Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jose is Back

Tomorrow, Jose Reyes will be released from the exile that lasted a little over two weeks. Omar Minaya announced the news a little while ago - that Jose Reyes' thyroid levels had returned to normal, and that Jose has been cleared to return. It was the best news Mets fans have received in quite some time.

While most writers responded to the Reyes news of March 11th by claiming the season was in peril, Endocrinologists and the Mets held firm to the belief that Reyes would be back in as little as two weeks - and he is. It was on this blog on March 12th, after listening to an interview with New York based Endocrinologist Dr. Mark Hershon, that I pegged Reyes to return (to actual games) between March 26th and April 9th.

With Reyes set to resume baseball activities tomorrow (March 24th), he will have a little over 11 days to get back in shape and be in the lineup for Opening Day at Citi Field on April 5th. Omar Minaya today stated that Reyes could indeed be at Shortstop on Opening Day, but wouldn't elaborate further. The important thing for Reyes is building his legs back up, and not attempting anything crazy until he and the trainers believe those legs to be game-ready. At that time, he can reclaim his spot.

Until then, Mets fans will simply bask in the news of Reyes' return. For once, a Met actually came back from the Disabled List at the short end of the estimate. The debate about whether or not Ruben Tejada or Alex Cora should start at Shortstop can be pretty much put to bed. Even if Reyes isn't starting on Opening Day, he should be right on the cusp. Cora can resume his role as a backup/player-manager, and Tejada can report to the minors and hone his craft.

When the news about Jose Reyes broke on March 11th, all Mets fans could do was hope for the best. Today, the best happened.

Welcome back, Jose.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Bizarre Logic of Jerry Manuel

With Opening Day in less than 18 days, and with the first round of cuts out of the way, a sizable portion of the Mets' future (and perhaps the present as well) remains in big league camp. Ruben Tejada is still there, and may crack the roster to start the season if Jose Reyes doesn't return by then. Ike Davis is still around, and if Daniel Murphy continues to hit the way he has and Davis stays on his absurd pace, some questions will arise as to whether or not Davis can supplant Murphy as the Opening Day first baseman.

The two names that are driving most of the debates, though, are the 21 year old outfielder Fernando Martinez and the 20 year old pitcher Jenrry Mejia. Both players have been incredible so far, with Martinez OPS'ing over 1.000 and Mejia dazzling the opposition, the writers, and the Mets with the ridiculous movement on his pitches and the results those pitches have yielded.

When you go through the players the Mets have, and what their team will most likely look like at the start of the 2010 Regular Season, the logical conclusion is that the Mets are more in need of a center fielder than a bullpen arm - especially considering the fact that the bullpen arm (Mejia), has been a starting pitcher his entire career and has the potential to be an Ace - which is what made yesterday's comments by Jerry Manuel a tad absurd. When asked by reporters if he would consider starting Fernando Martinez at center field on Opening Day, he responded by saying that it would "...Be difficult, in all honesty. That would be difficult. The center field part is very important to us right now. We came in here with the mantra that we're going to catch the baseball, play good defense, that type of thing, so we'll see how that turns out. But right now, we have Gary and Angel slated for that spot."

So, according to Jerry, it's fine to take Jenrry Mejia - a kid who's been a starter his entire career, and put him in the bullpen even though there is no glaring need (the Mets have Francisco Rodriguez, Ryota Igarashi, Kiko Calero, Pedro Feliciano, Bobby Parnell, Fernando Nieve, Hisanori Takahashi, Sean Green, Nelson Figueroa and others all competing for the 7 spots in the pen) - but it's "difficult" to envision Fernando Martinez, who's played center field and the other outfield positions every year he's been with the Mets, opening the year in center field because, according to Manuel, his defense is inferior to Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr?

Manuel's line of thinking here is completely ridiculous. Angel Pagan, for all of his talent, is not a plus defender. He takes terrible routes on fly balls, throws to the wrong base frequently, and suffers through other mental lapses in the field. Gary Matthews, Jr. was once an elite defender, but that time has passed. In his limited time in the Majors last year, Martinez made a few errors, but showed to be no less capable than Pagan.

If Fernando Martinez continues to hit the way he's been hitting, he should make the squad over Pagan and Matthews. There would need to be decisions made when Carlos Beltran returned - Would the Mets send Martinez back to AAA? Would they have him split time in right field with Jeff Francoeur - but Those are questions that can be answered when Beltran comes back. The main goal is for the team to win ballgames, and with Beltran and perhaps Jose Reyes out to start the year, the addition of Martinez to the lineup would bring a potential power boost in their absence. If it's perfectly fine to Manuel to take Jenrry Mejia, the most prized pitching prospect on the team, out of his element and stick him in the pen, how can Manuel not be strongly considering using Fernando Martinez to fill an actual need by playing his natural position?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Calm (and lack of electricity) After The Storm

This past Saturday night, the New York City area was pounced on and ripped apart by an absurd storm - which dumped 4 inches of rain, brought 70 MPH winds, toppled trees, and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people. As can be seen from the above picture I took today on my way to work, a tree up the block from my house toppled to the ground, taking out the power lines on the way down before landing on a car and causing a house to catch fire.

While I was able to listen to Johan pitch yesterday on an emergency crank-powered radio, my house (and thousands of others around New York) has been without power for the last 48 hours or so. It is because of this wicked storm and its aftermath that I have been unable to update Rational (sometimes) Mets Musings for the last few days. I'll do my best to post new stories from work, while hoping for the electricity in my house to return.

In the meantime, Let's Go Mets.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Day After - A Doctor's Prognosis

It's been over a day since the Jose Reyes news broke. As was expected, the local writers spit out article after article, usually framing the absolute worst case scenario. The Mets intimated that Reyes would be cleared in 1 to 7 weeks, which somehow led some writers to say he wouldn't be back until June - when he can just as easily return at the end of March. Some writers went with the hGH route, suggesting that Reyes' condition may have been brought on by the use of the illegal drug. Some others bashed the Mets, which is strange since the Mets did nothing to cause Reyes' condition, and did nothing to harm his chances of a quick recovery.

The response by Mets fans was understandable. It's perfectly normal to be upset at what's happened to Reyes, especially after what the Mets and the fans went through last season. However, in this instance, the Mets did absolutely nothing wrong. The people who spoke to soon were Reyes' agents, who claimed on Wednesday that Reyes was basically in the clear, and that he'd be returning to game action within days. That was a mistake, and made the news that Reyes would be sidelined for at least a few weeks sting much more. But it wasn't the Mets who dropped the ball.

In an interview that wrapped up at 4:30 PM on WFAN, Dr. Kenneth Hershon, a well respected New York based Endocrinologist with 30 years of experience, discussed Jose Reyes' diagnosis at length. Dr. Hershon went out of his way to say that he was a Yankees fan - and therefore not biased - and stated that he had called Mike Francesa because lots of what he was hearing about Reyes' condition was inaccurate.

In Dr. Hershon's opinion, the issue that Jose Reyes is dealing with is mild and easily curable. Reyes does not have Graves Disease, and there is no medication for the type of diagnosis Reyes has. According to Hershon, the reason medication is not suitable for this type of condition, is because medication would block the thyroid from picking up iodine. The elevated hormone level that Reyes has needs to be burned off - and Dr. Hershon stated that it usually takes 2 to 3 weeks for the high thyroid levels to normalize.

When Dr. Hershon was asked to address the hGH issue, he said that while it's impossible to rule out hGH as a cause for high thyroid levels (since nothing should ever be ruled out when making a medical diagnosis), it is highly improbable for hGH to cause the type of ailment Reyes has, and would not be something Doctor's would ever look to as a cause. Rather, Dr. Hershon explained, elevated thyroid levels are usually caused by a virus or by supplements that contain iodine. For instances like the one affecting Reyes, once his thyroid levels normalize, the chances of a recurrence are slim to none.

If Dr. Hershon's estimations are correct, and Reyes' thyroid levels return to normal within the 2 to 3 week span (1 to 2 weeks from now), it should only take him another week or two to regain his strength and return to playing games with the Mets. That would put Reyes on track to return sometime between March 26th and April 9th.

I know people will be skeptical until Reyes returns, but I'd trust the opinion of a well respected Doctor over the hyperbole infused ramblings of men who are trying to sell newspapers.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just One More Thing To Overcome

Like every other Mets fan, I was shocked, rendered speechless, and left completely unable to do my job when the news about Jose Reyes broke today around 1 PM. After being told for the last 48 hours that Reyes would be back at Camp and playing in games within the next few days, the news that he would be out for 2 to 8 weeks was extremely unnerving - especially for a fanbase still picking off the scabs of the 2009 campaign.

Everyone wanted to know why other people with conditions similar to Reyes get treated with some type of medication, and go back to their their regular routine within days. The fact that Reyes' agents were calling this a "best case scenario" was puzzling. To us, the "best case scenario" would've meant Jose Reyes getting on a plane this afternoon, returning to Pt. St Lucie, and playing in a game or two this weekend. The fact that Omar Minaya touted the Alex Cora signing as some sort of saving grace pretty much sapped any sanity I had left - but then I calmed down.

Realistically - not in the baseball World, but for Jose Reyes the person - today's news was the best case scenario. The results of the blood tests Reyes took could've brought far worse news. They could've shown that he had Thyroid Cancer, a tumor, or another serious condition. What they revealed, was that his thyroid levels were high, and that he would rest and watch his diet until they normalized. Once the levels normalize (in as little as 2 weeks, and as many as 8 weeks), Reyes will be cleared to play baseball again.

We all hope that Reyes is cleared to play in 2 weeks - and he very well may be. After the almost unfathomable rash of injuries the Mets dealt with last season, and the way the timetables for the players' eventual returns became running jokes, one would think that the Mets may have elongated the potential timeframe for Reyes' return, leaving them some wiggle room if some things don't go perfectly along the way. And, if that's the case, so be it. The way it's been told, Jose Reyes will be cleared to play ball sometime between March 25th and May 6th. Again, hopefully it's as early as possible.

While the news that Jose Reyes would most likely not be ready for Opening Day was extremely tough to take at first, it isn't a terrible thing. An unfortunate thing, no doubt, but not terrible. And not something that this team can't overcome. This isn't an injury, it's a medical situation. It's not something that was bungled by the Mets and/or the Doctor's, it's something that's being handled with care. By the time I'm finished writing this, the rest of the Mets fans who were rapidly approaching meltdown mode this afternoon will hopefully start to see that this is something the Mets, and more importantly, Jose, will get through.

Since the Mets' pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training nearly a month ago, I've been counting down the days to Opening Day. Whenever the clock passes Midnight, I calculate how many days are left until the Mets return to us...29...28...27...26. Today was day 25, and as the last bits of snow melted and we prepared to turn the clocks ahead, I could feel baseball season getting closer. Me and 3 of my friends have already taken off for Opening Day. We'll be in the parking lot at Citi Field by 10AM on the morning of April 5th, with our gloves on one hand and our drinks in the other. The excitement is there, but it was almost lost this afternoon.

After I took a step back and examined the grand scope of what went on, and understood that Jose Reyes would indeed be OK, everything returned to normal. That is not to say that I and tons of other Mets fans are taking Mets baseball any less seriously. The fact that everyone initially reacted how they did this afternoon should really make us all smile. It's March 11th, and thousands upon thousands of Mets fans were rendered useless to their jobs, wives, girlfriends and whoever else because news broke that Jose Reyes may not be ready for Opening Day. That's how much we care about the Mets. Enough to let news like that immobolize us.

But what makes Mets fans even more special, is how in the midst of the craziness that was this afternoon, we became resilient - together. This franchise and its fans have been forced to deal with so much nonsense over the last year, and now is not the time to put our heads down and give up. Articles will come out tomorrow declaring that the Mets' season is doomed - even though Jose Reyes really shouldn't miss that much time. Irrational people who claim to be die hard Mets fans will call talk radio and surrender. The real Mets fans? We'll shake this off, wish Jose Reyes a speedy recovery, and resume the countdown to Opening Day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Digging Through Out of Touch Journalism: Bill Madden Edition

After opening their Spring Training slate last week, the Mets' record stands at 5-2. Most people are of the mind that Spring Training records don't matter (the '86 Mets finished with a .500 Grapefruit League record), but most fans would also prefer for the Mets to be 5-2 instead of 2-5. Since Spring Training began, no Mets have gone down with injuries. There have been no controversies. The top prospects every New York scribe claimed to not exist before March (Jenrry Mejia, Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez, Ruben Tejada etc...) have opened eyes.

To one man, though, as we sit here on March 8th, the Mets' "Preseason glow has begun to fade." Hall of Fame writer Bill Madden (above with George Steinbrenner) is getting his Wallace Matthews on this morning, with an ill conceived and foolish opinion piece about what he believes to be the slow crumbling of the Mets' 2010 season. Let's take a closer look at his article:

Ever since David Wright's chipper "we expect to be in the postseason" and Johan Santana's "I'm the best pitcher in the National League East" inaugural addresses, the sunny optimism at Camp Met has been muted by Jose Reyes' thyroid condition, Frankie Rodriguez's pinkeye and Kelvim Escobar's idleness.

The optimism has been muted? That's not the way even the most pessimistic Mets fans have reacted to the events of the last week. The majority of the fans are actually extremely encouraged with the growth of the prospects, the fact that no one has gone down with an injury, and the fact that the players seem to be loose and confident. I'm not sure how Francisco Rodriguez's bout with pink eye (he's back at camp today) "muted" any optimism. People get pink eye, they go away for a while to recover, and then they come back - like Frankie did today. No one has been talking about Kelvim Escobar, especially since Ryota Igarashi has looked very good, Kiko Calero has been signed to take Escobar's place, and Jenrry Mejia has looked dominant. The Jose Reyes issue is another story, and while no one can be certain about what will come of it, the likelihood is that Reyes will be treated for his thyroid issue and be back playing games within the week.

We tell ourselves, the Mets tell themselves, it's still early March. Plenty of time left in the spring to get that feel-good mojo (not to mention two key players) back. Things could be worse.

Who is this "we" Madden speaks of? Did he mean to say I? Madden states that there's "plenty of time left...to get that feel-good mojo back." Where did it go? Seems to me (and every other objective person) that the Mets are full of optimism right now. I'll agree with Madden that "things could be worse," since they are actually going extremely well right now.

Amid this ominous backdrop, the Mets chose Sunday to announce that single-game tickets are now on sale for the 2010 season - the same day Ollie Perez was making his first start of the spring. Talk about pressure. And Odd Ollie, who didn't provide a whole lot of reassurance that 2010 is going to be much different than 2009, admitted he felt it.

What "ominous backdrop" is Madden referring to? Does this "backdrop" have something to do with David Wright regaining his power stroke, Ike Davis going 8 for 14, Fernando Martinez hitting close to .700 thus far, Jenrry Mejia's dazzling display, or the fact that nearly every bullpen arm the Mets have thrown out there has been effective? The fact that Madden attempted to tie his imaginary "ominous backdrop" and Oliver Perez's first Spring Training start (where the only objective was to throw strikes) into some mistake by the club to put tickets on sale yesterday is completely moronic. I don't think any Mets fan is going to run out and buy tickets or decide to not buy tickets, based on the first Spring Training start by the Mets' likely third or fourth starter.

For what it's worth, at least Perez was able to throw strikes - 33 in 49 pitches. Unfortunately, in pitching to contact, he allowed the visiting Washington Nationals to make plenty of it. The enigmatic $36 million lefthander gave up three runs in the first inning, including a towering home run to 6-5 rookie first baseman Mike Morse.

Did Madden even watch the game? The home run that Ollie gave up to Mike Morse was a line drive. Does Madden know the difference between a line drive and a "towering" shot? I suppose not...which isn't surprising, since it seems that he doesn't know the difference between optimism and pessimism either.

I have nothing against Bill Madden as a person, but articles like the one he wrote today are a perfect example of why blogs and other online sites may eventually leave print journalism in the dust. In a poor attempt at "the sky is falling" journalism (and in an effort to scare Mets fans), Madden exposed himself as someone who is completely detached from reality. While some of the less than die-hard fans may buy into his assertions, the true ones shake their heads at it - before casting his paper aside and relying on eachother for accurate information regarding the Mets.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Is This A Mirage?

There's a scene in the middle of the movie Goodfellas, where Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, above in the middle), asks if he's a "mirage." He had been asking Michael Imperioli's character Spider for a drink, but Spider failed to respond quickly enough. For that and other transgressions, Spider was eventually gunned down by Tommy. While following both of today's Mets games (via gameday, message boards, and my friend who's fortunate enough to have a TV on his desk), I started to wonder if Jenrry Mejia was a mirage. And when his name failed to appear between Jon Niese and Ryota Igarashi in the gameday stats (it was a blank space, as if he had never entered the game), the feeling got stranger.

When 20 year old Jenrry Mejia AKA King Jenrry (credit for that nickname goes to the witty posters over at NYFS) entered the game in the 3rd inning, I completely lost my concentration at work. When his two and a third innings were complete, and he had struck out four, walked none and given up no hits, I began to laugh to myself like a crazy maniac. I was only one year old when Dwight Gooden exploded onto the scene in 1984, and although I've seen videos of him at his peak, I never experienced it. The closest I came to "experiencing" Doctor K was when I was in attendance to see him shutout the Rockies on Opening Day of 1993 - when he was a shell of what he once was.

Before anyone screams, I am NOT comparing Jenrry Mejia to Dwight Gooden. I'm discussing the two of them in the same paragraph because since I've been following the Mets, there hasn't been one Ace brought up from the minors by the franchise. Generation K had the talent, but none of them could stay healthy. Scott Kazmir was traded to Tampa. Mike Pelfrey has the goods to be a #2, but not nearly the stuff that Mejia appears to have been gifted with.

The drum started to beat earlier in the Spring, when Jerry Manuel talked about Mejia becoming the 8th inning man. Then, Darryl Strawberry nearly had an orgasm after he saw Mejia pitch for the first time (comparing the movement on his fastball to that of Mariano Rivera). Then today happened. Mejia came into the game and recorded 7 outs - 4 by strikeout. Yes, it's only Spring Training. The pitchers are ahead of the hitters. However, that doesn't change the fact that Mejia's pitches move like no one elses. His 94 MPH fastball has as much action as a slider, and he also features (albeit less often) a changeup and a curveball.

Pardon me and the rest of the Mets faithful as we drool. Jenrry Mejia is 20 years old, and has been blessed with a golden arm. Today in the Daily News, I shook my head as I read an article by Bill Madden that ripped the Mets' farm system. Aside from Mejia, the Mets have close to 10 guys who are ready to break through.

But back to King Jenrry...

I am not one of the people who believes he should start the year in the bullpen with the big club (before eventually becoming a starter). I can't say, though, that I would be angry if that happened. Worried, yes, but not angry. In a perfect World, Jenrry Mejia goes down to Binghamton or Buffalo and dominates - inflicting pain on opposing hitters the way Clubber Lang did to Rocky Balboa during their first bout. Soon enough, if all goes according to plan, his talent will lead him out of the minors and straight to Flushing. If I had three wishes, I'd ask for World Peace, unending riches, and for Jenrry Mejia to stay healthy and harness his talent. If there's a genie out there who wants to grant the last of those wishes, be my guest.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Today, The Mets Will Play A Game

In roughly 30 minutes, about 1,000 miles from where I sit (at work, while the snow melts outside), the Mets will play a baseball game. Sure, it's just an intrasquad game, but it's a game nonetheless. It's been nearly five months since the New York Mets played a baseball game. Today, the winter ends. Today, the offseason that felt as long as a Steve Trachsel start finally comes to a close. Play Ball.

The first day of March always seems like the day we can begin to put the winter behind us. While there still may be some awful weather down the line, the countdown to Opening Day and the Spring has begun. When Jenrry Mejia (pictured above) and the rest of the Mets start their game today, millions of Mets fans will be smiling. Kids who are in school, people who are at work, those who are home - all of them will be happier today because of an intrasquad baseball game. The die-hards who have access to a computer (wherever they are) will be following this game on the internet, hanging on every pitch of a game that means nothing in the standings, but everything for what it represents.

The fact that today is Monday seems irrelevant. In addition to the wonderful game that's about to be played, Mets tickets went on sale today for Partial Plan holders (which I am). While I anxiously sat at work preparing to purchase my Opening Day tickets, I felt the nervousness I feel before and during a big game...the nervousness that sometimes lasts an entire day. After I secured Opening Day tickets for me and my friends, the feeling started to change - going from tension to anticipation.

In 35 days, things get going for real. Johan will be taking the mound for Citi Field's 1st Season Opener against the Marlins. I've already taken the day off, as have thousands of others. That day will be magnificent. Until that day, games that count for the Mets in the standings will wait. Baseball is back, though, and it doesn't seem to matter that today is Monday.