over it,” a teary-eyed Schoeneweis said before cutting his comments short. “I can’t describe it. If I could take it back, I would, but I can’t.” He showed the emotions that I know I would feel in that situation, and I’m grateful to him for it. I couldn’t hold it against him: he went out there, tried his best, failed, and regretted it. There were no cliches, no false statements, just raw emotion.

He was traded from the Mets in a move that was probably in the best interest of both parties. But instead of a fresh start, he received tragedy:  his wife was died from an overdose of cocaine and lidocaine. Schoeneweis struggled (rightfully so) throughout the season and signed with the Brewers in the off-season, but it apparently hasn’t worked out. He’s also apparently saying the Brewers released him in part because his wife died (I won’t even begin to try to analyze that).

Whatever the reason, New York isn’t the place for him to find himself. The fans’ perception of him hasn’t changed in the time he’s been gone and I doubt it would be helpful for him to return to such an environment. I will always root for Schoeneweis to succeed. I just don’t think it’s wise for him to attempt it here.

Posted in Mets, Spring Training | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »