May 2010

Check out Citi Field behind the scenes

The following is a press release from the Mets, regarding their Citi Field tours:

FLUSHING, N.Y., May 13, 2010 – The New York Mets today announced the launch of Citi Field Tours, offering fans a guided behind-the-scenes look at their home, including the Mets Clubhouse, Dugout and the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum. Group Tours begin Friday, May 28 and regular Tours start Saturday, May 29 to kick off Memorial Day Weekend.

Tickets can be purchased at Mets.com/tours or by phone at (718) 507-TIXX. Citi Field Tours are free for Season Ticket Holders making advance reservations with the Mets Ticket Office at (718) 507-TIXX. In-person ticket sales start Thursday, May 27 at the Citi Field Advance Ticket Windows located outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

Fans will tour the press box and productions areas, visit the Empire and Sterling Suites, step onto the field on the warning track (weather permitting), visit the Bullpen, take photos in the Mets Dugout, and see the Mets Clubhouse. The one-hour tour will conclude at the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum.

Individual tickets are $10 for adults, and $7 for children 12 and under and senior citizens 60 and over.  Tickets for groups of 10 or more purchased in advance are $8 for adults, and $5 for children 12 and under and senior citizens 60 and over. (Internet and phone orders are subject to service fees.)  Thursday and Friday tours are only available for groups. Saturday and Sunday tours are open to individuals, plus groups with advanced reservations. Additional ticket information including a schedule of Citi Field Tour dates is available online at Mets.com/tours or by phone at (718) 507-TIXX.

“We are launching Citi Field Tours to provide our fans with a behind-the-scenes experience of Citi Field,” said Dave Howard, Executive Vice President, Business Operations, Mets. “We’ve had great interest from our fans since opening the ballpark last year, and we are delighted to be able to provide them a closer look at their team’s home.”

Saturday and Sunday tours depart every 30 minutes, beginning at 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. from the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Complimentary parking for all tours is available in the Citi Field Official Lot (Lot G), with the entrance on 126th Street off of Roosevelt Avenue.

Igarashi nearing rehab assignment

Ryota Igarashi has thrown off a mound on multiple occasions and “is getting close” to a rehab assignment, according to Mets assistant general manager John Ricco.

igarashi.JPGIgarashi, who went on the disabled list April 21 with a strained left hamstring, posted a 1.35 ERA in seven games before the injury. Inked to a two-year, $3 million contract this past offseason, Igarashi spent early April working his way into the Mets’ late-game plans.

When he returns, he will open up several options for the Mets. Assuming Igarashi falls back into a setup tandem with lefty Pedro Feliciano, his presence would free the Mets to:

  • Stop overusing Fernando Nieve in late-game situations
  • Move Jenrry Mejia to Triple-A, where he could stretch out as a starter
  • Move Hisanori Takahashi into the starting rotation in place of Oliver Perez

Don’t get too excited, though — the Mets have shown zero desire to do any of those things, and don’t appear close to doing any of them even with Igarashi in the fold. But Igarashi’s presence, assuming it comes this month, will provide the Mets’ pitching staff with a modicum of flexibility.

Piazza wants to go into Hall as a Met

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Mike Piazza said that if he is elected to the Hall of Fame, he would prefer to have a Mets cap on his plaque in Cooperstown.

mikepiazza.jpg“The bulk of my career was with the Mets,” Piazza told the Times, “and after going through the trade, then the drama of 9/11. I’ll never forget my Dodger days. But my time with the Mets is what I’ll remember most about my career.”

Piazza played seven full seasons in New York, more than anyplace else. Though his years there were not as dominant as his formative years with the Dodgers, Piazza did markedly raise his profile as a Met.

Per a recent rule change, Major League Baseball no longer allows players to choose their Hall of Fame caps. In Piazza’s case, there could easily be a split decision.

First, of course, he has to make it. Though widely considered the greatest offensive catcher of his generation, Piazza will — fairly or not — fall under suspicion and scrutiny for playing during the height of the steroid era. Still, he should be close to a lock to make the Hall when he is eligible in 2013, or shortly thereafter.

Mets poll: If you were GM for a day

Time to try something new here at Mets Cetera. Based on your comments both on this blog and MLB.com, I can tell there’s a certain amount of restlessness within the Mets fan base right now. So I’ll leave it up to you: if you could alter only one aspect of this team, would you…

Replace Gary Matthews, Jr. or Frank Catalanotto with Chris Carter
Drop Oliver Perez from the rotation, promote R.A. Dickey
Move Jose Reyes back to the leadoff spot
Stretch Jenrry Mejia out as a starter in Triple-A
Dismiss Jerry Manuel as manager
  

Remember, you can only choose one. Choose wisely.

Now playing left field: Jon Niese

With zero position players remaining on the Mets bench, David Wright was ejected in the ninth inning Sunday for arguing balls and strikes.

Asked what his plans were had the Mets forced a 10th inning, manager Jerry Manuel said simply: “I don’t know.”

But he did know. After Wright’s ejection, Manuel told Jonathon Niese — who last played the outfield in high school — to grab a glove and prepare to play left field.

“So I was getting ready,” Niese said.

More of a mystery was which outfielder was going to play third base. Though Manuel did not instruct any of his outfielders to prepare, the rumblings on the bench were that Jason Bay — a former college third baseman — would have shifted over to the position.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Bay said. “I might have needed to borrow a glove. And a cup.”

But he might have had competition for the position. Angel Pagan, who regularly played shortstop as a teenager, said he was considering offering up his services at third base.

“I can still do it a little bit,” Pagan said. “If they put me in there, I would have tried to do the best I could. I’d knock the balls down with my chest or something.”

Meet the Mets, walk-off wonders

When Henry Blanco hit his first career walk-off home run on Saturday to lead the Mets over the Giants, he and Rod Barajas became the first catchers in Major League history to hit walk-off homers for their team on consecutive days. No franchise has had either a single catcher or multiple catchers accomplish the feat.

Some more walk-off factoids:

  • Blanco’s hit marked the first time the Mets have hit walk-off homers in back-to-back games since Robin Ventura and Mike Piazza on July 28 and 29, 2001.
  • It was the first time the Mets had consecutive walk-off wins since Sept. 20 and 21, 2005, when Mike Jacobs and Miguel Cairo each hit walk-off singles.
  • Four of the Mets’ last five games have ended on walk-offs — two wins, two losses.
  • The Mets have walked off 11 times against the Giants, their most against any team other than the Cubs (14) and Pirates (13).

Hot dog wrappers in the Windy Citi

By the time Henry Blanco ended things Saturday with a walk-off homer, Citi Field was covered with garbage. Hot dog wrappers, soda cups, french fry boats — you name it. Winds gusting up to 45 miles per hour blew every sort of concession onto the field.

At one point, David Wright had to call timeout to pick up a souvenir cup and toss it off the field.

“I don’t know what was going on,” center fielder Angel Pagan said. “I didn’t know if the fans were throwing garbage or what.”

They weren’t. (At least most of them weren’t.) And the wind itself was not too much of a problem for the outfielders.

But the garbage was downright distracting.

“It looked bad — and it was, don’t get me wrong — but I don’t know if it was Candlestick-esque,” left fielder Jason Bay said. “It was windy, but the ball wasn’t doing crazy things. It was more of the dirt kicking up in your face, hot dog wrappers, boxes, cups, everything.”

Starring from the dugout bench

When determining the star of Friday night’s game, Mets catcher Rod Barajas did not consider himself, despite his walk-off home run and multihomer game. Nor did Barajas look to rookie Ike Davis, who also hit two homers and made a head-over-heels catch tumbling over the dugout rail.

Instead, Barajas credited Alex Cora, who didn’t even play in the game.

When Cora realized that Davis was going to attempt to make a play on Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s foul pop in the ninth inning, he raced over to meet the rookie on the other side of the rail. Davis flipped over to the top step, but Cora was there to break his fall and prevent him from tumbling down to the dugout floor.

“We don’t want Ike Davis to go down with an injury,” Barajas said. “And Alex was there to catch him.”

“I saw the ball and I was like, ‘He needs help,'” Cora said.

Told that he had earned Barajas’ vote for star of the game, the backup infielder chuckled.

“He’s just trying to give me some credit,” Cora said.

Jason Bay equals Sadaharu Oh?

Going over my pregame notes, I’m still not entirely sure how Jerry Manuel drifted from the topic of Jason Bay to Ichiro Suzuki to Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh, who hit a world-record 868 home runs over a 22-year career with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League. But he did. So I am here to share it with you.

In discussing Bay’s recent struggles at the plate, Manuel mentioned the fact that when Bay swings, he glides forward in the box a bit — similar to the way Suzuki sometimes begins running down the first base line while he is still swinging. For Ichiro, the mechanics work because he manages to stay balanced and generate torque with his swing despite the unorthodox movement. For Bay, the mechanics work — or used to work, at least — because they are far more subtle.

Manuel also mentioned that it’s tough to correct a player like Bay, who has had success in the past with what many might perceive to be a mechanical flaw. The best thing the Mets can do is simply let Bay try to hit his way out of this funk.

“He slides a little bit,” Manuel said of Bay. “You see Ichiro, not to that extreme, but how he kind of drifts and slides to the baseball. There are some guys that can hit that way and get streaky that way, but there are some fundamental things and some absolutes that have to happen while you’re doing that. It’s difficult to recognize if that’s what he’s been doing his career, and being able to hit in that manner. And when you don’t hit in that manner, anybody that has seen the hitter hit says you can’t slide and hit. But he has done that to some degree. That’s what’s kind of troubling sometimes, because you don’t want to take away what he has done and had success at the expense of what you think is a fundamental or mechanical flaw that a lot of people have been able to hit with.”

Manuel went on to discuss the matter of balance, and how it dictates the mechanics of Japanese hitters and pitchers in a way that is not common here. Oh, Manuel said, hit by raising up one leg, remaining balanced, and swinging from that unorthodox position.

Scroll ahead to the 0:25 mark of this YouTube clip, and you can see what Manuel is referring to. What does it have to do with Bay? Well, not a whole lot. But what other opportunity am I ever going to have to tag “Sadaharu Oh” in this blog?

Rod Barajas is a powerful man

Isolated power (ISO) is an advanced metric used to calculate how frequently a player hits for extra bases. Unlike its step-father, slugging percentage, isolated power does not take singles into account. Instead, it is calculated by subtracting a player’s batting average from his slugging percentage, thus revealing his true power.

Players such as Ichiro Suzuki, who typically hit for high slugging percentages largely on the basis of bunts, infield hits and slap singles, have low ISOs. Players such as Adam Dunn, who mash balls out of the park with regularity, have a high ISOs.

At the time of this blog post, Mets catcher Rod Barajas is 14th in the Majors with a .295 ISO among players with at least 80 plate appearances.

As you may have read in yesterday’s Mets Beat, 39 percent of Barajas’s 18 hits have gone out of the ballpark, an astonishing ratio. Barajas points to a natural uppercut in his swing, which he has had “as far as I can remember.” Mets manager Jerry Manuel had a different take:

“That’s just a guy that has power,” Manuel said. “That’s about all I can say about that. When you throw it in his area, he hits it hard.”

Harder than just about anyone in the Majors. As you can see from this snapshot of the league’s leaders in isolated power, Barajas now has some rather heady company:

12. Chase Utley, PHI: .310 ISO
13. Mark Reynolds, ARI: .303 ISO
14. Rod Barajas, NYM: .295 ISO
15. Justin Morneau, MIN: .292 ISO
16. David Wright, NYM: .286 ISO

For reference’s sake, Paul Konerko leads the Majors with a .446 ISO. Albert Pujols, generally considered the best hitter alive, ranks 20th among qualified hitters.

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