Tag Archives: Johan Santana

Johan Santana Throws First No-Hitter in Mets History

The video board outside of Citi Field after Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history.

The game ended and I had the urge to go to Citi Field. That’s where Johan Santana had just thrown the first no-hitter in New York Mets history, and I felt I should be there. It was like a pilgrimage, if a pilgrimage can include the subway. I took the N train to Queensboro Plaza, transferred to the 7, and rode the 13 stops to Mets-Willets Point. I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do when I got there.

As it turned out, I walked around the stadium, took a few pictures, and looked for discarded ticket stubs (I didn’t find any, though it was so windy that any that had been left outside the stadium may have blown halfway to Westchester). I heard a couple of guys talking about their co-workers who had left the game early because of the weather (too windy for them?). A vendor was selling, in his words, “no-hitter programs” for $5. They sell programs for each series, not each game, and $5 wasn’t a post-game discount, so if I want one I can get it tomorrow, when I’ll be there for the game. Of course, I wish I had been at this one.

Continue reading Johan Santana Throws First No-Hitter in Mets History

Don’t Tell Me It’s Just One Game

The Mets opened the 2009 season in Cincinnati against the Reds. The theme of the previous offseason was the bullpen—the Mets signed Sean Green, J.J. Putz, and Francisco Rodriguez to pitch the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. On that day in Cincinnati, Johan Santana pitched 5.2 innings before handing it to Green, who gave way to Putz, who gave way to K-Rod. The Reds didn’t score against the relievers and the Mets won 2-1. It had gone exactly as planned, and all the post-game talk was about the Mets’ rebuilt bullpen. Of course, not all of the remaining 161 followed that script, and the Mets finished 70-92.

The theme of this past offseason was, well, financial problems, but as far as player acquisitions it was once again the bullpen. The Mets traded for Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez and signed free agents Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, both with Toronto last year. Yesterday, on Opening Day at Citi Field against the Atlanta Braves, Santana pitched five scoreless innings. Ramirez relieved him, Rauch and Francisco each threw a scoreless frame, and (with the aid of two big outs from Tim Byrdak) the Mets bullpen preserved the 1-0 win. (As a bonus, the only starting position player acquired this offseason, Andres Torres, scored the game’s lone run.)
Continue reading Don’t Tell Me It’s Just One Game

Are the Mets Contenders in 2012?

It’s been a few years since I felt good about the New York Mets heading into the season and even longer since I felt good about them once the season was over. Expectations are especially low heading into tomorrow’s season opener. If you’ve read anything about the Mets in the past 12 months, you’re aware that the team’s owners lost a fortune as a result of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Ticket sales plummeted as the Mets finished 77-85 last season, fourth in the National League East, only adding to their financial woes.

As a result, the Mets orchestrated the biggest payroll slash in MLB history, going from $142 million to $91 million. They traded two of their stars last July and didn’t offer a contract to free agent Jose Reyes, who signed a nine-figure deal with the rival Miami Marlins in December. New York made no major acquisitions. ESPN the Magazine predicts the Mets’ best-case scenario is not losing 90 games.
Continue reading Are the Mets Contenders in 2012?

New York Mets: Trade Deadline Nears

There has been a lot of talk about a potential New York Mets fire sale. This intensified after Francisco Rodriguez was traded, with fans and writers suggesting Sandy Alderson would gut the roster in order to cut payroll and build for the future. While I certainly don’t think the Mets should or will be buyers at the July 31sttrade deadline, I realize a significant roster makeover is also unlikely.

With a little more than a week until the deadline, let’s examine the Mets’ roster—taking into account talent, contract, and team needs—to show why this is the case.

Carlos Beltran, right fielder
Beltran, a free agent after this season, will likely be traded before the deadline. He will be 35 next April, is a free agent after the season, and is represented by Scott Boras, so it is nearly impossible to imagine Beltran in a Met uniform come August.

Jose Reyes, shortstop
Reyes, another free agent after the season, will not get traded. If he were dealt, well, given that I know the location of Alderson’s suite I’d probably have to stay far away from Citi Field. In all seriousness, fans would make the Mets pay for dealing Reyes by not showing up for the meaningless games in August and September. Also, more importantly, Alderson has all but guaranteed Reyes will not be traded. Whether he is re-signed at the end of the season is another story.

David Wright, third baseman
Wright is owed $15 million next year and has a team option for $16 million in 2013. That team option only applies to the Mets, a fact that can’t be stressed enough when discussing Wright’s trade value. Any team that wants to deal for Wright realizes it will only get one full year out of him, while the Mets, if they keep him, will get two years. That makes him a lot more valuable to the Mets than to any other team. In other words, I see very little chance that Wright gets traded. (Note: Wright is currently on the disabled list and an interesting MLB rule states that players on the DL can not be traded.)

Mike Pelfrey, starting pitcher
Pelfrey is earning nearly $4 million this season, so the Mets were hoping for a lot better than a 5-9 record and 4.67 ERA from their Opening Day starter. Pelfrey is not a free agent until after the 2013 season, but his salary could increase through arbitration the next couple of seasons. Considering the Mets had to offer just $1.5 million to acquire Chris Capuano (8-8, 4.12 ERA), Pelfrey is not cheap. I just don’t see the Mets getting much in return for Big Pelf, making him an unlikely trade candidate.

Beltran will be traded. Wright (back left) will not. Brian Schneider (back right) was once part of a deal for Lastings Milledge. (Credit: Keith Allison)

Jonathon Niese, starting pitcher; Daniel Murphy, infielder; Bobby Parnell, relief pitcher; Ike Davis, first baseman
These players are valuable to other teams, but they are more valuable to the Mets because they are inexpensive. All of them make a figure close to the MLB minimum of $414,000 (Niese is the highest paid at $452,000). These players won’t be arbitration eligible until 2013, yet they are valuable contributors to the club right now (except Davis, who is on the DL).

Johan Santana, starting pitcher
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Santana, who is on the DL as he recovers from elbow surgery. Even if Santana were to return late this season and pitch well, do you think any team would take on $49.5 million for two years’ worth of a 33-year-old pitcher?

Jason Bay, left fielder
Hahahahahahahahaha.

That leaves the “tweeners” like Jason Isringhausen and Tim Byrdak, who won’t cost a trade partner more than a low-level prospect (or a significant financial commitment). They have showed they can be of value to a contending team looking to bolster its bullpen down the stretch.

I’d have to agree that the trading of Rodriguez, Beltran, and Reyes would constitute a fire sale (despite involving just three players). I just don’t see it happening. K-Rod’s departure was necessary, everyone has seen the writing on the wall with Beltran since last year, and Reyes will not be traded. Alderson could plant an “Everything Must Go” sign in front of Citi Field and it wouldn’t make a difference.

New York Mets 2010 Season Review

The New York Mets had a forgettable 2010. Not since the 2006 Mets have fans felt good about the team at season’s end, and even that year ended in heartbreak. The key difference in ’06, of course, was that there was hope.

The organization continues to preach that it won’t accept mediocrity, but actions speak louder than words. Ownership needs to commit to this winning culture it keeps talking about. It needs a plan. The Yankees have a plan, the Red Sox have one, the Rays have one, and that’s just the American League East. The Mets need not model themselves after any other team, but they sure better come up with a model and stick to it.

It was not all bad for this year’s team, however. In order from best to not quite as awesome, the five good things that came out of this disappointing season:

1. Angel Pagan
Pagan was this season’s most valuable Met if you like the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat. Many everyday observers, even those who don’t subscribe to advanced metrics, would say the same. David Wright is the only other Met you could make an argument for, but I think Pagan gets the edge because of his defense and perhaps because less was expected of him.

With Carlos Beltran missing the entire first half, Pagan was relied upon to fill the void. Through September 28, Pagan had appeared in 145 of New York’s 156 games, nearly all as a starter. He played mostly in center field, but when Beltran returned he moved to either of the corners, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense no matter where he was positioned.

He probably caught this. (Credit: eviltomthai)

Pagan hit in the first or second spot in the batting order the majority of the season but also hit third and sixth at times. When Jose Reyes was injured at various points, Pagan was counted on to jump start the offense. He is hitting .289 with 11 home runs, 69 RBI, and a .341 OBP.

The fact that Gary Matthews Jr., not Pagan, was the Opening Day center fielder is Exhibit A in the case against Jerry Manuel managing this team in 2011.

2. R.A. Dickey
The pitching of Robert Allen Dickey was nothing short of unbelievable this season. I say that because hardly anyone could believe it. Dickey was 6-0 in his first seven starts with the Mets but fans, media, and anyone else paying attention called it a mirage. They waited for him to fall apart. Except he never did.

Like the rest of the Mets staff this season, Dickey didn’t get much run support, so while he wasn’t piling up the wins he did carry a 2.32 ERA (through 14 starts) into August. I’ll admit, I didn’t believe it was real. His career stats screamed “Triple-A stud,” someone whose knuckleball clearly fooled minor leaguers but was futile against the big boys. But when Dickey pitched a complete game one-hit shutout against the Phillies on August 13, everyone took notice.

He has struggled a bit in September, but his ERA still has him in the top-10 in the league, ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Carpenter, Tim Linecum, and teammate Johan Santana. The terrifying look on his face when he releases a pitch, his 12 hits and five RBI in 50 at-bats, and his eloquent post-game quotes are a few of the things I’ll pleasantly remember from this disappointing season.

3. The Kids
Whether it was done out of necessity or with an eye towards the future is debatable, but one thing is certain: The 2010 Mets season was a bonafide youth movement. Jon Niese (23 years old) will make 30 starts this year. Ike Davis took over first base in late April and has started there ever since. Baby-faced middle infielder Ruben Tejada (21) has appeared in 71 games. Left-handed hitting Josh Thole (23) became the everyday catcher in July. Pitchers Jennry Mejia (20) and Dillon Gee (24) and outfielder Lucas Duda (24) have also seen action with the big league club.

I remember watching the first game that featured Niese pitching to Thole with Davis, Tejada, Wright, and Reyes behind him in the infield—an entire infield of homegrown players. It was refreshing to see. Davis has gone through slumps (but has 18 homers). Tejada has hovered around the Mendoza Line but has shown promise of late, hitting nearly .300 in September. Niese has struggled recently (his ERA has risen to 3.95 and he sports a 1.41 WHIP), but generally speaking the results have been very encouraging.

4. Mike Pelfrey
A 3.75 ERA and 1.40 WHIP are nothing to celebrate, but Pelfrey was a legitimate ace in the first half. He was 9-1 with a 2.39 ERA at one point, but pitched to a 10 ERA in July. He has turned it around down the stretch and has won 15 games, the most of his career.

After the great start, many thought Big Pelf had taken the next step towards becoming a stud. The poor stretch was reminiscent of old Pelfrey, as his body language was terrible and he seemed clueless on the mound. But I’ve been impressed with his resiliency in 2010 and think 2011 will be a true breakout season for the Mets’ 2005 first round draft pick.

5. The Winning Streaks
If you were being honest with yourself, it was clear from Opening Day that this year’s Mets team was a .500 club. That opinion, again, if you were being honest with yourself, should not have changed at any point this season. But it was hard not to get caught up in the two eight-game winning streaks.

The Mets closed out April by winning eight in a row against the Cubs, Braves, and Dodgers, all at home (if the Mets could play every game at Citi Field, they’d be a playoff team). Sweeping Atlanta and taking both games of a double header against LA was exciting.

The next big streak came in mid-June. The Mets took the rubber game against San Diego at home, then travelled to Baltimore and Cleveland and swept both lowly American League clubs. Their eighth consecutive victory came via a shutout at Yankee Stadium, finishing a stretch in which the Mets won 12 of 13.

Meaningful July games, that’s all you can ask for, right?

And now for the five bad things that happened during the 2010 season. Yes, this started as a much longer list and had to be cut considerably. Once again, starting with the really bad and moving to the regular bad:

1. Oliver Perez
I can’t remember which, but one Mets blog I have visited has a countdown clock to when Perez’s contract expires. Sadly, that doesn’t sum up why Perez is No. 1 on this list, because that clock was in place last season. It has only gotten worse.

Despite beginning the season as part of the starting rotation, he only lasted seven starts. Unable to retire hitters—in short, those that didn’t walk got hits—the Mets were essentially forced to remove Perez from the rotation. Refusing a trip to the minor leagues, Perez has rotted away in the bullpen ever since. He has made five appearances since May and has not pitched since September 6 despite the Mets being long out of the playoff race.

The worst part? Perez is still on the books for next season, when he’ll make another $12 million.

2. Luis Castillo
Castillo is to the lineup what Perez is to the pitching staff: a useless financial drain. Castillo only makes half as much, but I think it’s fair to say that $6 million is a tad much for a second baseman with no range or hitting ability.

Castillo turned it on last year and actually finished with a batting average over .300, but has regressed to his 2008 production levels this season, batting .234. Somehow he still draws a decent amount of walks despite slugging .266.

Whoever the Mets’ General Manager is this offseason will have his work cut out for him as he tries to find takers for Castillo and/or Perez.

3. Francisco Rodriguez
I recall when the Mets signed K-Rod (I don’t even like typing that anymore; he has lost the right to have a complimentary nickname), my older brother said how non-Mets fans would hate the Mets even more. His thinking was that people already disliked the celebratory antics displayed by Reyes, and now we were bringing in the biggest showboat on the mound.

What my brother didn’t figure was that the fans who would hate Rodriguez the most would be Mets fans. But after an embarrassing 2010, Rodriguez is right up there with Perez and Castillo, and it doesn’t even have much to do with his on-field performance.

Rodriguez pitched to a 2.20 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, and while he blew the save in New York’s epic 20-inning game with the Cardinals, the Mets eventually won that game. Only twice did the Mets lose a game that Rodriguez blew, none more crushing than his July 3 collapse in Washington.

But again, it was not Rodriguez’s pitching that made him a hated man in his own city. The closer was arrested following an August 11 game for an altercation with his father-in-law, throwing a punch that led to season-ending surgery. He appeared in court earlier this month for violating an order of protection by sending dozens of text messages to his estranged girlfriend.

The Mets suspended Rodriguez without pay. It is unclear how the organization will proceed this offseason. They could try to void the remainder of his lucrative deal or explore a trade. Either way, Rodriguez has been an embarrassment to the organization this season.

4. Carlos Beltran’s Surgery
I was in Ann Arbor in January and thought it was a joke when my friend John texted me to say that Beltran had undergone knee surgery. This sparked a public feud that included the Mets, Beltran, Scott Boras, and several doctors over whether Beltran had been given the green light for the surgery.

Either way, delaying the surgery until 2010 meant Beltran would miss the entire first half. He has not been the same player this season, batting .255 and looking like one of the worst center fielders in baseball. Veteran Torii Hunter made the move to right field this season; will Beltran be willing to do the same in 2011?

5. Johan Santana’s Surgery
This was Santana’s third season with the Mets and the third one that ended with a surgery. In 2008, he pitched on a severely injured left knee in an attempt to carry the Mets into the postseason. He had surgery as soon as the season ended. His 2009 campaign was cut short in late August because of surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow.

This season’s injury was perhaps the most troubling, as this time it was his shoulder that required surgery. He last pitched on September 2. The numbers have been stellar all three seasons (2.85 ERA over that span), but you have to wonder whether the Mets will get a full return on their six-year, $137.5 million investment. Will Santana hold up for three more seasons? Mets fans and management can only hope.

Consider that I didn’t include Jason Bay (.259 BA, six home runs before being shut down in late July due to a concussion) on this list, or directly mention Omar Minaya, Manuel, or the Wilpons and you’ll get a feel for how bad this season really was.

The worst part is that while the bright spots return next season, so do the headaches. How Beltran and Santana recover from their surgeries will be critical, as will whether the Mets can find a trade partner for Perez or Castillo. My feeling is that come mid-October, someone other than Minaya and Manuel will be making these decisions.

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Mets: A Fan Perspective

Tuesday night, in what could have been the last game in the Metrodome, the Minnesota Twins fell behind the Detroit Tigers 3-0. They came back. They fell behind in extra innings and came back again before scoring in the 12th to win.

I watched the game on television, but I had already seen a different version of it in person. The Mets, needing a win on the final game of the regular season last year — the final at Shea Stadium — to force a one-game playoff, lost at home. It was the second straight year my beloved Mets were in that situation and lost.

So if I said I wish I were a Minnesota Twins fan, could you blame me?

The Mets, who, despite their 145 million-dollar payroll, the second-highest in baseball, haven’t made the playoffs the last three years and only once since 2000. The Twins are a playoff team this year, their fifth postseason trip this millennium, in spite of their 67 million-dollar payroll, the eighth lowest.

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota’s manager, has held the position since 2002. I don’t watch Twins games regularly, but in my opinion, he’s one of the best, if not the best, skipper in baseball. He’s come in second in Manager of the Year voting four times and it would be hard to argue that anyone does more with less. I can’t speak personally on his in-game strategy, but to be as successful as his teams have, he’s got to be doing something right.

During Gardenhire’s tenure, the Mets have had four different managers. The only one who could hold a candle to Gardenhire is Bobby Valentine, who took an overachieving bunch to the World Series in 2000. Jerry Manuel, New York’s current skipper, showed promise taking over for Willie Randolph last season, but still couldn’t stop a late season slide. This year, he didn’t bother enforcing fundamentals.

The Twins and Mets differ on the field as well. David Wright, the face of the Mets franchise, is a great player and role model. I could mention some of his disappointing offensive numbers this year to try and expose him as overrated, but I can’t do it. He is an All-Star , no question about it, and has a great attitude.

Outside of him though, it’s hard to find a generally likeable everyday player. Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes don’t fit the bill after they spent most of 2009 on the disabled list with mystery injuries. (Which reminds of yet another difference between the Mets and the Twins: the medical staff. From the clubhouse trainers all the way up to the surgeons, the Mets have a joke of a staff. I know nothing about the Twins staff but I still know it’s exponentially better than the Mets’.)

Along with Wright, the only player living up to the big expectations is Johan Santana. He’s tough, ultra-competitive, fearless — everything you could ask for in an ace. Of course, he pitched for Minnesota for the first eight years of his career before coming to New York in 2008.

The Twins, at least from an outsider’s perspective, have highly likeable stars — guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Mauer is an in-state product and a front-runner for the MVP this year. Morneau has already won the award, but you’d never know it. Both have been with the Twins their entire careers.

Listen, I know some of these characteristics I’ve described are inherent differences between big market and small market teams; but not all of them. There is no reason why the Mets can’t have a competent medical staff, for example. There is no reason why their highest-paid players can’t perform like the stars they supposedly are. There is no reason why the Twins could overcome a seven-game September deficit while the Mets blew the same type of lead in 2007.

The fact remains, of course, that I don’t really wish I were a Twins fan; I’m just jealous. I will be a Mets fan for life, which is why I hope they can adopt some of the qualities — heart, fire, sensibility — that make the Twins such a success.