Mets Merized Online » Wally Backman http://metsmerizedonline.com Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:21:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.16 Talkin’ Mets: Does Bartolo Hold the Key to Pitcher Health? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/09/talkin-mets-does-bartolo-hold-the-key-to-pitcher-health.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/09/talkin-mets-does-bartolo-hold-the-key-to-pitcher-health.html/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 00:25:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=223251 bartolo-colon

The news of Jacob deGrom’s season-ending injury rocked the Mets. Can these injuries be avoided? Joe Janish, a former D1 player and pitching coach, joins Mike Silva to discuss just that. Joe believes that science and some good practices can help alleviate the rash of injuries. Amazingly the secret may be to copy the routine of 43-year old Bartolo Colon. You can check out Joe’s thoughts at his Mets Today column and Fixingpitchers.com.

I also discuss the Mets chances of going deep into the postseason with their “B-squad.” Don’t discount players like T.J. Rivera, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo using the postseason platform to steal long-term big league jobs. Never discount players with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Besides, the Mets have no pressure since they have the injury excuse on which to fall-back.

Finally, I talk about the resignation of Wally Backman and how he would have been the perfect successor to Terry Collins both on-the-field and from a marketing perspective. Wally could be this generation’s version of Davey Johnson, who grew up with the team in the minors and led them to the promised land with a World Championship.

 

DOWNLOAD THE PODCAST

RSS FEED

iTunes Stores

get metsmerized footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/09/talkin-mets-does-bartolo-hold-the-key-to-pitcher-health.html/feed/ 0
Talkin’ Mets: Wally Talks Prospects, Doc & Darryl, DeGromination! http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/talkin-mets-wally-talks-prospects-doc-darryl-degromination.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/talkin-mets-wally-talks-prospects-doc-darryl-degromination.html/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 00:50:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=217900 jacob degrom

Great show tonight as Bob Klapisch and Wally Backman join the podcast.

Bob and I review the ESPN 30-for-30 Documentary about Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden. Hear Bob talk about his experience covering those late-eighties Mets teams, where things went wrong for the duo and whether the Mets could have prevented their demise.

Jim “Mojo” Morrison of the Charlotte Knights joins the podcast as a guest contributor. Mojo is part of the Knights’ game day operations and had an opportunity to talk to Las Vegas 51s skipper Wally Backman during this year’s Triple-A All-Star Game.

Hear Wally give his thoughts on Michael Conforto, some of the Mets top prospects and whether Josh Edgin can help the Mets bullpen.

Finally, hear me tell you why Jacob deGrom is the Mets starter I would always hand the ball to in a big spot. I also debunk this narrative that the Mets are “decimated by injuries” being thrown around by the fan base.

 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PODCAST

RSS FEED

iTunes Stores 

get metsmerized footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/talkin-mets-wally-talks-prospects-doc-darryl-degromination.html/feed/ 0
Who Gets Final Bench Spot: Eric Campbell Or Matt Reynolds http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/who-gets-final-bench-spot-eric-campbell-or-matt-reynolds.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/who-gets-final-bench-spot-eric-campbell-or-matt-reynolds.html/#comments Sun, 20 Mar 2016 13:21:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208050 eric campbell

With the recent news that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera looks to be ready for opening day in Kansas City, the Mets will have to decide on who they’re bringing north with them, and who’s heading back to Vegas to start the year.

That final roster spot seems to be narrowed down to Matt Reynolds and Eric Campbell, both names Mets fans are familiar with over the past few years. Although I believe that infielder T.J. Rivera should be in the mix for this final spot as well, we’ll stick with Reynolds and Campbell, since they’re both already on the 40-Man Roster. While both players come with flaws and inexperience, I believe that one of them has a clearer shot of making this roster, and being of some value in the upcoming 2016 season.

Let’s examine Eric Campbell and some of his statistics the past few seasons. Campbell, 28, was called up in May 2014 when the Mets demoted Josh Satin, and proved to be a useful fill-in at the corner infield spots. Campbell was an efficient pinch-hitter, going 8-28 in such spots, with a .814 OPS. While his splits won’t overly impress, Campbell was consistent with both righties and lefties, garnering almost identical SLG, OBP, and OPS numbers against the two. Campbell also seemed to thrive in medium to high leverage situations of the game. On Baseball Reference, they had Campbell batting in 48 high leverage situations, normally when the game is late and its close, and he contributed a line of .286/.354/.405 with 10 of his 16 RBIs coming in those spots. His OPS rose to .801 in 88 plate appearances in medium leverage situations, and in lower leverage opportunities his OPS fell to .535. He provided some offense at a time when the Mets were struggling, and created an opportunity for himself.

However, 2015 wasn’t kind to Campbell. In 71 games he slashed .197/.312/.295 for an OPS of .607. He registered well below average OPS+ numbers, 72, compared to his rookie campaign of 96, about league average. Campbell also represented a symbol of Mets futility in the middle of the season, when on July 23rd, Collins ran John Mayberry Jr. and Eric Campbell in the number four and five spots in the order. Some critics would say that Collins wrote that order as a sign to ownership that he needed reinforcements on his roster. Needless to say, the Mets were shut out 3-0 at home, and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had a perfect game going into the seventh inning. Campbell was later optioned back to Triple A Las Vegas in August, and was recalled when rosters expanded in September.

Defensively, first base is a much stronger position for Campbell, as he registered a 1.2 UZR in 2014, compared to a -2.2 UZR at third that same year. The 2015 campaign was identical to his rookie year, as he posted a 0.9 UZR at first base, and -2.0 UZR at third. Campbell played some corner outfield both years, and held his own to a tune of a 2.3 UZR combined. Much of the critique holds true for his minor league fielding stats, as Campbell posted far stronger numbers at first throughout his minor league career.

Campbell would be best served backing up Duda against LHP, however, Duda had somewhat of a renaissance last year, hitting .285/.333/.545 against southpaws, all career highs. This news is extremely encouraging, as it allows our cleanup hitter to remain in the lineup without Terry Collins having to shuffle the deck to play the matchups. And if Duda’s 2015 splits weren’t just a flash in the pan, then Campbell doesn’t offer a ton of versatility to this current team.

matt reynolds

Which brings us to Matt Reynolds. Drafted in the second round in 2012, Reynolds was a third baseman in college, but shifted to short by the Mets who were lacking viable options in their system at the time. Reynolds, 25, has progressed through the Mets minor leagues, posting high averages, BABIP, and WRC+ in the process. Reynolds would struggle with pulling the ball and striking out a high rate in 2013, and sought the aid of hitting instructor and part-time Mets scout Rick Strickland to help his mechanics. Reynolds put together his strongest campaign in 2014, slashing .343/.405/.454 along with 20 stolen bases between Binghamton and Las Vegas.

Reynolds has been viewed as an average defender at short, making the routine plays and going to his right well. He doesn’t offer a ton of range, and scouts have mostly concurred that Reynolds won’t wow with any particular skill set in his game. Errors have also been an issue with Reynolds, however, he did cut them down to 12 last year in 94 games at short, an improvement from the 16 he had in 104 games in 2014, and the 21 he had in 2013.

However, the Mets need to make a decision based on their current needs. With uncertainly surrounding the number of games David Wright will be able to play this year due to spinal stenosis, I’d foresee Collins using Flores in that role, where his bat can produce and he can hold his own at third. Collins knows the importance of getting Flores comfortable at third again, especially with the frailty of Wright’s back.

“We’re trying to get him as comfortable as we can at third base,” Collins said. “Should anything unforeseen happen to David, we’ve just got to get him ready to play there.”

With the prospects of Flores potentially playing a big role at third for long stretches of the year, the Mets would be in dire need of a backup shortstop to spell Cabrera. Which is why my roster choice would go to Reynolds. He can adequately fill in for Cabrera, and also shift to second to spell Walker against tough lefties, considering Walker had a .575 OPS against LHP as a right-handed hitter last year. Reynolds allows Collins the flexibility of utilizing Flores as a jack of all trades type player, but can also place him at one position for a long period in case of injury. This is why Reynolds makes more sense than Campbell, for the middle infield depth that Campbell cannot provide. Not to mention that Flores’ splits against LHP last year was terrific, posting a .955 OPS in 57 games. Compared to Campbell who posted a .683 and .588 OPS in ’14 and ’15 and it makes the decision a bit clearer.

While Reynolds couldn’t become the answer to a trivia question last year, as to who was the first player to make his debut in the World Series, he can play a vital role in providing solid up the middle defense this year, along with his “grinder” approach as Las Vegas manager Wally Backman describes him as. Reynolds deserves a shot for this Mets roster, just as Campbell deserved his when Satin was demoted and Duda was recovering from food poisoning. The flexibility Reynolds provides up the middle is crucial, but it also allows for Collins to utilize Flores in spots where he can succeed for the short and long term, makes Reynolds my run away choice for the backup infield spot.

MMO-footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/who-gets-final-bench-spot-eric-campbell-or-matt-reynolds.html/feed/ 0
Backman and Viola Will Return As Triple-A Manager, Pitching Coach http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/backman-and-viola-will-return-as-triple-a-manager-pitching-coach.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/backman-and-viola-will-return-as-triple-a-manager-pitching-coach.html/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 22:19:29 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=204546 wally backman

Wally Backman and Frank Viola will both remain with the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York first reported.

The Las Vegas 51s confirmed the report with an official announcement on Tuesday.

“I’m excited to return to Las Vegas for my fourth season,” Backman said. “I enjoy working with everyone in the 51s front office and look forward to another successful season in the Pacific Coast League. We have the potential to field another exciting team for the fans to watch and enjoy.”

Backman will remain in his role as manager of the Las Vegas 51s while Viola returns as the pitching coach. Jack Voigt will also remain as the hitting coach there.

Backman is entering his fourth season as the manager of Triple-A Las Vegas where he was 77-67 last season. He was the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year in 2014.

The former scrappy second baseman of the 1986 World Champion Mets has been biding his time while waiting for a chance to manage in the the big-leagues.

But despite an overall 840-757 (.525) record over 13 seasons as a minor league skipper, Backman has yet to get that major league opportunity.

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/backman-and-viola-will-return-as-triple-a-manager-pitching-coach.html/feed/ 0
July 4th, 1985: The Show Must Go On http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/07/july-4th-1985-the-fireworks-show-must-go-on.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/07/july-4th-1985-the-fireworks-show-must-go-on.html/#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 13:00:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=186210 Thousands of baseball books have been published. Millions of baseball stories have been told, every one of them starts with the same basic understanding: two teams, nine innings, balls, strikes, runs, hits and errors. Along the way there are various twists and turns ending in perfect games, no-hitters, walk off home runs and everything in between.

No two games are the same, but many are alike. They all come back to the final out. Strike three. Game over. But what happens when a game goes on and on and on … with no apparent end in sight? Then, when the moment seemingly arrives, hope is dashed by improbability. There was a major league game like this. It was played on July 4 (and July 5), 1985. This is the story, as told by those who played, reported, broadcast, watched and witnessed it.

Extra innings changes everything. The game of baseball is redefined. To score is to win. To err is to lose. Strategy is discarded. Position players become relief pitchers and relief pitchers are pinch runners, and occasionally hit home runs.

On Independence Day 1985 at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves played 19 innings, the equivalent of two baseball games (plus one inning) including two rain delays totaling two hours, five minutes, 29 runs, 14 pitchers and 43 players, 155 official at bats, 115 outs, 615 pitches, 46 hits, 23 walks, 22 strikeouts, five errors, 37 stranded base runners, six lead changes, a cycle, two players were ejected and 25 years later the most memorable moment was recorded by the losing pitcher Rick Camp.

Camp was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1974. He grew up on a farm in Georgia, went to school and played ball in Georgia, drove a pickup truck and the team agreed to give him a tractor as part of his deal. Now he was going to pitch for his hometown team. Camp was close to living his dream.

Rick_Camp

“To hit a home run in the big leagues — that was my dream,” said Camp. Prior to signing with the Braves he hit a lot of home runs, all of them as a designated hitter at West Georgia University where he attended college.

By July 1985, the odds of Camp seeing his dream come true seemed gone. He had 10 hits and a career batting average of .060. “He couldn’t hit his way out of the cage when he’d take BP,” said former teammate Paul Zuvella.

Camp had been moved to Atlanta’s bullpen. The chances of him even getting an opportunity to bat would take, I don’t know, maybe a couple rain delays, a lot of pitching changes and extra innings. Good luck with that.

The Mets arrived in Atlanta on July 4th weekend, grumpy. The team was slumping, winning three of their previous 11 games when rookie Len Dykstra dug in to lead off the game after an 84-minute relay delay. Most of the sellout crowd was still in the ballpark.

Sporting a golf ball size wad of tobacco in his left cheek, Dykstra choked his pine tar covered bat about six inches from the handle. He weighed 155 pounds according to the Mets 1985 media guide. He was 30 at-bats into his major league career.

Back in New York, Mookie Wilson, the Mets regular center fielder in 1985 was watching from a bed in Roosevelt Hospital, one day removed from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder to repair torn cartilage.

Dykstra dropped a bunt past Rick Mahler. Glenn Hubbard charged from second and bare-handed the ball to Bob Horner at first. Dykstra, in typical hard-nosed style, stumbled over the base, nearly colliding with umpire Jerry Crawford before being called out.

After Wally Backman legged out an infield dribbler, Keith Hernandez stepped to the plate. Mahler fired to first. Backman slid back safely. Mahler persisted, trying again … and again … and again …

Pete Van Wieren doesn’t own a Ouija board. He has no psychic powers. He has never been to a tarot card reading, but he does have an amazing sensory perception on matters related to the diamond. “At the rate this game is going the big 5th of July fireworks show will be presented right after the contest,” he said as the pickoff attempts continued like a broken record.

Mahler finally caught Backman leaning too far. As Crawford signaled Backman out, the Met second baseman slowly climbed to his knees and stared out at Crawford from underneath his helmet. The long give-and-take seemed to last longer than the 84-minute rain delay.

After Hernandez lifted the next pitch into left-center field for a double, Gary Carter grounded a single into centerfield. The ball took two hops and stopped dead in the rain-soaked outfield grass. Braves centerfielder Dale Murphy raced through puddle, scooped up the ball and fired it back to the infield. After a Darryl Strawberry single, advancing Carter to second base, and a George Foster walk to load the bases, Mahler struck out Ray Knight to end the inning.

dwight gooden

A tall, thin, 20-year old Dwight Gooden was on the mound for the Mets. He was pitching on three days rest for the first time during the 1985 season. He would go on to win 24 games with a 1.53 ERA in 276 innings pitched. In 35 starts, Gooden pitched 16 complete games. His season performance cinched the Cy Young Award, claiming 120 votes, almost twice as many as John Tudor of the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished second (21-8).

Claudell Washington led off the Braves first inning with a triple. The 44,947 in attendance were on their feet. One pitch later, Rafael Ramirez grounded out to shortstop, scoring Washington. It took the Braves four pitches to tie the game.

Gooden followed by walking Murphy on four straight pitches, prompting Carter to zip halfway out between home plate and the mound to settle Gooden down.

Gooden walked Horner on four pitches; eight straight balls.

Terry Harper dug in and Gooden shoved a fastball on the inside corner at the knees for strike one. He sent Harper back to the bench on three pitches. It was as if Gooden pushed some internal on/off button.

“Just three years ago he was pitching to high school kids,” said the late Skip Caray. “My goodness, just think what that must have been like?”

Rick Cerone had missed three weeks due to a sore shoulder. He was activated two days earlier, but hadn’t played in a game since his return. His first at-bat came after a long rain delay against Gooden. Could the cards be any more stacked against the 31-year old Cerone?

“He probably said, ‘Thanks a lot!’ when he saw Gooden out there,” said Caray sarcastically. “He hasn’t played in a month.”

Cerone slashed the first pitch from Gooden to Mets first baseman Hernandez. The ball caromed off his midsection and he bare-handed a sidearm throw to Gooden covering first to end the inning.

“Back in the ‘70s, Atlanta had one of the worst infields in baseball – but there were a lot of bad infields in the old days,” said Hernandez. “I never liked fielding in Atlanta because it was so hot and everything baked. I always had to do a lot of gardening there, but by the ‘80’s, it was a very good infield.”

The rain returned in the third inning and Terry Tata stopped the game. Two nights earlier in San Francisco, Tata was informed by Major League Baseball he would the acting crew chief for the series in Atlanta, replacing Harry Wendlestedt, who was ill (Wendlestedt did not return to umpire until July 18).

“I took a redeye off the west coast and arrived in Hartford, Connecticut, spent some time with my wife and then took a flight from Bradley Field and arrived in Atlanta at 5pm,” remembers Tata. By the time he arrived at Fulton County Stadium it was already raining.

The Atlanta Braves employed two full-time groundskeepers and an estimated 25 part-time employees to help on game days. Sam Newpher, now the groundskeeper for Daytona International Speedway, was the head groundskeeper at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 1985.

Newpher stayed in close contact with the National Weather Service at the Atlanta airport. The weather service could pinpoint the time and location of the incoming storm and its relation to the stadium.

In the press box the media were already playing weatherman. “Everyone working at the ballpark lives in different parts of the city, so it’s not at all uncommon for someone to call home and see if it’s raining in that part of town,” said Van Wieren. “Then you start hearing, ‘well it’s not raining in Dunwoody!’ Then Skip will say, ‘Well, let’s go up there and play.”

Newpher watched as the second rain storm soaked the tarp.

“All of the drainage was surface drainage which drains off to the outside edge (of the field) into two surface drains,” he said. “It was a turtle shell type mound with the center of it being about 25 feet behind second base. Keep something in mind, if a tarp is on the field and you dump the tarp, you’re taking a couple thousand gallons and just going plop in one spot,” he said.

Van Wieren watched the rain fall from the Braves press box. He glanced at his scorecard, then the stadium clock and back to the field. He took a deep breath and exhaled, well aware of how late this game was going to end.

“The team wasn’t very good and sellout crowds were very rare,” said Van Wieren. “We had a sellout crowd that night and the team would do everything in their power to get that game in so they could get the gate.”

1435982095007

When play resumed 41 minutes later, Mets manager Davey Johnson announced he was taking Gooden out to avoid risk of injury. It marked the first time in 27 starts dating back to Aug. 11, 1984 that he had failed to go six innings. Gooden, unhappy, retreated to the Mets clubhouse and began drinking.

The Braves took their only lead of the game, 8-7, scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. But the Mets tied it in the ninth. By the time the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves began extra innings the calendar read July 5. Still, fans moved to the edge of their seats. Not in anticipation of a win, but the post-game fireworks.

When the Mets came to bat in the 12th inning, Hernandez was a single away from the cycle. He had doubled in the first off Mahler, tripled in the fourth off Jeff Dedmon, homered in the eighth inning Steve Shields.

Hernandez would be facing Terry Forster. He needed his brother, who was home in San Francisco. Hernandez dashed back to the Mets clubhouse, called the operator and asked for an outside line.

“He was my good luck charm,” said Hernandez. “He always came down on West Coast trips. When we left San Francisco he’d come with me to San Diego and L.A. – and I always killed San Diego and L.A.”

Ironically, eleven years earlier on September 11, 1974, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Hernandez pinch hit against the Mets in a 25-inning game at Shea Stadium. “That was my first year,” remembered Hernandez. “I pinched hit in the ninth off Harry Parker and Dave Schneck robbed me of a home run.”

The Cardinals eventually won, 4-3, after seven hours, four minutes and 25 innings. The Mets went to the plate 103 times and the Cards with 99 plate appearances and a major-league record 45 runners left on base. The game ended at 3:13 a.m., the longest game played to a decision without a suspension.

1435981364943

Hernandez singled off Forster to complete the cycle. Superstition rules.

Van Wieren stared at his scorebook. Nothing good could come in the 13th inning, maybe that’s why most scorebooks have 12 innings he thought. “Once you run out of innings in your scorebook it’s improvise time,” he said.

The Mets took a 10-8 lead in the 13th inning. Finally the end was in sight – finally. To his left, Van Weiren’s wife Elaine and two sons (Jon and Steve) sat, waiting for the fireworks.

All Tom Gorman needed now was three outs. After a leadoff single by Rafael Ramirez, the Mets left hander struck out Dale Murphy and Gerald Perry. One more out. Gorman zipped two strikes past Terry Harper. One strike left. Let the fireworks begin. Harper obliged, lining a two-run homer off the left field foul poll to tie the game again.

“I just looked over and they had their head down like, ‘we’re never gonna get out of here,’” remembers Van Wieren.

“You wondered where it’s going to end,” said Caray, remembering Harper’s home run in an interview years earlier. “When (Rick) Camp hit his (in the 18th inning), you figure, we’re going to go on forever. Once is amazing. Twice is incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life and I never think I will.”

The Braves broadcasters weren’t the only ones wondering.

Paul Zuvella was called up just a couple weeks before the July 4th game. His high school buddy Chris Hopson flew in from Milpitas in the Silicon Valley, south of San Jose, California to visit Zuvella and catch a game.

“That was the first game he had come to,” said Zuvella. “Poor guy, he was one of the very few remaining at the end.”

Zuvella was inserted in the sixth inning and faced five different pitchers in seven plate appearances – sidearm pitcher Terry Leach, Jesse Orosco, Doug Sisk , Gorman and Ron Darling – going 0-for-7.

“That, I do remember,” he said. “I remember hitting the ball hard. I hit some line drives right at people. I’m thinking, ‘How unfair is this?’”

“Pitchers tend to have an advantage in that type of game,” said Zuvella. “That’s why they keep throwing the zeros up. It gets a little tougher offensively as the game goes on. You start to think, is this game ever gonna end?”

Both teams put up zeros in the 14th, 15th and 16th innings. In the 17th inning, with nerves frayed, Tata called strike three on Strawberry. As he walked away, Strawberry “had some choice words” and Tata ejected him. “I still see the pitch today when they show it on ESPN Classic. It didn’t look like a bad pitch.”

As Strawberry walked back to the dugout, Mets manager Davey Johnson jogged toward Tata. The argument heated quickly.

“When Davey Johnson gets in my face and I turned my hat around backwards so I could get right in his kisser,” remembers Tata. “As I am looking over his shoulder there’s a digital clock along the first base line and it reads two – five – seven. It’s 2:57 in the morning and I say to Johnson, ‘It’s three o’clock in the morning, everything looks like a strike.’”

Tata ejected four managers, coaches or players in 1985, two of them within 60 seconds.

“The one thing you don’t put in your mind is the hope that it will end,” revealed Tata. “It will end naturally. You can’t root for a guy to hit a home run or driving in the winning run. You’ve got to block that out of your mind and concentrate on the game. Once you start hoping for that it’s going to detract from your overall sense of the game and your job.”

The Mets regained the lead, 11-10, in the 18th inning on a sacrifice fly by Dykstra.

Again, all Gorman needed was three outs. Again, he retired Perry. This time he shut down Harper. One out remained – pitcher Rick Camp. Mets pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre was taking nothing for granted and paid Gorman a visit. Stottlemyre warned Gorman about Harper now he was warning him, don’t make the same mistake. Don’t take Camp for granted.

Gorman registered two quick strikes on Camp. One strike left. Let the fireworks begin – please let the fireworks begin. Gorman fired a forkball on 0-2 and, like Harper five innings earlier, Camp obliged, hitting one over the left field wall to tie the game.

“As soon as it left the bat you knew it was gone,” said Tata. “That just cut your legs off at the knees.”

“That certifies this game as the wackiest, wildest, most improbable game in history!” yelled John Sterling, then a Braves broadcaster on WTBS.

“You’re really certain it’s going to end with Rick Camp at the plate,” said Van Weiren. “When Skip talked about it he said he never saw me get animated in the booth. But when that ball was hit I literally jumped out of his seat and put my hands on top of my head and said, ‘you gotta be kidding me!?’”

Jay Horwitz joined the New York Mets as public relations director in 1980. He was in his fifth year with the team. “I was in the press box,” said Horwitz, who watched most of the extra innings with then Mets scouting director Joe McIlvaine. “I had my binoculars, and I remember looking at the expression on Danny Heep’s face, it was the most incredulous look I’d ever seen. I remember thinking, ‘this game is never, ever going to end.’”

One year later, in 1986, the Mets were involved in a 16-inning marathon game against the Houston Astros, a game that decided the National League Championship Series.

When Billy Hatcher homered off the foul poll in the 14th inning at the Houston Astrodome to tie the game, Horwitz started having flashbacks of Atlanta. “It was the same kind of feeling,” said Horwitz. “You think you have the game won, you’re going to the World Series, they tie the game. We had enough fortitude to come back and win that game. But outside of the rain delays it was almost a duplicate game.”

Jonathan Leach grew up in metropolitan Atlanta and had been a Braves fan since 1973, captured by the Hank Aaron chase. He was home from college for the summer. He fell asleep as the game weaved through extra innings until “the early morning hours, when my brother burst into my room and woke me up to tell me they were still playing,” said Leach. “I saw Rick Camp’s home run which may be the most improbable event in the history of baseball.”

Hundreds of miles north in New Rochelle, New York, Jonathan Falk arrived home from a party at 10 p.m. and turned on the television. “I turned on TBS to find out how they’d done, figuring if I was lucky I might catch an inning,” wrote Falk, a lifelong Braves fan. “They were still playing. I was glued to the set. The Rick Camp homer was probably the single most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in 43 years of baseball watching.”

“That was the most unbelievable part. No one expected that,” said Ken Oberkfell, a Brave in 1985 and the Mets Triple-A manager today. “I mean, I have a better chance of flying an airplane than he (Camp) did of hitting a home run, and there it went. I remember I was in the clubhouse figuring the game was over, but when I saw the home run I came running back to the dugout.”

When asked now if he remembers the pitch Camp said, “I would say it was a fastball. I mean, heck, I had a zero point something batting average. There wasn’t anyone else to hit. I was just trying to make contact.”

As he rounded third, Camp was smiling as he met Tata halfway between home and third base. “You SOB, I was only kidding,’” said Tata.

“Even after I got out of baseball, every time I’d see him he’d just point to left field and laugh,” said Camp.

The Mets scored five runs off Camp in the top of the 19th inning.

“When you’re involved in a season like that and you get into one of those games you really don’t have the same concern over who wins,” remembers Van Weiren. “If you’re in a pennant race you do. If you’re 30 games out, you don’t really care. Sure you’d like to win the game, but if they don’t it’s not going to impact the pennant race. So when you get to a point in a game like that you’re just ready for it to end.”

Not the fans. As the Braves mounted another rally in the bottom of the 19th, scoring two runs, the fans began to chant, “We want Camp!”

“If we have to rely on me to hit a home run to win a game, we’re in bad shape,” said Camp. “I’ll always remember the homer, but it was a hard thing for me to do that and then go out and suck up a loss.”

“Go ahead hit another one out, we’ll pay ‘til noon,” said Tata.

This time Camp was facing Ron Darling, the Mets seventh pitcher of the game. Darling hadn’t made a relief appearance since his freshman year at Yale. The Mets were so certain Camp would not hit another home run, they began untying their shoes in the dugouts, equipment was being packed away.

“I remember the last pitch,” said Camp. “It was a high fastball I swung and missed. Struck out. You get a fastball from here up (motioning from his chest to eye level) it looks like a watermelon. I was trying to kill it.”

Strike Three. Game Over.

“This was the greatest game ever played – Ever,” said Howard Johnson.

“That was the greatest thing I’d ever seen,” added Bruce Benedict, Braves’ catcher, ” The tough thing about it was that there were a lot of lifetime memories in this game and we lost it. It’s hard to put those things in perspective. It was embarrassing.”

“That was the most bizarre game I ever played in – bizarre and fascinating, depressing and great, thrilling and boring,” said Darling. “It was all of those things mixed in. It would have been a story but Rick Camp made it a big story. I’m just glad I got my name in the box score.”

“I thought we were going to win it after that,” said Dale Murphy. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget that home run. I’ll never forget this game. I can’t explain this game. I’ll be feeling this for the next week.”

“Thrilling,” “fascinating” and “great” didn’t describe the experience for Carter, who was playing his first season in New York. He caught the entire game, handling seven New York pitchers and catching 305 balls.

1435982687251

“The game took a toll on me,” said Carter. “It was worse than catching both games of an afternoon doubleheader because of the rain (delays). My body was aching and throbbing.”

“Do you know what it’s like to be playing baseball at 3:30 in the morning?” asked Dykstra after the game. “Strange man. Real strange.”

“I saw things that I’ve never seen in my major league career,” added Hernandez.

Like Camp hitting a home run … or Knight who left 11 runners on base in his first nine at bats, including three times with the bases loaded.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other continuous game in major league history had ended so late. Prior to July 4-5, 1985, the previous latest game was completed at 3:23 a.m. in Philadelphia when the Phillies beat the Montreal Expos 6-1 on Aug. 10, 1977.

Rick Aguilera never saw it, any of it. Aguilera was sent home in the 13th after Johnson’s go-ahead home run. ”When I got to the room, I turned on the TV and saw the game still going,” he said. “I thought it was a delayed broadcast. I couldn’t believe it when they said it was tied.”

Aguilera went to bed. His roommate Sid Fernandez arrived a few hours later and Aguilera asked if the Mets won. ”He said we did,” remembers Aguilera, “but he also said I wouldn’t believe it.”

“When the game ended we were all so exhausted we were just thinking, we gotta get out of here and get ready for tomorrow … I take that back, we gotta get ready for today.”

Gorman was credited with a win. It was then that Gorman found himself in a save situation with the Mets ahead 10-8 in the 13th inning. He lost that lead. And then another.

“To give up a homer to the pitcher in the 18th inning is totally embarrassing,” Gorman told the media a couple hours later. “I learned I can’t take anything for granted. I felt like I saw it all tonight. I should have saved the game; I should have won the game; I should have lost the game. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.”

”There’s not one thing you can say you feel at that moment,” added Gorman. “It’s not like pitchers don’t hit home runs; they do. I’m not trying to take anything away from Camp, but you know if you hit the ball good here, it’s going to go out. I’d never pitched at three in the morning, but guess they’d never hit then either.”

Newpher and the grounds crew headed back to the field after arriving at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium at 8am. “One of the very few people left in the stands was my wife,” he said.

“What are you still doing here?” he asked.

“I came to see the fireworks,” she said.

Fireworks? It’s four in the morning. But the Braves were in no position to negotiate. There were 8,000-10,000 people still in the stands, delirious and jacked up on coffee, waking up their children for the fireworks. Then, there was WTBS, who sold sponsorships for the July 4th fireworks show.

“There was a great concern about whether the fireworks show would or would not go on,” remembers Van Weiren. “Ted (Turner) had gotten the station (WTBS) to sell a separate post-game that would include the fireworks. Once the game ended there was going to be a commercial break, we’d come back on the air and televise the fireworks.”

Braves television broadcaster Ernie Johnson was beside himself about the whole concept. Fireworks on TV? Come on, who’s going to watch that.

“We kidded about that,” said Van Weiren. “Ernie (Johnson) said ‘what are we supposed to say when the fireworks go off? Do we just sit there and go ‘Ooooh! Ahhh!?’ It was going to be a strange deal.”

Van Weiren said as the game went deeper into the night, there were a lot of questions about “whether they were going to do the fireworks,” he said. “We got the word that the fireworks were gonna go because this was a sold program on TBS and they were going to get the sponsored money.”

So, at 4:01 a.m. on July 5 the July 4th fireworks display began. For nearly 10 minutes the skies over Atlanta thundered. Bright colors lit up the night followed by the sounds of massive explosions. The roar hit a crescendo with a finale so intense, Atlanta resident Vivian Williams jumped from her bed.

Like many others living in the Atlanta suburbs, Williams believed the city had come under attack. The phones lit up at the police station. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution later reported “residents of Capitol Homes and other areas near the stadium called the police to complain that their neighbors, the Braves, were disturbing the peace.”

Williams told the police “setting off fireworks at 4 a.m. is inappropriate and ill-advised.”

Meanwhile, calls were pouring in to the Braves public relations office. Some came from fans who left before the end of the game and were angry that the fireworks display was not postponed until another date, he said. Other calls were from neighbors of the stadium who called the Braves to complain about the noise.

“We went back to the hotel and the USA Today was already under the door,” remembers Horwitz. “That’s always a bad sign, when the USA Today beats you there.”

Chip Caray, then home on college break, remembers his father stumbling in as the sun rose. He figured it was a late night with the guys.

“It’s the latest I’ve ever stayed out in my life and not done something I was ashamed of,” Skip said.

MMO footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/07/july-4th-1985-the-fireworks-show-must-go-on.html/feed/ 0
GM Dan Jennings To Be Named Marlins Manager http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/gm-dan-jennings-to-be-named-marlins-manager.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/gm-dan-jennings-to-be-named-marlins-manager.html/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 12:46:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=181807 600x400

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and beat reporter Joe Frisaro of MLB.com are reporting that the Miami Marlins will name current general manager, Dan Jennings, as the team’s new manager to replace Mike Redmond.

The announcement will be made official during a press conference scheduled for 11AM this morning.

The move comes as a shock because Jennings has never managed or coached in the majors or minors and it was believed Miami would bring in someone more experienced to guide the team.

Jennings first joined the Marlins front office in 2002 and eventually worked his way up to general manager in 2013.

Owner Jeffrey Loria had high praise for Jennings.

“Dan has a keen and intimate knowledge of the game especially on the field,” Loria told reporters on Monday morning.

“What many don’t know about Dan is that he’s managed and guided his fantasy baseball team to championships in three of the last five seasons. Now he gets the opportunity to do it with a real team.”

Okay, so I made that last part up.

May 17, 10:00 PM

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that despite speculation that Wally Backman could emerge as a candidate to replace ousted Marlins manager Mike Redmond, the Mets have not been contacted for permission to speak to him.

Meanwhile Marlins beat reporter Clark Spencer, who first broke the news that Redmond was on the verge of being fired, hears third base coach Brett Butler is the favorite to be named interim manager on Monday.

May 17, 4:00 PM

AP MARLINS BRAVES BASEBALL S BBN USA GAAfter getting swept by the Atlanta Braves and nearly no-hit today by Shelby Miller, the Miami Marlins fired manager Mike Redmond according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.

Bench coach Rob Leary was ousted as well following Sunday’s 6-0 loss to Atlanta.

With the Marlins losers in 10 of their last 14 games, the writing was on the wall for Redmond. There have been rumblings about it for weeks that even included rumors that Wally Backman was being eyed as Redmond’s replacement.

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria “quizzed” people at Citi Field last month about Wally Backman’s readiness to be a major league manager.

The Marlins will announce a new manager in a press conference scheduled for 11:00 AM on Monday.

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/gm-dan-jennings-to-be-named-marlins-manager.html/feed/ 0
Will Logjam Keep Syndergaard and Matz in Vegas When They’re Ready? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/will-logjam-keep-syndergaard-and-matz-in-vegas-when-theyre-ready.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/will-logjam-keep-syndergaard-and-matz-in-vegas-when-theyre-ready.html/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 10:30:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=175522 noah syndergaard

The front end of the Mets rotation is young and looks sharp.  Even as a fan of the NY Mets, I take for granted how deep this pitching is, both in quality and in quantity.

Matt Harvey will lead fellow flame throwers Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler in a 1-2-3 punch that will buckle opposing lineups.

But if you’ve read any recent reviews on Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz , the two of thrm are storming the gates of an early call-up at some point this season.

Many feel both prospects already possess the ability to make hitters swing and miss, but there are salaries blocking those young arms in the event they’re ready.  The general feeling is that Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon will have to be moved first.  Herein lies the risk/reward of proven performance at high salary versus sky high ceiling with league minimum salary.

What if Niese, Colon and even possibly Gee are pitching to their ceilings?  Niese is no stiff, the man can sling a baseball and has been one of the best southpaws in the league over the last few years.  Gee has pitched through some outstanding stretches at various points in his career.  Colon is doing his thing, putting innings on his back and carrying a workload.

If the Mets can add another front end caliber pitcher at a time when one of the three backend starters is struggling though, financial reasons cannot be an impediment. The pitcher who gives the Mets the best chance to win more games should always be the choice.

steve matz

According to Wally Backman, Matz is the best pitching prospect in the organization and one team official “half-jokingly” told Mike Puma (NY Post) that the 23 year old Long Island native would be his choice for Opening Day starter.  He’s creating a ton of buzz for his maturity on the mound, keeping the ball down in the zone and flashing all the signs of a legit top rotation arm.

Syndergaard is still considered the crown jewel of the organization’s pitching surplus though and it’s due to his improvements over the offseason as well, both to his arsenal and his physical make-up.  The 6’6 Texas native is listed at 240 lbs, but it looks like he put on some more muscle this offseason.  His curveball and fastball are his two best commodities, but many believe his change-up has improved vastly.

Admittedly, I’m basing this off the fact that all five young pitchers (Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, Matz and Syndergaard) stay healthy and continue progressing at their current rates.  It’s one of those great problems to have, and one I believe the Mets will have to contend with this season.

Between the three veteran pitchers, there’s over $23 million in salary and the Mets will look to get as high a return as possible. That may mean keeping them in the rotation (or bullpen), regardless of performance.

Will the team pull out all the stops to ensure winning is the only goal this year, or can fans expect the team to try and save face in the event of an underperforming starter?

Here’s to the best men getting the job, for the love of the game, not the almighty dollar.

Lets! Go! Mets!

mmo footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/will-logjam-keep-syndergaard-and-matz-in-vegas-when-theyre-ready.html/feed/ 0
Will Murphy Get Traded At Deadline? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/will-murphy-get-traded-at-deadline.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/will-murphy-get-traded-at-deadline.html/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:45:43 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174541 daniel murphy

Alex asks…

Do you think the Mets will trade Daniel Murphy before the trade deadline? It’s pretty clear they are not extending him. Let’s say the Mets go into July with a slim one game lead on the second wild card (I wish!) and Daniel Murphy is having another All Star season and in the top five in hits, doubles, and runs scored, would they still trade him? Or do they keep him and he walks at the end of the season leaving us with nothing to show for him? How should they play this?

Daniel replies…

I say Murphy will be traded at the deadline in an attempt to improve the roster or add farm depth, especially if he is an All-Star.  His value has never been higher than it was at the All-Star break last year, a repeat performance would be a great second opportunity for the Mets to capitalize on a high return.

Even if Murphy is doing well, perhaps even a tick better than last year on both sides of the ball, with the Mets in the thick of it – I think the organization still treats it as a decision based on the long term instead of the short and opts to add depth on the farm or includes him as part of a trade to upgrade the current roster.

That being said, it all depends on the team’s position in the NL East and how the rest of the roster is playing at the time of the deadline.  If the pitching staff manages to keep this team in the thick of it, but Murphy is yet again one of the few reliable hitters on an anemic offense, he would likely be retained and allowed to walk after the season.

Back to my original sentiments though, I think this offense will be more potent than critics are giving it credit for and Murphy will end up being one of the casualties of emerging farm growth.

Dilson Herrera has been projected as a future All-Star and already showed a ton of promise during his surprise call-up last year.  He seems like a quick learner and under the tutelage of Wally Backman and George Greer, it’s highly likely he could be ready to compete at the major league level for a job by the All-Star break.   Even if Herrera becomes part of a trade package, SS incumbent Wilmer Flores showed serious promise at second base in a brief stint last year that only deepens the talent at the position and increases the need to move Murphy’s salary (not that I care how many dollars the Mets save).

It’s a tough decision, but it’ll be a business decision at the end of the day, that’s for sure.  Murphy, along with Bobby Parnell,  Jon Niese (also facing the trade block) and David Wright, are the last Amazins to play in Shea Stadium.  I suppose there’s always a sense of nostalgia when you consider that thought.  He’s a hard worker, loves the fans, the city and has always made it known that his loyalties  are with the NY Mets.  For that, I hope Murphy has a great 2015 with this team and gets to enjoy a championship with the club, but if not, I still hope he enjoys continued success wherever the road leads him next.

Lets! Go! Mets!

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/will-murphy-get-traded-at-deadline.html/feed/ 0
Numbers Point To A Big Season For Travis d’Arnaud http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/numbers-point-to-a-big-season-for-travis-darnaud.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/numbers-point-to-a-big-season-for-travis-darnaud.html/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:27:12 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=173844 travis d'arnaud

Very few backstops have the ability to manipulate the strike zone and manufacture K’s like Travis d’Arnaud. That talent immediately caught the eye of the Mets front office following his 2013 debut.  His quick hands translates at the plate into raw power and bat speed.

There were obstacles and defensive flaws that d’Arnaud had to hurdle last year, but by the end of season, he had not only realized his offensive potential – but sustained it over the remaining 53% of his career at-bats.  With his high grade power, is it too soon to ordain him the catcher of the future, especially on the heels of a promotion by Kevin Plawecki?

Since June 24thof last year, after d’Arnaud was called back up from the minors, he batted .272 with an .805 OPS for the remainder of the year.  Translated into advanced metrics, that production was equal to a .350 wOBA and 128 wRC+.  Experience-wise, that accounted for 257 of his 484 total at bats (53%), representing the majority of his major league career.  The Mets are placing a high bet on his output so it’s important to determine what ailed him initially.

The first outlier that became immediately noticeable through his first 227 at-bats was a .219 BABIP.  That’s the time between his 2013 debut and 2014 demotion, where he was a .189 hitter with a .269 slugging percentage.  Most major league hitters eventually trend towards the league norm for BABIP which is around .300 and varying slightly from year to year.  While the sample size is small, there’s such a drastic difference in that same figure once he returned from Triple A Las Vegas.  What effect could the coaches out in the dessert really have had in that short period of time?

Credit Triple-A manager Wally Backman and hitting coach George Greer for implementing a simple, yet repeatable approach.  The idea was to swing at good pitches in the strike zone, regardless of the count.  The mechanical fix was even more simple, just a little back foot shuffle, but it arguably had the biggest impact on the rest of his season and possibly his career.

The major league staff had instructed TDA to move his back foot away from the plate in order to promote plate discipline.  The result was an inability to cover the strike zone with the barrel of the bat and pitchers took full advantage of it (ESPN Heat Map).  Once the AAA coaching staff recognized the issue, they moved his back foot closer to the plate, allowing him to square his hips up, be a power threat and cover that outside corner of the plate.

Also upon his return, d’Arnaud quickly joined teammate Lucas Duda on the hard-hit ball leader board, otherwise known as Exit Velocity.  He broke in at #33 in the major leagues following the All-Star break and kept climbing on the list up to #17 by mid-August.

A major statistical improvement that emerged as a result of his mechanical fix and improved exit velocity was a spike in BABIP.  His balls in play rate jumped to .287 over his final 257 at-bats, a far more believable career stat than his earlier .219 figure.  Common sense tells us that the mechanical improvement to his stance was simple, but it allowed him to square up the ball and drive it with power again.  Plus, you don’t need an advanced degree in sabermetrics to accept that a harder hit ball is more difficult to defend against and take out of play.  As a result, the fixes created a higher percentage of line drive hits.   There’s more to drill into on those 257 AB’s though, Citi Field might be a mental hurdle, but it has had adverse affects on hitter regardless.

At Citi Field last year, following his demotion, d’Arnaud hit .237 with a .729 OPS and a .243 BABIP at home, despite being a league leader in exit velocity.  He struggled to get a high frequency of balls to land for hits, but when he made contact, it was strong.  Notice the difference between his OPS and OBP?  That’s a .450 slugging percentage, it’s yet again odd that he’s driving with that much power but still landing so few balls for hits.  Strength and power will only improve with his offseason regimen and it’s reasonable to assume that home batting average will improve.  Let’s, take it to the road.

His statistics away from Citi Field were astonishing during that stretch, almost as if he felt a clear comfort at the plate.  By comparison to his output in Queens, he was a .314/.367/.901 player with a .330 BABIP on the road following June 24th.  The issue for the wide difference?  The Mets BABIP has dropped annually since the fences were first brought in to start the 2012 season.  A partial explanation is the high frequency of defensive shifts that were applied to Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson last year.  However, unless the ball leaves the park, the Mets have the worst chance in all of baseball to land a hit at home if their .266 home BABIP last year means anything.  It’s only been three seasons with the previous dimensions, but this would be something good to pay attention to in 2015.

One quick anecdote that stood out during this evaluation was his ability to manufacture offense against divisional opponents, in any ballpark.  The Mets had a healthy number of divisional matchups following his demotion and those were great moments for d’Arnaud.  His .277/.326/.844 slash line was produced over 23 games at home against the NL East during that stretch.  He managed to topple those numbers on the road, mashing the ball at a .298/.377/.931 rate in 12 remaining divisional games away from Citi Field.

There is a consistent correlation between d’Arnaud’s BABIP and his offensive production, so it’s reasonable to assume he’ll range anywhere from .250 hitter at home and a .290 hitter on the road.  I allowed for some regression to settle in on the road because I believe his home average will come up, within reason.  The power should remain consistent too, as he maintained that production throughout his resurgence.

His offense wasn’t perfect during those 257 at-bats though, there were issues that needed to be addressed this offseason.  As I mentioned, his power was simply incredible and ultimately, it hid the fact that he only registered a .319 on base percentage during that stretch.  That can partially be attributed to his aggressive new approach that focused solely on attacking pitches in the strike zone, but still, it needs to come up a tick.  As a result his BB% dropped by an astounding 5.2% compared to his first 227 at bats, although, his K% did also reduce by 3.1% to help offset the lower number of walks.  Let’s be honest though, does anyone really have an issue with that OBP if he’s slugging at a high rate in the middle of the lineup?

While it’s reasonable to assume top end prospect Kevin Plawecki will get his shot at some point this year, it’s hard to imagine GM Sandy Alderson awarding the job to the younger, less experienced player if d’Arnaud is mashing at the plate and providing the young aces with a high percentage of called-strikes.  While power may not be a word that’s synonymous with the Mets, it’s a known commodity to Alderson and basically any GM who wants to win ball games.

This season looks to be something special for d’Arnaud, although this is just one man’s perspective. When the book is closed on his career, what do you believe TDA will accomplish in Queens?

footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/numbers-point-to-a-big-season-for-travis-darnaud.html/feed/ 0
Backman Expresses Concern About Playing Flores and Murphy Up The Middle http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/backman-expresses-concern-about-playing-flores-and-murphy-up-the-middle.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/backman-expresses-concern-about-playing-flores-and-murphy-up-the-middle.html/#comments Sun, 11 Jan 2015 17:01:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172993 wally backman

Wally Backman takes a photo with avid Mets fan Reymundo at the QBC

Always a fan favorite, Wally Backman was a big hit on Saturday at the Queens Baseball Convention where he signed autographs, took photos with fans, and participated in a Q&A panel with ESPN’s Adam Rubin.

Backman, who will return for his fourth season as manager of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, had a lot of great things to say about the state of the Mets farm system.

He tabbed outfielder Michael Conforto as the best hitting prospect in the organization, and said LHP Steven Matz was the best pitching prospect Mets have.

wally backman las vegas review-journalBill Price of the Daily News did a nice job of summarizing what Backman had to say, as the 1986 Mets hero spent the day raving about many of the Mets prospects and even calling the organization’s pitching pipeline “second to none.”

Speaking about the Mets number one ranked prospect Noah Syndergaard, Backman said “he has the stuff to win a Cy Young,” but also said he has some things to work on. “His command is an issue and he’s slow from the stretch, but he has the stuff.”

Backman spoke highly about the offensive potential of Wilmer Flores, whom he believes will be a big run producer. However, he pulled no punches and said his biggest concern for the 2015 Mets is the up-the-middle defense of Flores and second baseman Daniel Murphy.

“Are we going to be able to turn those double plays that get us out of an inning?” asked Backman. Well that’s certainly the big question heading into the season, no doubt about that.

I really love Backman and just find his straightforward and honest demeanor so refreshing. He’s such an intelligent baseball guy and a wonderful judge of talent. I hope he does eventually get a shot to manage in the big leagues – and if it does happen, I sincerely do hope it’s with the Mets. It just feels right.

mmo footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/backman-expresses-concern-about-playing-flores-and-murphy-up-the-middle.html/feed/ 0
Viola Returns As Pitching Coach For Triple-A Las Vegas http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/viola-returns-as-pitching-coach-for-triple-a-las-vegas.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/viola-returns-as-pitching-coach-for-triple-a-las-vegas.html/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 21:15:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172913 frank viola wally backman

Frank Viola will return as pitching coach for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, a source told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.

The Triple-A staff is now set as Viola joins manager Wally Backman and hitting coach Jack Voigt who succeeds George Greer.

Sweet Music interviewed for the pitching coach vacancy with the Twins, but Minnesota decided to go with former Met Neil Allen. This will be Viola’s second season with Backman in Triple-A.

If you could only hear how our pitching prospects rave about Viola who is so highly regarded by all of them. I’m glad we get to keep him.

footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/viola-returns-as-pitching-coach-for-triple-a-las-vegas.html/feed/ 0
Featured Post: Can Wilmer Flores Find Stardom At Second Base? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/featured-post-can-wilmer-flores-find-stardom-at-second-base.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/featured-post-can-wilmer-flores-find-stardom-at-second-base.html/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:12:16 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167459 wilmer flores

The Mets have more than a back-up plan should Daniel Murphy be moved in the offseason, they quite possibly have upgrades.  It’s still a gamble though, Murphy’s production is solid and he has sustained it over the course of several years.  In 126 games at second base this year, he batted (.302) with 34 doubles, 9 home runs and 53 RBI’s.  A critical issue with the Mets offense this year was the inability to hit with men on base.  However, Daniel’s numbers over the last few years suggest he’s part of the solution to that problem, particularly in high pressure scoring situations.  Since 2011, he’s posted remarkable slashline of (.337/.404/.902) when there are runners in scoring position with two outs.

The caveat to Murphy’s offensive talent is his defense.  In a recent ESPN article, Mark Simon noted that, Murphy has been at -10 or worse in Defensive Runs Saved for three straight seasons, meaning that his glove “neutralizes” his offensive upside.  Overall, Daniel is a unique asset and I do not agree wholeheartedly with Simon’s analysis.  Murphy possesses a set of tools that does come with extreme highs and lows, but the net result of his production is still valuable.  So, if he were traded this offseason, what options do the Mets have internally?

One possibility is Dilson Herrera, considered by most scouts to be a top 100 prospect in all of baseball.  The 20 year old Columbian received a surprise call-up from Double-A Binghamton in September and showed a lot of promise.  Herrera only hit .220 during his brief stint, but managed to crank three home runs, a triple and eight RBI in just 59 at-bats.  He flashed the tremendous bat speed that evaluators raved about, but he needs more polishing, which is why he’ll likely start 2015 at Triple-A Las Vegas.  The idea of trading a productive Murphy before Herrera has proven he is ready for a full time promotion brings a ton of risk.  Then there’s the ever forgotten man, Wilmer Flores.

I say forgotten man because Flores didn’t burst on to the scene like many fans expected and his name began to disappear more and more from conversations regarding the future of the Mets.  In all fairness though, he played in another stratosphere when his glove was at second base this year.  The numbers are relatively similar to Murphy’s, except for one category, power.  Get this, Wilmer’s (.563) slugging percentage was (.266) points above his (.297) batting average.  That isolated power (Batting Average – Slugging) was tops in the major leagues among any player who swung a bat as a second basemen.  Wilmer played 18 games at the keystone, so there isn’t a tremendous sample size to evaluate him off of, but every scout and organizational evaluator believed he was capable of that production from the moment he was drafted.

Wally Backman stated that Flores was the best RBI guy he ever managed, which is why he often batted the young Venezuelan third in the lineup.  The defense was never expected to be a premium tool of Wilmer’s, and while his efforts at shortstop were commendable, his glove, footwork and range all improved significantly at second base. Couple that with a powerful arm and he posted some nice little web gems at second, like this one.

The defensive confidence certainly had an impact at the plate, as Flores’ wRC+ of 152 and wOBA of (.385) were better than all qualified second baggers.  Again, I’ll reel in the enthusiasm because it’s only 18 games, but it’s fascinating where advanced sabermetrics rank him during that time nonetheless.  His extra base hit totals during that span, spread over a conservative season of 150 games, would give him 50 doubles and 25 home runs, respectably.

By comparison, Murphy is more of a pure hitter, but Flores wasn’t far behind and his bat has way more pop than Daniel.  Wilmer’s performance at second base was what the Mets were hoping to see from Dilson Herrera someday, so if it’s already here, do the Mets take a gamble and hand the reigns to Flores?  This is a critical decision for GM Sandy Alderson, make the wrong move and it could either weaken the Mets offense or impair player development.  Make the right move and its money well spent or tremendous bang for the buck.

So, is Wilmer Flores the next big second baseman in NY?  Let us know your thoughts.

MMO footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/featured-post-can-wilmer-flores-find-stardom-at-second-base.html/feed/ 0
A Bag of Balls, A Lot of Questions http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/a-bag-of-balls-a-lot-of-questions.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/a-bag-of-balls-a-lot-of-questions.html/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:00:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167743 mike scott astros mets 1986

Former New York Mets catcher Ed Hearn says he has a bag of baseballs in his cellar. They are all from 1986; all from the National League Championship Series; all evidence that Michael Warren Scott cheated.

The rumors started long before the NLCS. In May 1985, during one of Scott’s starts at Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs first baseman Leon Durham found a piece of sandpaper near the mound, “brand new, cut in a circle, big enough to hide in his glove,” Durham told the Chicago Tribune.

In September 1986, two weeks before Scott no-hit the San Francisco Giants to clinch the National League West, the Cincinnati Reds were in Houston. Starter Tom Browning took the mound to warm up. When he picked up the ball, Browning claimed the ball had “… a big ol’ scuff mark … as clear as a quarter on a piece of paper. That wasn’t an accidental scuff from contact.”

“It’s the consensus around the league that Mike Scott cheats,” Mets catcher Gary Carter said after Scott threw his no-hitter.

Scott denied the accusation. His catcher Alan Ashby denied the accusation. Ashby credited the aces split-finger fastball. “If everybody in the league learns to throw that pitch like that, you’ll have a batting champion hitting about .210,” Ashby said.

On July 19, in his only regular season start against New York, Scott’s split-finger neutralized the Mets at the Astrodome, pitching 8 1/3 innings, allowing five hits in a 5-4 Houston win.

keith hernandez

In Game One of the NLCS, Scott did more than hold off the Mets, he humbled them. The Cy Young Award winner struck out a record-tying 14, including Keith Hernandez (three times), Darryl Strawberry (three times) and Carter (twice), and allowed only five hits as the Astros won the opening game of the National League playoffs 1-0 before 44,131 at the Astrodome.

In the first inning, Carter swung at strike two and asked plate umpire Doug Harvey to check the ball. Harvey examined the ball, and tossed it back to Scott. Carter struck out on the next pitch.

“Carter said, ‘Harvey, Harvey, no way. Look at that ball,’” Harvey said after Game One. “So I looked at it. I purposely turned toward Carter. I turned it over one way, then the other. That ball was clean. The man just exploded two tremendous pitches.”

“I saw the ball do some things that are different than you normally see the ball do,” Carter told reporters. “He was just unbelievable. I’d never felt so dominated by a pitcher. All I can say is if he is cheating and getting away with it, I tip my hat to him.”

“The guy is unhittable,” mumbled Strawberry as he reached the Mets bench after striking out in the second inning.

The allegations amused Scott. “If that’s what they want to think, fine,” he said.

Scott’s career was on life support in 1984. He finished the season 5-11. If Mike Scott wanted to continue pitching in the big leagues he needed eight days in San Diego with Roger Craig. That’s how long it took one of the original 1962 Mets pitchers to teach Scott a split-finger.

The next season Craig was managing the Giants and watching his former pupil frustrate his team. Craig was barking at the homeplate umpire all game. Ironically, the man behind the plate was Harvey.

“I finally went toward the dugout and said, ‘Roger, the ball is clean. Do you want it?’” asked Harvey.

“No, I’m just trying to get to his mind,” replied Craig.

Harvey said he “checked 65 or 70 balls thrown by Mike Scott and I haven’t found anything … in my heart, the man is clean.”

The Mets were spooked by Scott’s dominance in Game One. “That may have been the first time all year I’d seen our team not believe in itself,” third baseman Ray Knight said in The Bad Guys Won. Mike Scott was quickly becoming baseball’s version of The Mentalist.

Scott again dominated the Mets – mentally and physically — in Game Four at Shea Stadium, pitching the Astros to a 3-1 win to even the series at two games each. If the Mets didn’t feel cheated after Game One, they did now – and told everyone who would listen.

“Every single ball was scuffed,” said Wally Backman. “You know there are people in the game who cheat. I never knew until late in the game, but when you have 15-20 balls that have been scuffed you know it’s not done by fouling them off. I assume it is something in his glove hand.”

When reporters told Scott what Backman said, the Astros ace replied sarcastically, “Then I’m convinced he corks his bat. This has been going on for two years now.”

The Mets scratched out three hits (four base runners) in Game Four. In two starts, Scott set a playoff record for most consecutive scoreless innings (16) and strikeouts in a league playoff series (19). In 18 innings, Scott surrendered one run and struck out 19 Mets batters.

mike-scott

Scouts reportedly watched Scott with binoculars and could not offer any conclusive evidence of scuffing the baseball, leading one reporter to write: “Until they find Mike Scott in possession of a nail file, corkscrew or table saw, the New York Mets will lack the hard evidence to back up their opinion as to why he is so unhittable.”

The next day it rained in New York, postponing Game Five and providing the Mets with another opportunity to make their case against Scott. The team asked National League president Chub Feeney to examine 15 baseballs. Feeney promised to examine the baseballs himself before Scott pitched a possible Game Seven.

“We have some balls that were defaced,” said Johnson. “A lot of people believe it was done by Scott. I think Mike Scott could make a cue ball dance. But if he is defacing the ball, I’d like to see him stopped. What we have is circumstantial evidence. But I’d take a lie detector test on it.”

The controversy was getting ugly. Through the media, the Mets and Astros started a war of words. Backman and Howard Johnson, who saved baseballs hit into the Mets dugout, turned them over to the league. The move angered Astros manager Hal Lanier.

“If Backman and Johnson are such big fans of Mike’s, they can bring those baseballs over and Mike will autograph them for them,” said Lanier. “They say they have all these balls that are scuffed up. Who knows what happens to baseballs when they get in locker room. Mike (Scott) has never been found guilty of anything.”

Mental edge: New York.

Mike Scott peered out the Astros dugout as the Mets and Astros weaved and bobbed through 16 innings of Game Six. Everyone in the Mets dugout knew if they lost that night, the only way to get to the World Series was to beat the seemingly unbeatable Scott.

The Mets escaped a third showdown against Scott, winning 7-6.

“He watched from the dugout, he haunted us,” said Carter. “He stuck in the back of our minds. No, sir, we didn’t want to face him the following day for all the marbles … The man had a power over us even when he was spending the game on the bench.”

“I feel like I’ve been pardoned,” said Mets manager Davey Johnson after clinching in Game Six. “I really don’t want to see Scott again until next April.”

Post Script:

In 2009, Gary Carter was managing the Long Island Ducks and writing a blog for Newsday. More than two decades had passed since Carter whiffed helplessly against Scott.

Carter wrote, I have often been asked if I thought we could have beaten the Astros in Game 7 back in ’86 … Knowing Scott was looming for a Game 7 was big, and having to face him might have written a completely different story. He was dominant in the other two games we faced him, but knowing our team’s character, we would of found a way to win.

Time restores confidence, even if it takes two decades.

MMO footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/a-bag-of-balls-a-lot-of-questions.html/feed/ 0
Mets Discussing Adding Backman To 2015 Coaching Staff http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/mets-discussing-adding-backman-to-2015-coaching-staff.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/mets-discussing-adding-backman-to-2015-coaching-staff.html/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 22:07:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165600 wally backman las vegas review-journal

A team insider told ESPN New York that they are currently considering having Wally Backman permanently join Terry Collins’  coaching staff in 2015. Adam Rubin adds that Collins views Backman as an ally, and not a threat.

“We have a very strong relationship,” Collins said. “Wally and I are very good friends. We always have been — for a lot of years. When he joined the organization, I was the [minor-league] field coordinator. And I still enjoy my time when I talk to him or when we’re together. So I’m glad he’s coming. He brings a lot to the table.”

This may be as close as Wally gets to ever managing the Mets. I see it as a sign that Collins is definitely returning as Mets manager next season, and Sandy Alderson’s way of throwing a bone to the fans who have been calling for Backman to be named manager.

In the grand scheme of things, Collins still calls all the shots so nothing really changes.

(Joe D.)

September 12

The Mets announced today that Wally Backman will join the Mets coaching staff for the remainder of the season on September 19th.

Backman, the manager of the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate the Las Vegas 51′s, was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year for guiding the Las Vegas 51s to another division title.

Backman has been a manager in the Mets farm system for the past five seasons, and has served as the manager of the 51′s since 2013.

Last week, Bob Klapisch of The Record said that Mets GM Sandy Alderson needs to shed his prejudice against the very trait that makes Backman unique – that he’s an independent thinker with a strong personality.

Backman has done his penance since the fiasco in Arizona ten years ago. He has played by the rules, avoided controversy, poured himself into the job as a mentor, and has risen steadily through the organization, Klapisch argued.

“No one can say Backman doesn’t win over his players. To a man, they cite his enthusiasm and toughness, an infectious positive attitude that’s helped a number of young Mets on their way up.”

Something has to give, Klapisch concludes. Alderson’s team is mired in a losing culture and desperately need is a blast of accountability. They’ve become far too comfortable losing year after year. Backman could change that ethos. He deserves to at least try.

MMO footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/mets-discussing-adding-backman-to-2015-coaching-staff.html/feed/ 0
Di-JEST: My Top 10 Fake Mets Headlines http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/di-jest-my-top-10-fake-mets-headlines.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/di-jest-my-top-10-fake-mets-headlines.html/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:00:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165476 I’ve been a reader of newspapers for as long as I can remember. Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island I spent years reading the NYC tabloids and then Newsday.

Now living upstate I read the local paper to see what streets have sinkholes the size of in-ground swimming pools.

I still keep up with the NY papers using their online sites. But in my humble opinion, nothing beats a foldable paper in hand. Here are some headlines I’ve made up, most of which I’d love to see, but know we won’t. The newspaper mastheads are courtesy of Newseum and headlines are my own of course.

1. We’ll start with one fans of Wally Backman would love, even though I just can’t see Alderson tabbing him as the next Mets manager. 

headline1 copy

2. Here’s one every baseball fan would be thrilled to read. And how about a pill to make hamstring pulls abate?

headline2

3. Of all the headlines this would be the one that would please me most.

headline3 copy

4. Let’s face it, the Dude has had a fine year but still can’t do squat against a left handed pitcher.

headline4

5. I really wonder about this next guy’s future.

headline6

6. And as if we could ever afford this guy….

headline5

7. I wonder if Juan could make a catch like Willie Mays made on Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series.

headline7 copy8. This is how Murph rolls…

headline8 copy

9. Wishful thinking here.  Kevin will be missed.

headline9

10. I’ll admit that Wilmer has been better than I thought he’d be at short but…

headline10

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/di-jest-my-top-10-fake-mets-headlines.html/feed/ 0
3 Up, 3 Down: Mets Phil Up on Momentum For Miami http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-mets-phil-up-on-momentum-for-miami.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-mets-phil-up-on-momentum-for-miami.html/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 14:21:25 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164748 dilson herrera jenrry mejia

The Mets went almost entirely with home grown talent this weekend against the Phillies as clubhouse veterans such as Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Curtis Granderson saw their playing diminished for various reasons.  The results?  The Amazins’ added another series W to this year’s resume.  Below are the usual 3 Up/3 Down takeaways.

3 Up

1.  Sunday was an interesting sight as the Mets trotted out three former center field prospects in Matt den Dekker (LF), Juan Lagares (CF) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (RF) to defend the outfield.  As a unit, they also accounted for half of the offensive production yesterday, scoring 3 runs, stealing 3 bases while putting up a slash line of .333/.500/.833.  Defensively, Matt den Dekker played some great defense all series, making a web gem catch in Saturday’s loss to rob Ryan Howard of an extra base hit.  He also put in a great bid to gun down Freddy Galvis at home plate off of a sharp single by Jimmy Rollins, but Anthony Recker was unable to hold on to the one hop toss from Matt, despite on a dime.

2.  Jacob deGrom resumed his campaign for ROTY by having an excellent outing on Friday.  The former Stetson standout went 7 innings, allowing only 4 hits, 1 unearned run and 2 walks while punching out 5.  The 26 year old rookie has some outstanding numbers at home this season, posting a 1.68 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, a 3.06 strikeout to walk ratio, 0.50 home runs per 9 innings while opponents bat a meager .215 against him at Citi Field.

3.  Wilmer Flores had an outstanding series.  The 24 year old Venezuelan turned a great performance at the plate and with the glove.  Flores had a triple slash line of .500/.545/1.145, scored 2 runs, plated an RBI and even swiped a base.  On defense, Wilmer helped turn four separate double plays while also flashing some nice range, robbing Ben Revere of a base hit with a diving snag in yesterday’s win.

4. A bonus “UP” for Dilson Herrera who made his major league debut and earned his first hit, walk and RBI during the three game set. The beginning of what should be a fantastic career for the 20-year old second baseman.

3 Down

1. Curtis Granderson is spiraling downward rapidly since the All-Star break.  The struggling slugger only played two games in the series, getting a day to “clear his head” (a.k.a. benched) on Sunday.  Granderson went 0-8 with 2 strikeouts and despite one spectacular catch on Saturday night, his defense is extremely conservative and overall a liability.  It doesn’t help his cause that Lagares and den Dekker are spectacular within their respective regions, but there were several outfield hits that either of Granderson’s counterparts would have made and these hits ended up being the majority difference in the Amazins’ lone loss from the series.  Terry Collins disregarded the hits as more luck than anything else, but Curtis has lost a step in his speed to the ball and his bat isn’t hot enough to make up for the lack of defense.

2.  Lucas Duda is slumping hard recently and carried this trend into the Phillies series.  The Hulk went 1 for 12 in the series with no extra base hits, walks or RBI’s.  Duda even contributed a rare throwing error in Friday’s win, although his defense has remained solid overall.  The emergence of Duda was sure to come with some downward movement, but the upcoming series against Miami will be a true test for him and his future.  He is batting 0.87 with two singles in his last two series.  If Lucas is able to break out of his woes and get back to laying the barrel on the ball, it will go a long way towards quieting his critics who do not see his 2014 performance as proof that he is a lock at 1st base for the future.

3. Terry Collins continues to look like a lock in 2015, despite Wally Backman putting up tremendous numbers on the farm and garnering the support of nearly the entire fan base.  News broke during this series that there’s no chance the front office will consider the former World Series champ as a candidate to unseat the current manager and Collins’ remaining contract has little to do with it.  Had something to do with Wally thinking on his own, managing winning ball clubs with constantly fluctuating rosters, just winning in general…I don’t know, something along those lines.

*Side Note*- Condolences to Bartolo Colon for the loss of his mother, whom he buried Thursday prior to the start of this series.  Big ‘tolo didn’t have the best outing on Saturday, but it took incredible guts for him to get on the mound after such a devastating experience.  Thoughts and prayers are with Colon and his whole family.

MMO footer

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-mets-phil-up-on-momentum-for-miami.html/feed/ 0
Backman Has No Shot At Managing Mets Despite Being Named League’s Best Manager http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/backman-has-no-shot-at-managing-mets-despite-being-named-leagues-best-manager.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/backman-has-no-shot-at-managing-mets-despite-being-named-leagues-best-manager.html/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 14:03:04 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164553 wally backman las vegas review-journal

John Harper of the Daily News wrote an extensive article on what the future may hold for Wally Backman now that he has been named the PCL Manager of the Year. He says that if nothing else, the award is just more proof that Backman is a very good minor-league manager who deserves a chance at a big-league job.

Terry Collins is almost a lock to be back in 2015 and everything Harper hears from people in the organization indicates that Sandy Alderson would never tab Backman to manage the team under any circumstances even though he seems to be that “people’s choice.”

The reason for that is Backman is too much of an “I’ll-do-it-my-way personality.”

Harper says that Backman should at the very least join the staff as a bench coach for Terry Collins given Alderson’s apparent lack of regard him as a manager.

He adds that Backman’s feel for the game could be a benefit to Collins, in the way that Don Zimmer made Joe Torre a better manager when they were together.

However when he ran that scenario by the Mets, the reaction was a fear that Backman’s presence might lead fans to chant his name the first time the ballclub lost five games in a row next season. They see Backman as a threat.

Not surprisingly, he says, the Mets always seem to fear the worst in every situation. Maybe they need someone with Backman’s fearlessness to change that way of thinking.

Backman remains hopeful. ”I know what I’m capable of doing. My desires have not changed at all to manage in the big leagues. I think I’ll get an opportunity at some time.”

Unfortunately for Wally, that opportunity will never come in Flushing – not as long as Alderson remains in charge.

It’s a shame really. This team is starving for new leadership and needs a fresh voice and message. I’ll have more on that Monday.

(Joe D.)

August 29

Wally Backman has been named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.

This season the Las Vegas 51′s are 80-61 and are the only team to have clinched their division in the PCL. They led the league in wins, home runs and runs (by 88!).

Hired in 2009 by the Mets, Backman has risen through the ranks managing in Brooklyn. He took over as the Mets Triple-A manager (first the Buffalo Bisons, then the Las Vegas 51s) in 2012.

His last two seasons at AAA have been incredible, winning over 80 games both years.

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/backman-has-no-shot-at-managing-mets-despite-being-named-leagues-best-manager.html/feed/ 0
Demotion Helped D’Arnaud Regain Confidence and Swing http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/demotion-helped-darnaud-regain-confidence-and-swing.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/demotion-helped-darnaud-regain-confidence-and-swing.html/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:45:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160940 darnaud

Travis d’Arnaud has had his struggles since being promoted to the big leagues in 2013, mostly from trying to live up to the pressures of playing in the big city and producing.

Coming into the 2014 season, the hype grew even larger and it might have just been too much for the young rookie to bear. So on June 7, the Mets made the right choice to demote d’Arnaud to Las Vegas who was only hitting .180 at the time. Many wondered, including myself, what would come of it, but it was obvious that d’Arnaud needed a fresh start and a new outlook on his future.

What looked like a bad situation, has actually helped turn d’Arnaud’s season around.

When the rookie catcher first arrived in Vegas, Marc Carig of Newsday writes that a roundtable session was set up, and it included 51s manager Wally Backman, hitting coach George Greer and pitching coach Frank Viola. All three helped d’Arnaud talk through the anxieties that weighed him down and helped to clear his head.

The support that he initially received helped to get him back on the right track, ”I’ve had a lot of support,” d’Arnaud tells Newsday. “And I had a lot of help immediately, which was huge for me.”

In 15 games with the 51s, d’Arnaud hit .436 (24 for 55), six home runs and 16 RBI’s.

“He just needed to slow things down and understand that he was good enough to be who they wanted him to be,” Viola said. “But he had to be good enough for him first. He was putting so much undue pressure on himself that he just had to take a little time to step back.”

Viola continued, “He realized, ‘You know what? I am my own worst enemy right now.’ He got down here, he took care of his own little demons whatever they might have been, he saw the ball, hit the ball, and called the game. He did everything that was asked of him.”

That is all any coach or manager could ask for and what came of the initial decision to send him down, could become a saving grace on his career.

Since returning to the Mets on June 24th, d’Arnaud is hitting .295 (18 for 61) with five doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI’s.

“If I have a good at-bat, I’m happy now,” d’Arnaud said. “Before, if I had a productive out, if I lined out, I would get on myself so much because I was so worried about getting a hit. It helps me to stay even-keeled.”

Now as the Mets begin their second half on Friday and only five games under .500, d’Arnaud’s resurgence is key to a team still trying to find their identity and a young catcher still finding his way. 

You can read Carig’s the full article here

(Photo Credit:Jim McIsaac)

mmo always believe

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/demotion-helped-darnaud-regain-confidence-and-swing.html/feed/ 0
Featured Post: It’s Time For A Change… #FreeWally http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/featured-post-its-time-for-a-change-freewally.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/featured-post-its-time-for-a-change-freewally.html/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 21:26:25 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=156540 terry collins opening day

Sometimes, a fresh start is needed. And it´s about time this happens for the Mets in terms of managing the players on the active roster.

Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores make up almost one third of the Mets roster by now and are looking to establish themselves as major leaguers for the long haul and maybe part of the Mets next core going forward. All eight are 25 years old or younger. And all eight remain under team control for the next 5+ years.

Hopefully the growing pains won´t be too extensive. And while Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard – the two highest ceiling arms that also belong into that group – remain in the pipeline poised to help either late in this season or early next, this is pretty much it in terms of potential impact young talent for the major league roster for the foreseeable future. There are no blue chip prospects other than Syndergaard left in the upper levels – with Cesar Puello and Kevin Plawecki coming closest but projecting more as solid complementary pieces. So, the time has arrived where things have to be taken seriously.

The Mets chances for the remainder of the 2014 season but even more so in 2015 largely depend on how this group of young players ends up performing and how quickly they manage to adjust to the major leagues. With veterans like Wright, Granderson, Murphy, Niese, Gee and Colon potentially also playing a vital role, of course.

terry collins

For the past 3+ years, Terry Collins and his staff have navigated the Mets through the rebuilding phase, dominated by severe financial restrictions and tried to keep spirits up in spite of having limited talent at hand. It´s tough to say whether the impact of TC and his staff on the 77, 74 and 74 win seasons from 2011 through 2013 was positive, neutral or negative. Still, at the very least, TC was a good soldier and oversaw the transition on the field. But now a new era has begun.

The wave of young talent we’ve been waiting on for a couple of years has pretty much arrived. Yet, the results on the field haven´t changed and the Mets once again seem headed towards a mid-70 win season with no “meaningful” games scheduled for August and September. TC – apparently well liked & respected by his players – deserved the chance to return in 2014 with the financial restrictions lessened and the wave of young talent finally arriving. But a good start was mandatory to receive an extended chance – and the Mets currently find themselves at 20-25 approaching the end of May and are another losing streak away from pretty much eliminating themselves from the 2014 playoff race for good.

This experiment can´t go on. While TC deserves credit and appreciation for trying his best with what he had, he symbolizes the transitional period of 2011 and 2013 – with the common denominator that his teams have constantly failed to win. It may not be his fault and it may not be fair. But he can´t remain in charge of the Mets. Offer him a job within the organization as a thank-you . But relieve him of his duties. Right NOW – and not in a month when the Mets may well be 30-40 and totally out of things.

backman

Wally Backman may not be the ideal longterm manager for the Mets. No other major league organization has seriously considered him for an MLB managerial job in recent history. And he sure has some personal baggage on his resumé. But he also symbolizes a very good time in Mets history and a fighting spirit that will give him the backing of the fan base.

Backman also is highly regarded by all of his players. And while Collins has continued losing with the Mets, Wally Backman has gone 113-77 with the Las Vegas 51s over the past year and a third with large chunks of the current Mets roster having played and won under his watch. Now is the time to win back the fans, create some excitement and give Wally Backman his well deserved chance. Maybe he can be the modern version of Davey Johnson who took over the 1984 Mets with success after successfully managing the Tidewater Tides in 1983. Do it now. And stop hoping things turnaround themselves. They won´t.

Will this be the cure and instantly turn the Mets into a 90-game winner ? Probably not. But it would show how serious ownership & the front office are about EXPECTING and not just hoping to win. And creating a fresh start with a fresh group of players. If that still doesn´t work, the front office will have to ask themselves whether to start making significant changes to the roster structure via trades. What´s needed in 2014 isn’t necessarily a playoff team, but obvious progress. And currently we´re not seeing that. ACT!

MMO

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/featured-post-its-time-for-a-change-freewally.html/feed/ 0
Andrew Brown Optioned To Make Room For Bobby Abreu http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/andrew-brown-optioned-to-make-room-for-bobby-abreu.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/andrew-brown-optioned-to-make-room-for-bobby-abreu.html/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 18:49:36 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=153035 Bobby-Abreu

The Mets have added Bobby Abreu to the 25 man roster and he will be available for tonight’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Andrew Brown was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for him. Brown batted .185 with one home run and five RBI in 30 plate appearances this season.

The 40-year-old Abreu hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2012, when he played eight games for the Los Angeles Angels and then 92 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Abreu signed a minor-league contract with the Mets, and batted .395 in 15 games for Triple-A Las Vegas with four doubles and six RBI.

The Mets needed to make a decision on Abreu, who could have asked out of his contract if he wasn’t promoted by the end of this month.

It’s still unclear if this decision is just to add a bat to the bench, or a bigger role.

April 12

Mike Puma of the NY Post has learned that Bobby Abreu has an April 30 opt out clause on the deal he signed with the Mets.

“Don’t be surprised if he’s with the Mets by end of month,” Puma says.

April 11

When the Mets signed Bobby Abreu on March 31, I have to admit, I really didn’t understand that move, especially when the Mets have a crop of younger ball players ready to take their turn and become stars on the big club.  The move to bring in a 40 year old ball player past his prime didn’t really sit well with me.  My thinking was maybe they feel he still has something left in the tank, but in reality it could delay a top prospect for a what-if.

But I have to admit, at least for now that I will have to eat my words, because not only has Abreu been hitting, but he has actually solidified himself in the lineup and has started to be a guy to count on to produce.

On the season so far he is 10 for 19, batting .526/.591/684, with three doubles, has only struck out twice and has hit safely in seven of the eight games he has played with the 51′s.  He also has three multi hit games in that stretch.

Wally Backman has seen his share of great hitters and he tells the Las Vegas Journal-Review that Abreu still has it, “He turned on a 98 mph fastball with the bases loaded, so I’d say he can still hit.”

I can’t say that Abreu is the answer to the Mets offensive woes, but if he continues to hit and produce, the Mets may need to make some decisions and possibly see if he is actually someone who can bring something to the table for the team – assuming he continues to smash Triple A pitching. It could make for a good story line.

(Photo Credit: Josh Holmberg/Las Vegas Review Journal)

bleed-orange-blue-button

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/andrew-brown-optioned-to-make-room-for-bobby-abreu.html/feed/ 0
Mets Want More “Attitude” From Syndergaard http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/mets-want-more-attitude-from-syndergaard.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/mets-want-more-attitude-from-syndergaard.html/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:31:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=153623 Noah_Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard has a major league fastball and curveball, but the Mets would like to see a little more “attitude” from their top pitching prospect according to what team sources told the New York Post.

According to club sources, the stud right-hander disappointed organizational officials with his approach in his first two starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, but looked better on Monday after he was challenged by manager Wally Backman to bring more of a presence to the mound.

“Backman told him to be more aggressive and asked him who he wants to become,” said a person with knowledge of the conversation. “Does he want to become a middle-of-the-road starter or top-of-the-line starter? Syndergaard said he wanted to be a No. 1. He went out with a little more of an attitude on Monday.”

Syndergaard pitched five innings in his last start, allowing two runs on five hits. Overall he is 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts for Las Vegas.

The Mets are following the road map they used with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler before him which means Syndergaard will stay at Triple-A until at least late June to help keep the clock from starting on his Super-2 arbitration status.

Rafael Montero has been light’s out in Vegas, and will most likely get the call to the majors first. Many in the organization feel he is currently major league ready, and some felt that way at the end of last season.

Presented By Diehards

]]>
http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/mets-want-more-attitude-from-syndergaard.html/feed/ 0