June 2010

Mets beisbol, Puerto Rican style

Despite the tremendous popularity of baseball in this US territory, only 21 Puerto Rican natives opened this season on big league rosters. The Mets employed three of them — Angel Pagan, Pedro Feliciano and Alex Cora — and recently added another in Jesus Feliciano, who may soon lose his roster spot to countryman Carlos Beltran. So it is of course fitting that the Mets — statistically the most diverse team in Major League Baseball history — are participants in the San Juan Series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

hiram_bithorn2.jpgPagan and Jesus Feliciano both live within a stone’s throw of San Juan, and both expected to have plenty of family and friends in the stands for all three games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Cora, who grew up further down the road in Caguas, said he would pay for any of his family and close friends who wanted to attend the games. This is a big deal for the native Mets, and it’s a big deal for Puerto Rico.

Even those Mets who played here before in the World Baseball Classic were struck by the gravity of wearing Mets threads in their capital city.

“I can’t imagine wearing a big league uniform,” Jesus Feliciano said last week, “and playing in front of your friends, your family and your country.”

Now, he no longer has to.

—–Follow along on Twitter @anthonydicomo.

K-Rod, meet Francisco Rodriguez

Several Mets were watching Thursday’s Mexico-France World Cup soccer match when the Mexicans subbed midfielder Francisco Rodriguez into the game.

mex-rod.jpg“Hey, we’ve got one of those,” quipped a bemused Jeff Francoeur.

So, too, do the Angels. Again.

Giving Anaheim’s bullpen a recent jolt has been 27-year-old Francisco Rodriguez, a Mexican reliever who previously wallowed in the team’s farm system for four seasons. Only in April did Rodriguez make his Major League debut, and only late last month was he able to stick in the bigs.

But since then, the other Rodriguez has been close to perfect, striking out 15 batters, walking one and allowing just one run in 10 1/3 innings.

“There are a bunch of us,” the Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez said when informed of the Angels pitcher. “That’s good for him.”

The younger Rodriguez recently related to the Los Angeles Times a meeting he had with K-Rod several years ago, when both were in big league camp with the Angels. But when asked Friday, K-Rod had no recollection of meeting his reflection.

—–Follow along on Twitter @anthonydicomo.

Mets sign 25 Draft picks

But no, first-rounder (and Scott Boras client) Matt Harvey was not among them. Here’s the release from the team:

The New York Mets today announced that they have signed 25 of their 2010 First-Year Player Draft selections, including fourth-round pick outfielder Cory Vaughn, the son of former major league All-Star Greg Vaughn.

The other draft picks agreeing to terms with the Mets are: seventh-round pick RHP Jeffrey Walters, eighth-round pick RHP Kenny McDowall, ninth-round pick RHP Jacob deGrom, 11th-round pick LHP Adam Kolarek, 12th-round pick RHP Bret Mitchell, 13th-round pick third baseman Brian Harrison, 14th-round pick second baseman James Brown, 15th-round selection outfielder Tillman Pugh, 16th-round pick RHP Ryan Fraser, 17th-round pick RHP Chad Sheppard, 18th-round pick RHP Alexander Pinera, 19th-round pick RHP Jonathan Koutis, 20th-round pick first baseman Lucas Stewart, 22nd-round pick shortstop Brand Brown, 25th-round selection RHP Peter Birdwell, 26th-round pick shortstop James Butler, 27th-round pick RHP Michael Weldon, 28th-round pick LHP Jeremy Gould, 29th-round selection LHP Hamilton Bennett, 30th-round pick LHP Joshua Edgin, 32nd-round pick catcher Patrick Farrell, 33rd-round pick RHP Hunter Carnevale, 34th-round selection shortstop Jordan Schafer and 37th-round pick outfielder Dylan Brown.

Wanted: Mets Inbox submissions

Do you have a burning Mets question you’d like to see answered on Mets.com? You’re in luck. I’ll be running an Inbox on the site this Monday and want to answer your questions. All of them. Well, actually only some of them. But still.

unclesam.jpgHere’s what you do: sit down at that old computer machine of yours shoot out an email with “METS INBOX” in the subject line to anthony.dicomo@mlb.com. Be sure to include your first name, last initial and hometown in the body of the email or your letter will not be included.

Proper grammar is mandatory. Proper syntax is encouraged. Oh, and we reserve the right to edit, cut, tinker with and generally bludgeon your emails to make them fit. It may be the interweb, but we only have so much space.

Feel free to send your emails anytime, not just this weekend. You never know when an Inbox might pop up on good ol’ Mets.com. But if you’d like your questions answered in Monday’s debut edition, then get ’em in soon. Deadlines, people. Deadlines.

Oh, one other thing. We typically get lots of submissions for these things, so don’t be offended if I can’t answer your question personally. All I can promise is that I’ll do my best.

—–Follow along on Twitter @anthonydicomo.

Thirty-two countries. One winner.

The field of 32 is set.

worldcup.jpgGrowing up in the mountains of Venezuela, Johan Santana has always been just as much of a fan of soccer as baseball. So Santana jumped at the opportunity to start a 2010 World Cup pool in the Mets clubhouse.

At Santana’s behest, group of 32 Mets players, coaches and personnel picked their teams out of a hat. A clubhouse attendant then ordered miniature flags of each country for the players to post on their lockers.

Some of the selections were apt. Ryota Igarashi, for example, drew his home country of Japan. Others were random. Angel Pagan selected Serbia — an unfortunate draw despite the country’s status as a dark horse.

“They’re actually pretty good,” said Pagan, a Puerto Rican native wearing his newfound Serbian pride on his sleeve.

Jose Reyes did even worse, selecting New Zealand — one of the biggest underdogs in the entire World Cup.

“I’m confident in my team, man,” Reyes said. Then he burst out laughing.

Nearly all of Reyes’ teammates enjoyed better draws. David Wright, for example, drew perennial Cup favorite Brazil. Jason Bay selected France, Luis Castillo landed Argentina and a couple of rookies, Jenrry Mejia and Ike Davis, managed to pull popular picks England and Spain out of the hat.

And then there was Santana. The pool’s organizer, Santana somehow managed to select defending World Cup champion Italy. Suspicious, anyone? But with his native Venezuela not in the field of 32, Santana still plans to root for the various other teams on his home continent of South America.

“It’s fun to watch,” he said. “The whole world watches it.”

Here’s the list of all the players involved, and their draws:

Jason Bay: France
Henry Blanco: Algeria
Luis Castillo: Argentina
Alex Cora: USA
Ike Davis: Spain
Elmer Dessens: Netherlands
Pedro Feliciano: Mexico
Jeff Francoeur: Denmark
Ryota Igarashi: Japan
John Maine: Ivory Coast
Jenrry Mejia: England
Jon Niese: Paraguay
Fernando Nieve: Nigeria
Angel Pagan: Serbia
Mike Pelfrey: Uruguay
Jose Reyes: New Zealand
Johan Santana: Italy
Frankie Rodriguez: Greece
Hisanori Takahashi: Honduras
Fernando Tatis: Ghana
David Wright: Brazil

—–Follow along on Twitter @anthonydicomo.

(In)fielding a homegrown team

When the Mets used an infield alignment of Ike Davis (1B), Ruben Tejada (2B), Jose Reyes (SS) and David Wright (3B) against the Marlins this Friday and Saturday, they accomplished a rare feat — especially for a big-market team. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time since 1991 that the Mets had used a starting infield composed entirely of players who had never played for another professional organization.

wrightreyesyoung.jpgThe last time the Mets used an exclusively homegrown infield alignment, back on the final day of the 1991 season, it consisted of Chris Donnels (1B), Keith Miller (2B), Jeff Gardner (SS) and Gregg Jefferies (3B). And those guys, as a unit, weren’t particularly good.

Using as many homegrown players as possible is a goal for every organization, but one that few achieve. The Yankees have two of the best homegrown players in the league at shortstop and second base, but huge-ticket free agents at the corners. The Phillies have gone with a consistent alignment of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins in their infield, but usually start an outsider at third.

Homegrown players, in general, are cheaper, younger and better. They are also more popular, as Wright, Reyes, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano can attest.

Consider the World Series winners of the past decade. Most of them — yes, even the Yankees — have had homegrown players at their core. And that, if nothing else, bodes well for the Mets.

—–Follow along on Twitter @anthonydicomo.

Good Ollie, Bad Ollie, Minors Ollie?

For Oliver Perez, decision day has arrived. Until now, Perez’s refusal to accept a Minor League assignment was little more than a nuisance for the Mets — they wanted him to go down, but they did not necessarily need him to.

olliep.jpgNow, they need him to.

If Perez does not accept a Minor League assignment before the Mets activate Jon Niese from the disabled list on Saturday, he will handicap the team in a new and troubling way. Rather than demote Perez, who is not being used in any high- or even medium-leverage situations, the Mets will have to option Jenrry Mejia, Ryota Igarashi or Raul Valdes to Triple-A Buffalo, or perhaps even designate Elmer Dessens for assignment. All of those pitchers are useful to the Mets. Perez, right now, is not.

The benefits of a Minor League assignment go beyond that, also. Unlike in New York, where Perez has little opportunity to pitch, a stint at Buffalo would allow him to start every five days and, in theory, improve. Perhaps, weeks or even months from now, the Mets could extract something useful from his $36 million contract.

Otherwise, the Mets will have to start thinking about eating the money and releasing him. And that helps no one at all.

—–Follow along on Twitter @anthonydicomo.

Twenty-one percent of the time, it works every time

The web site coolstandings.com calculates the odds that any big league team will make the playoffs, based upon both current record and past performance.

The bad news for the Mets? Heading into Wednesday’s play, coolstandings estimated there’s only a 21.9 percent chance the Mets will make the postseason.

The good news? It’s not as scientific as it seems. Coolstandings bases its calculations partly upon current record, partly upon comparative run differential. (For example: if Team X averages 5.5 runs per game and Team Y averages 4.5 runs allowed, then Team X can expect to score an average of five runs per game against Team Y. Dig?)

The calculations provide a nice glimpse into a team’s chances, but little else. They don’t take into account, for example, the fact that the Mets should get Carlos Beltran back after the All-Star break, or that they may not continue to receive routinely stellar outings from R.A. Dickey.

But the web site is, as the name suggests, pretty cool. For the record, coolstandings predicts that the Mets will win the division 15.4 percent of the time, the Wild Card 6.5 pecent of the time. The Braves, who have the top run differential in the division, are predicted to make the playoffs 54.3 percent of the time. The Phillies? Just a 27.8 percent chance.

So again, take all that with a sizable grain of salt.

The road can be a lonely place

Just ask the Mets, who entered Tuesday’s play with seven road victories, fewest in the National League. They are 7-17 on the road, 19-9 at home. They are hitting .235 on the road, .272 at home. They have produced a 5.25 ERA on the road, 2.80 ERA at home.

Um, why?

“For the most part, we’ve had our chances to win on the road and have come up short,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “But I do think at some point it will come to a place where we’ll get that hit on the road, we’ll make that play on the road, we’ll make that pitch on the road.”

—–Follow along on Twitter @anthonydicomo.