July 2010

Francoeur hearts New York, too

Dogged in 2008 by a series of rumors intimating that he did not
enjoy playing in Queens, Mets outfielder Ryan Church reported to camp the next season sporting an “I Love New York” t-shirt.

i-love-new-york1.gifJeff Francoeur, the man for whom the Mets traded Church last season, may be heading down a similar path.

Mere days after telling both the Daily News and the Post that he would
welcome a trade elsewhere — read: Kansas City — if it would result in
increased playing time, Francoeur nixed that talk following Tuesday’s
victory at Citi Field.

“I want to be here,” Francoeur said. “I’ve said it from Day 1, I like it
here. I enjoy playing. It’s a fun place to play. It’s a crazy place to
play, but it’s a fun place to play.”

And it should remain Francoeur’s home for a while, as it appears
increasingly unlikely that the Mets will deal Francoeur prior to
Saturday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Even before this week, the Mets
were worried that trading Francoeur would make them vulnerable in the
event that Carlos Beltran re-injured his surgically repaired right
knee. Now, Jason Bay is out indefinitely with a mild concussion,
providing the Mets with a clear reminder of why Francoeur remains
valuable to them.

“You like to have good players, and Jeff is definitely a good player,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.

In other words, don’t expect Francoeur to go anywhere.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets a footnote to no-hitter history

My first reaction tonight upon seeing that Matt Garza had thrown a no-hitter involved the Mets. By pitching the first no-no in Rays franchise history, Garza reduced the number of Major League teams without a no-hitter to two: the Mets and Padres.

It is simply astounding that the Mets, a franchise with two World Series championships that has been around for 49 seasons, has never had a no-hitter. They have employed some of the most electric pitchers in history, from Tom Seaver to Dwight Gooden. They have played their home games for 47 of their 49 seasons in notorious pitcher’s parks. They have played nearly 8,000 regular season games in total. And still nothing.

Four teams had never thrown no-hitters heading into this season, but Ubaldo Jimenez crossed the Rockies off that list in April and Garza has now done so for the Rays. Now it’s just the Mets and Padres, two expansion teams from the 1960s, who have never had one. And the Mets had a seven-year head start on the Friars, who have never won a World Series.

Amazin’.

(In case you were wondering, the Mets have been no-hit four times, most recently by Houston’s Darryl Kyle in 2003. So there’s that.)

—Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Do you remember this Mets lineup?

Try to find something significant about this Mets lineup from April 13, 2009:

Jose Reyes, SS
Daniel Murphy, LF
David Wright, 3B
Carlos Delgado, 1B
Carlos Beltran, CF
Ryan Church, RF
Brian Schneider, C
Luis Castillo, 2B
Mike Pelfrey, RHP

Give up? That’s the last time the Mets fielded a lineup with all eight of their regular starters. It happened against the Padres in — get this — the first regular season game in the history of Citi Field. Since that time, due in large part to injuries to Beltran and Reyes, the Mets have gone more than 15 months and played 247 games without ever fielding their ideal starting nine.

Until now. The team’s incompleteness should finally change Monday, when Castillo returns from the disabled list and Reyes plays his first game of the second half. Monday, barring something unforeseen, the Mets will field a team full of first stringers (albeit a drastically different lineup than they had 247 games ago) for the first time since last April 13.

The lineup (knock on wood, Mets fans) should look something like this:

Jose Reyes, SS
Angel Pagan, RF
David Wright, 3B
Carlos Beltran, CF
Ike Davis, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Rod Barajas, C
Luis Castillo, 2B
Mike Pelfrey, RHP

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Grading the first half for the Mets

Time to grade some key Mets on their first-half performances. Without further ado:

Johan Santana: B
What a strange season for Santana, who alternated dominating stretches with periods of pure mediocrity. The overall results have been fine, though hardly ace-like. Safe to say the Mets are expecting more from Santana in the second half, with last winter’s surgery now squarely in his rear-view mirror.

reportcard.jpgMike Pelfrey: A-
Ignore the past few rocky starts for a minute. If I told you before the season that Pelfrey would go 10-4 with a 3.58 ERA in the first half, I think you would have taken that. Truth is, without Pelfrey, the Mets might not be close to postseason contention.

Jon Niese: A-
Injury aside, Niese has been brilliant at times, and as consistent as any of the five Mets starters. Like Pelfrey, he has given the Mets more than they ever could have expected in Spring Training.

R.A. Dickey: A+
When the Mets signed Dickey, he was nothing more than aging organizational depth. Now he is a legitimate starting pitcher, a cog in the rotation and a key reason why the team is still in this thing. Dickey deserves as much credit as anyone.

Hisanori Takahashi: B+
Like every other starter not named Santana, Takahashi has given the Mets more than they ever dreamed. His few bad starts have handcuffed them, yes, but between his early-season bullpen appearances and his role in the rotation, Takahashi has been stellar.

Jose Reyes: B
Yes, the fact that Reyes made the All-Star team was remarkable considering all he had gone through in the preceding year and a half. But Reyes was useless to the Mets for the first month of the season, and he has done nothing to shed his injury-prone image. Got to dock him some points for that.

Angel Pagan: A
Leading the army of overachievers was Pagan, a player who has finally begun to fulfill his potential. The Mets hardly missed Carlos Beltran this season in large part because of Pagan, who played stellar offense and defense in his absence.

David Wright: A-
Just like that, he’s back to being an All-Star. The Mets have to be pleased with that, considering the miserable season Wright endured last year.

Ike Davis: B
He’s gotten more credit than perhaps he’s deserved, considering his pedestrian offensive numbers. But Davis has played a solid first base while giving the Mets a measure of offensive pop from the position. That’s something worthwhile.

Jason Bay: C
The Mets’ one big free agent acquisition has been something of a bust. Bay is not hitting for power, and that’s the one thing he’s supposed to do well. Now down to sixth in the lineup, Bay must bust out for the Mets to succeed.

Rod Barajas: B
After a hot start, Barajas has cooled off plenty. But he did carry the Met offense for much of the early season, and he deserves some credit for the success of the pitching staff.

Jeff Francoeur: C
Other than his rocket right arm, Francoeur has contributed little to the Mets this season. Now, with Beltran back, he’s going to lose significant playing time because of it.

Luis Castillo: D
After justifying a portion of his contract with a strong year last season, Castillo has reverted back to an old, broken-down second baseman. He’s on the DL now, and there’s no telling how much he’ll be able to help when he returns.

Bench: C-
Gary Matthews, Jr., Frank Catalanotto and Fernando Tatis were all massively ineffective during their time with the team. Chris Carter helped for a while but has since faded. The Mets have yet to find a pinch-hitter who can give them consistently good at-bats. The one player here who deserves mention is Henry Blanco, who has worked well with the pitching staff while providing better-than-expected offense when he plays.

Bullpen: C
Francisco Rodriguez has walked a tight rope all season but ultimately has gotten the job done — and quite well, if you consider his numbers. Pedro Feliciano was overexposed against right-handed hitters, but has been just as effective as ever against lefties. Other than those two, the Mets have found no consistent answers in the back end of their bullpen. It’s the most conspicuous weakness for the team heading into the second half.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Ike Davis faced Strasburg…and all he got was this stupid t-shirt

The Met with most perspective on Saturday’s opposing starter, Stephen Strasburg, is one with nearly no big league experience at all. Ike Davis, another rising star in the youthful NL East, dug in against Strasburg last year in the Arizona Fall League. By his recollection, he went 0-for-2.

“He’s got good stuff,” Davis said. “He throws really hard.  He’s got three or four pitches, throws them for strikes, really comes after you. You just really need to pick one out and try to hit it.”

In the hours leading up to Saturday’s game, the Mets may lean on Davis for some insider info regarding Strasburg. Davis is the only Met to have seen him in person.

He and his teammates will also watch video, of course. But from what they’ve heard and seen, it may not matter much.

“Everyone has seen something they could look for,” Davis said. “But I don’t know what you would want to hit.”

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

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