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Monday, September 30, 2013

2013 Mets First-Round Pick's Road to the Big Leagues

2013 Mets first-round draft pick Dominic Smith

As the end of September comes around, the Mets find themselves playing meaningless games in the final month for the fifth straight season.  While it has been a disappointing season, there is light at the end of the tunnel for this team.  The foundation for the future of this organization is bright with lots of young talent on its way in the coming years.      

Friday night, the Mets announced their 2013 Sterling Award winners at Citi Field before the game.  The Sterling Award is emblematic of the Most Valuable Player for each of the organization’s nine minor league affiliates.  Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard highlighted the winners for triple-A and double-A, respectively.  Another young Mets prospect that shined this season though is one that won’t be able to go out and get a beer to celebrate.  The Mets 2013 first-round draft pick Dominic Smith is just 18 years old and he took home the Sterling Award for the Gulf Coast League Mets.

Smith got the chance to take batting practice before Friday’s game at Citi Field before the Mets fell to the Brewers 4-2 for the second straight night.  The whole experience is still hitting the 18-year-old first baseman. 

“It’s surreal.  It’s like a dream come true, honestly.  It feels great.  The field is beautiful.  You’re hanging around big league guys.  You’re already getting a taste of the next level.”

The 11th overall pick in this season’s First-Year Player Draft hit .287 with three home runs, 22 RBI, and had a .384 on-base percentage for the GCL Mets.  It was a major adjustment for Smith from his days in high school just a few months ago. 

“The toughest thing was playing everyday.  It’s tough, but you never really understand it until you play and being a 17-year-old kid, you hear people say all the time, oh let’s go play baseball every day.  If we offer you a contract would you sign and play everyday, you would be like hell yea!  Baseball is fun, but it’s really a job and it’s tough and plays a big toll on your body.”

While Smith had an impressive first season in the minors, he knows there’s plenty of work still ahead of him as the offseason has officially begun.

“It’s a lot of things I need to work on.  It’s a ton.  You’re never perfect.  I’m nowhere near perfect or where I feel I should be, especially after my first year.  There’s a ton to work on and I can’t wait to get to the offseason so I can work on those things and advance my game.”

The first baseman earned a late season promotion to Kingsport, where he had four doubles in six at-bats over three games.  The Los Angeles, CA native finished the season with a combined .301 (52-173) batting average, good for seventh in the organization.  The big league club could have an opening at first base soon, but Smith isn’t ready to think about that just yet. 

“When I’m ready they’ll bring me up.  I just take it one day at a time.  I don’t really look at the future aspect as a couple years.  I try to play hard and advance my game and try to show them to make the next step.”

The 6-0, 180-pound West Coast kid got a little taste of what’s to come playing on the East Coast in New York.  So far, Smith likes what he sees in the city that never sleeps.

“New York is beautiful.  It’s a beautiful city.  The fans are awesome and amazing.  Best fans in baseball and arguably all of sports.  They really love their Mets and they love their players.  They know their players inside and out.  It’s really a great position I’m in. 

The Mets first round pick has shown promise and will look to take the next step in the minor leagues next season when he will get a full season under his belt.  Smith said he models his game in the field after Mark Teixeira and at the plate after Robinson Cano and Carlos Gonzalez.  That’s some big shoes to live up to, but the left-handed hitting first baseman is ready for the offseason ahead as he tries to work his way up to the New York Mets one day. 

“A few months back, I was at high school with my friends and now I’m in a big league park wearing an awesome uniform and being drafted by a major league team and getting to play for them and hopefully one day get to be in this position where I can wake up everyday and come to this beautiful ballpark.”

You can hear my entire interview with Dominic Smith here:

Monday, August 5, 2013

The 5th Quarter in New York Sports with Charles Jenkins-8/4/13

Tune into The 5th Quarter in New York Sports from Sunday August 4th, 2013 on 1240AM-WGBB in New York. Andrew Fertitta and I ranted on the Alex Rodriguez saga and if we agree with his impending suspension and how it affects the Yankees.  At the 12 minute mark, we talked with the all-time leader in scoring at Hofstra University and the former Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers guard Charles Jenkins about his new deal with Red Star of Belgrade in Serbia.
In the second half of the show, we talked Yankees and Mets and what the future holds for both teams.  We talked Zach Wheeler and some of his early struggles.  We then argued on who the New York Jets starting quarterback will be when week one arrives as one caller claimed Geno Smith has to start over Mark Sanchez.  We ended the show with Johnny Manziel talk and how the media needs to give him a break as well as Riley Cooper as we turned up the volume with plenty to talk about.

The 5th Quarter in New York Sports with Charles Jenkins-8/4/13

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mets Have Found Their Aces in Wheeler and Harvey

The New York Mets 2013 season hasn't been pretty by any means, but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.  That light shined bright Tuesday in Atlanta when the Mets saw their young phenoms Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler dominate in a sweep of a doubleheader over their NL East rival Braves.

Harvey started game one and continued his excellence he has shown all season long striking out 13 in seven innings.  The 24-year-old carried a no hitter into the seventh inning before allowing his first hit.  Harvey finally got some run support from his anemic offense as he improved to 6-1 on the season.  It was his first win since May 17th.  Harvey has been the Mets ace all season and one of the favorites to start the All Star Game at Citi Field in July.

While Harvey has been the Mets number one guy, the Amazins found out that Wheeler looks ready to be "1a."  The only Mets player ever to be born in the 90's made his MLB debut in the second game of the doubleheader after watching Harvey's tremendous effort earlier in the afternoon.  Wheeler would not back down in front of the bright lights and in front of his family and friends.  The 23-year-old's hometown is just minutes away from Turner Field in Smyrna, Georgia.  Oh boy, was he ready to go.  After some butterflies in the first inning where he walked two batters, Wheeler cruised the rest of the way.  The young stud tossed six shutout innings, giving up four hits, while striking out seven and walking five batters.  Wheeler had some filthy stuff working his fastball up to 98 MPH and mixing it with a nasty curveball and slider.

For once, the Mets organization got it right.  GM Sandy Alderson dealt Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline in 2011 to the Giants, and it looks like the Mets got back a pitcher that could be at the top of the rotation for years to come.  Wheeler received a lot of hype and at least for one start, he definitely lived up to it.  Finally, Mets fans have something to look forward to at least twice a week this season.  It seemed like "Harvey Day" was one of the only days of the week the Mets would usually pick up a win, but now they get Harvey Day and "Wheeler Day."

Wheeler's ability provides plenty of hope for Mets fans who have been hopeless for years.  Now, the Mets have the pieces to build around and it's time they bring in some bats to give their two studs some run support.  This organization cannot put Harvey and Wheeler out every five days and continue to not put runs on the board.  Alderson has made it clear that this offseason he will be bringing in proven bats to make this team a winner...something they have not done since 2008.  It's been all dark days at Citi Field since the gorgeous building opened in 2009, but it seems like the lights will be shining soon enough thanks to the Mets dynamic duo at the top of their rotation.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nets Aren't Kidd-ing Around

The Brooklyn Nets aren't Kidd-ing around when it comes to their search for a new head coach to replace P.J. Carlesimo.  The Nets have signed Jason Kidd to a three-year become their head coach.  Fresh out of retirement, Kidd sought out the Nets head coaching job and his interview apparently went extremely well.  His only competition was Brian Shaw, who was interviewed earlier today, but the Nets went with Kidd.

It's only fitting that the one player that made the New Jersey Nets relevant for the first time will try and make the Brooklyn Nets relevant.  Kidd singlehandedly sent the Nets to the NBA Finals in his first season there in 2001-2002 and then would send them back to the Finals the following season.  The Nets had never even made the Conference Finals before Kidd arrived.  Kidd just wrapped up his Hall of Fame career retiring just a week ago after playing just one year of a three-year deal with the New York Knicks.  Kidd will take the short ride from Manhattan downtown to Brooklyn.  He will also make the transition from a jersey to a suit.  Is he ready to make the transition?

A 19-year NBA career, an NBA championship, two Olympic gold medals, second all-time in assists, second all-time in steals, third all-time in three-pointers made, and third all-time in triple doubles...I think it's safe to say he's ready.  The future Hall of Famer has as good a resume to become a head coach of anyone out there.  Kidd was a special player and truly amazing to watch.  His court vision and ability to make everyone around him better make him a perfect head coaching candidate.

Reports say Kidd was very well-prepared for the interview with Billy King and that he exhibited supreme confidence that would command the respect of his players.  It doesn't hurt that Kidd and Nets point guard Deron Williams have a great relationship.  Kidd would have to assemble an "All-Star cast" of assistant coaches to join him if this will be a success.  The Nets certainly have the talent on the roster with Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez as well as a solid supporting cast.  The Nets lost to the Bulls in the first round in seven games in their inaugural season in Brooklyn.

Kidd has seen it all and done it all in the NBA, so what makes anyone think he won't be a successful head coach?  Kidd was a leader on and off the court his entire career and it is fully expected he will do the same on the sidelines.  It will also be a great move in bringing in fans and having people excited about the Nets.  The face of the franchise will now man the sidelines and we all know that Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to spend the money for an NBA title.  Now the Nets will have their guy to get them there, just like he did in New Jersey.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mets Finally Send Ike Down...but What's Next?

This past weekend at Citi Field was more of the same for the 23-35 Mets.  It was an embarrassing display of baseball against the worst team in baseball and one of the worst in the history of baseball.  After Friday night's game was rained out, the Mets would lose a 20-inning affair (that I sat through) Saturday by a 2-1 score, and then Sunday they would blow a 4-1 lead and lose 8-4 in 10 innings.  Eight of the Marlins 18 wins this season have come against the Mets.

Yes, the New York Mets have lost eight times to the abysmal 18-44 Marlins.  That was the last straw.

Finally, Sandy Alderson decided enough was enough and made a couple of moves that had to be made.   The long awaited demotion of Ike Davis finally arrived after the game Sunday as he was sent down to triple-A Las Vegas.  Mike Baxter and Robert Carson were also sent down.

For Ike, it has been another disastrous start, but this time he has showed no signs of turning it around as he did last year.  Davis is hitting just .161 on the season with just five home runs and 16 RBI. He has struck out a ridiculous 66 times in 186 at bats.  That's an average of more than one time every three at bats.  The demotion was long overdue, but two more losses to the Marlins marked the end for Ike.  He will work out his troubles in triple-A Las Vegas and until he shows some significant improvement, he won't be back in Queens anytime soon.

Baxter also has been struggling in his limited playing time this season.  He's hitting just .212 with zero homers and four RBI in 85 at bats.  Don't expect Baxter to be back anytime soon either as he was not given much of a chance from the start.

Carson should have never been here in the first place.  The southpaw out of the bullpen has been completely overmatched since being called up to Queens.  Carson has been atrocious in 2013 in 18 innings giving up 18 runs, good for a whopping 8.50 ERA.  He has also given up eight home runs this season, which is good for third most on the team.  Carson shouldn't hear his name on the big league roster again in 2013, unless it's for September call ups.

So the Mets are now 23-35 and sitting in fourth place in the NL East, already 13.5 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves.  The question for this team is...what's next?  Well it's time Alderson and Terry Collins realize that if this team is in a rebuilding process, it's time to start players that are going to be a part of the future.  Yes, even if they are not major league ready, it's time to let them play.  What does the team have to lose at this point?  They are 13.5 games out of first place and are in no way, shape, or form going to be in a pennant race in 2013.  Saturday, the Mets finally designated Rick Ankiel for assignment.  Yesterday, they finally sent down Ike, along with Baxter and Carson.  That's a start.  Now it's time to see pieces of the future play.  So who are these pieces?

First of all, it looks like Zach Wheeler will finally get his time to shine.  Wheeler is set to make his major league debut in a doubleheader next Tuesday the 18th in Atlanta.  Coincidentally, Matt Harvey will start the second game of the doubleheader.  The future of the Mets pitching staff will be seen together on the same day, which will definitely be exciting for the fans.  Wheeler won't be the savior though.  The Mets are in desperate need of some bats.  We all know the Mets have Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard as well as Rafael Montero to look forward to in the rotation, but what about on offense.

Highly coveted catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud is on his way back as he begins to rehab and work his way back from a foot injury.  D'Arnaud was the big piece of the R.A. Dickey trade and the Mets are hoping that he can be this team's catcher for years to come.  Expect D'Arnaud to be called up to Queens sometime after the All Star break.  Wilmer Flores is another guy in the minors that needs to be called up this season.  The Mets need to move Flores to shortstop, because Daniel Murphy should stay the everyday second baseman.  Ruben Tejada has not earned the starting shortstop role, and should not return as the starter when he is back from the disabled list.  If Ike Davis can turn it around, the Mets infield in the last two months of the season and possibly for years to come come should be D'Arnaud, Davis, Murphy, Flores, and David Wright.  That could turn out to be a pretty solid infield for years to come.

The question marks once again remains in the outfield.  Lucas Duda is not expected to be a piece of this team's future and Alderson has made that clear.  He has been unable to win anyone over with his mediocre power bat.  Duda is hitting just .228 with 10 home runs and 20 RBI in 193 at bats this season.    The Mets don't have much help in the minors either in the outfield.  Their only potential outfielder in the future right now looks like Brandon Nimmo, but he is only with single-A Savannah right now.  Nimmo has been impressive so far hitting .316, but has just one home run and 18 RBI in 136 at bats.  Luckily, the Mets have around $30 million coming off the books in the offseason.  That means they will have some cap space to add a free agent outfielder, and possibly make a trade for another before the trade deadline in July.

What I expect the Mets to do is make a trade for Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier before the trade deadline.  While everyone wants Carlos Gonzalez or Giancarlo Stanton, that will cost the Mets too much and would force them to likely give away Wheeler or D'Arnaud or both.  Ethier would cost the Mets less prospects, and they can likely get the Dodgers to pay half of Ethier's five-year, $85 million contract.  While Ethier has struggled this season, a change of scenery could be good for him.  The Mets will then look to sign a free agent outfielder in the offseason.  Atop the list will likely be Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, or Jacoby Ellsbury.  Those are the three games to keep an eye on that the Mets will likely make a move for.  Look for the Mets to sign one of those three free agents as well as make a trade for an outfielder this July as they will have a little bit of spending room this offseason.

It's going to be a rough season and it's been hard to watch the 2013 Mets thus far.  If Alderson can make the right moves with the money coming off the books, and some of the highly coveted prospects as in Wheeler, D'Arnaud, and Flores can pan out, the Mets are not too far away.  This team could be a winning one within the next two years.  If not, say goodbye to Alderson and Collins.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Mets Fans Relishing in Sweep of Yankees

It may only be two months into the season, but the Mets sweep over the Yankees is easily the highlight of the 2013 season.  Chants of "sweep" and "Let's Go Mets" were heard in full force last night at Yankee Stadium in the 9th inning as the Mets completed a four-game, two-stadium season sweep over their crosstown rival Yankees for the first time since the Subway Series began in 2000.

Mets fans made their presence felt last night in the Bronx in what was one of the quietest Subway Series games ever.  Yankees fans were nonexistent in their home park last night.  The 44,207 fans in attendance were silent until late where Mets fans took over.  While it was just another game for the Yankees and their fans, it was more of a pennant race atmosphere for the Mets and their fans.  The Yankees have dominated the Mets in Subway Series play with the Mets only winning two season series in the first 16 years of the rivalry.  The Yankees were 54-36 in those 16 years against the Mets in the regular season, also including a 4-1 series win in the 2000 World Series.

The overlooked, 4th place Mets squad took care of business this week in Queens and in the Bronx.  Their pitching was dominant getting terrific outings from Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Jeremy Hefner, and Dillon Gee.  Gee recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts last night and Harvey had 10 Tuesday night in the Mets comeback walk-off victory.  While the Yankees were playing without many of their big names in Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, and Alex Rodriguez, it still marked a very impressive week for a Mets team that had been struggling mightily.  This Mets team has zero expectations this season as they are in a rebuilding process, hoping for some young prospects to pan out for them soon in Zach Wheeler and Travis D'Arnaud.

While bitter Yankees fans will continue to say they don't care about this series, Mets fans have New York bragging rights.  Mets fans are fully aware that this team is rebuilding and will likely not be in the playoffs in 2013, and maybe even 2014.  This team is showing some heart and is giving the fans something to look forward to as they try and turn it around.  After a 17-29 start, the Mets have now won five straight games as they head to Miami to face the last place Marlins, who are in far worse shape than the Mets with a 13-41 start to the season.  Mets fans deserve to relish in this sweep.  In a rebuilding season, any stretch of wins, especially against the rival Yankees, is definitely something to smile about.  The Mets have some big division games coming up where they can work their way back to .500.  Terry Collins squad can make the dog days of summer in Queens a little more enjoyable as Wheeler and D'Arnaud will soon be on their way as the Mets continue to get younger and build a winning team for the future.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mets Say Sayonara to Sandman in Memorable Fashion

Coming into this week's Subway Series matchup, the talk around New York was how the annual Mets-Yankees matchup has lost its flare.  Oh boy was that wrong.

Tuesday night in Queens was the most memorable game of the 2013 season thus far.  There were enough story lines after Tuesday's ulti-Met classic to write a short novel.  After being shutout for the first eight innings, the Mets bats came alive in the 9th scoring two runs capped off by a Lucas Duda walk-off single to give the Amazins a 2-1 victory.  They scored two runs on three hits off the greatest closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera.  All of that happened with Rivera failing to record an out.  History was made as it was the first blown save for the "Sandman" where he failed to record an out in his 19-year Hall of Fame career.  It came after the Mets honored the future Hall of Famer before the game as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch as he said farewell to Queens.

A Daniel Murphy double, David Wright single, and a Duda base hit gave the Mets the two-game sweep at Citi over the Bronx Bombers, and a three-game win streak.  That ended what was a magical night, but that was not the only thing to take away from the game.  Matt Harvey was phenomenal per usual for the Mets going eight innings giving up just one run on six hits to go along with 10 strikeouts.  "Harvey Day" turned into Harvey night after the 90-minute rain delay had the young stud throw the first pitch at 8:40.  Fans in left field (including myself) had the big Harvey faces held up as well as "The Real Deal" orange t-shirts to show support for the new ace in orange and blue.  While Harvey was dominant, Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda was even better tossing seven shutout innings, while giving up just four hits and striking out seven.  The Mets offense was hard to watch the first eight innings against Kuroda and David Robertson.

The one time the Mets did have a runner in scoring position in the 6th inning, it would not last long.  Ruben Tejada was picked off at second base after being called safe.  Second base umpire Adrian Johnson called the Mets shortstop safe and then immediately called him out in one of the more bizarre decisions ever seen in baseball.  Terry Collins came out ferociously to argue the call and was ejected.  It is extremely rare that an umpire calls a runner safe and then changes the call to call him out.  While Tejada looked out, it was handled poorly by Johnson.  The Mets skipper would watch the miraculous comeback from the clubhouse.

The Subway Series.  A rain delay.  Harvey vs Kuroda.  Rivera's final game in Queens.  A pitcher's duel.  A bizarre play at second base.  A manager ejected.  History made against the greatest closer in MLB history.  A walk off win.  Did I forget anything?  Mets fans had plenty of reasons to smile Tuesday night in a game that could give this team some momentum when they desperately needed it.  The Mets are now winners of three straight for just the second time this season as they head over to the Bronx for two more against their crosstown rivals.  They will hope to build on Tuesday's amazin' win as they look for a turnaround after a rough start to the 2013 season.

Monday, May 27, 2013

2013 Subway Series Preview

Citi Field

Niese (3-5, 4.80 ERA) vs Hughes (2-3, 5.51 ERA)

Matt Harvey (5-0, 1.93 ERA) vs Kuroda (6-3, 2.67 ERA)

Yankee Stadium

Hefner (0-5, 4.76 ERA) vs Phelps (3-2, 3.96 ERA)

Gee (2-6, 6.34 ERA) vs Nuno (1-1, 1.93 ERA)

The Mets and Yankees begin the 2013 edition of the Subway Series heading in two different directions.  The banged up Yankees have surprised all of baseball with their play coming into Memorial Day. They stand atop the AL East standings with a 30-19 record.  On the other hand, the Mets head into the battle for New York in fourth place with an 18-29 record.  The Mets and Yankees will play four straight games this week for the first time since the Subway Series began in 1997.  Monday and Tuesday will be in Queens and Wednesday and Thursday will be in the Bronx.

No Derek Jeter.  No Mark Teixiera.  No Curtis Granderson.  No Kevin Youkilis. No Joba Chamberlain.  No Eduardo Nunez.  Seems like the entire roster is sidelined, yet Joe Girardi has the Yanks in first place in cruise control.  The likes of Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and Travis Hafner have fulfilled as quite suitable "replacements."  Hiroki Kuroda has led the Bombers starting rotation, while C.C. Sabathia been up and down this season.  Mariano Rivera has held it down as he usually does converting 18 straight saves to start the season.  The future Hall of Fame closer makes his final trip to Queens and will be honored by the Mets before Tuesday night's game.

While the Yankees have opened some eyes with their hot start, the Mets have been a major disappointment.  The only real bright spot in the first two months of the season has been Matt Harvey.  In his first full MLB season, Harvey has been dominant with a 5-0 start and 1.93 ERA.  He has thrown two one-hiters, one being a complete game one-hitter against the White Sox.  Unfortunately, "Harvey Day" has essentially been the only day the Mets will consistently win on.  The rest of the rotation has been extremely inconsistent.  Their bullpen has also struggled, but Bobby Parnell has been the lone bright spot in the 'pen taking over for an injured Frank Francisco at closer.  The biggest disappointment thus far has been Ike Davis.  After slugging 32 home runs last season, Davis has been hard to watch in 2013.  Davis is hitting an embarrassing .158 with just 4 home runs and 11 RBI.  Davis was a day from being demoted to triple-A before having a two-hit night last night, including a game-winner in the 8th.

Has the Subway Series lost its punch? Somewhat.  The 2013 Mets and Yankees unappealing rosters and early injuries have been a major reason for the very sparse crowds in both Queens and the Bronx.  This may be the first year of the Subway Series that will not sell out since it began 16 years ago.  While it may not be what it once was, it still is New York bragging rights and always is fun for the fans.  With the Yankees clearly off to the much better start than the Mets, a couple of Subway Series wins may provide the Mets the motivation they need to try and turn this thing around.  Mets fans are just awaiting the arrival of young phenom Zach Wheeler, but they will need their bats to wake up if they are even thinking about a .500 record.