Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Play Ball!!! The 2011 Season Is Here

    As the 2011 season begins for the New York Mets, we all know that it's about pitching and defense – well, at least that's what the experts say, anyway. If you are Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins, you had better hope that your pitching comes together in a hurry. Otherwise, it could be a long season.

    In terms of the starting rotation, I do believe that Mike Pelfrey could carry this staff as the temporary ace in the absence of Johan Santana, at least for a little while. I even believe that Pelfrey can pull of 15 wins. It's the guys behind him that I'm most worried about.

    I am not a big fan of Jonathon Niese. Yes, I know he is a young lefty with potential. Scott Kazmir had potential, too. At least you know that you can count on R.A. Dickey to give you effort, every time he takes the ball. Will it be enough to keep the Mets in contention?

    Then, there's Chris Capuano and Chris Young. These truly are two unknowns. If everything rolls right with these two, the Mets could be a surprising group. If not, well, you know the rest.

    As for the bullpen, I don't think that we as Met fans want to pin our hopes on Bobby Parnell, with Blaine Boyer as the lefty specialist. Nothing against Boyer, but he is one of a group of unknowns roaming around the bullpen. With Jason Isringhausen not ready to start the season, you have to keep your fingers crossed, once you get to the 7th inning.

    Now, I will put out some positives with the starting lineup. I do believe that the top five in the batting order will put up their average numbers. Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Ike Davis will all be fine. At the bottom of the order, I have enough confidence in catcher Josh Thole to produce from an offensive standpoint. His defense will be in question. Jason Bay? Still to be announced, now that he is on the disabled list.

    As for the bench, with Mike Nickeas starting the season as the #2 catcher, it looks more and more like the Ronnie Paulino signing is a disaster. He still has the tail end of a 50-game suspension to serve, and he needs to be healthy, which I do believe that he will be.

    Willie Harris and Scott Hairston will be serviceable players, and hopefully, Nick Evans will be among them. If not, Lucas Duda should have a better start than he did last season. As for Daniel Murphy, obviously, the big issue there will be finding him a place to play in the field. Otherwise, he could be looking for a new team altogether, most likely in the American League.

    As with most teams, there are issues abound. We will see how quickly the Mets can solve theirs. After all, their season - and the course of their franchise – will depend on it.

Korbid Thompson can be found on the Bleacher Report, and the New York Mets Audio Minute at Lexy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Five Things Terry Collins Needs To Know Before Spring Training Ends

    As it seems every year with the New York Mets, there are plenty of questions to be answered, For now, we will go with these five, as I believe they are the main questions that need to be taken care of before Opening Day against the Florida Marlins on April 1st. Some are obvious, and some, not so much.

1) Carlos Beltran – A decision has to be made before the season starts as to whether or not Beltran can play right field, both from a defensive and an injury perspective. Let's face it, Beltran is going to be banged up this season. I think that has become clear. What isn't clear is exactly how will he adjust to Angel Pagan being the outfield general? Remember, Beltran has one spring training game under his belt. To put him out there at even more of a disadvantage than what he will already be at could cost the Mets dearly.

2) Second base – Your remaining candidates are Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus, and Luis Hernandez. By the way, I do not consider Chin-lung Hu a serious candidate, although nothing would shock me. You don't want a repeat of the first base situation last year, where Mike Jacobs was given the job, only to have fans clamor for Ike Davis the entire time. Furthermore, the Mets need to get off to a fast start, and a mistake with this decision could hamper them defensively.

    The final three have to do with the pitching, which brings us to #3, and that's Jason Isringhausen. Is he healthy? Is he still good enough to get big league hitters out in a prominent role? As we saw with Jerry Manuel, playing musical chairs with the bullpen during the season really doesn't work, so Terry Collins has to make a firm decision here.

4) Can the Mets survive with one lefty in the bullpen. With the release of Oliver Perez, it appears that Tim Byrdak is the frontrunner for the lefty specialist role, which was vacated by Pedro Feliciano heading to the Yankees. Will he be enough, especially against the Phillies, and their left-heavy lineup?

5) Do the Mets carry 12 or 13 pitchers? Terry Collins says that he is looking at that closely, and that a lot of that will depend on the length that the starting pitching can take the Mets. You don't want to burn a roster spot for a position player, unless you're sure that you need that 13th arm.

    Surely, there are other questions that will be addressed before and during the 2011 season. However, with the Mets desparately needing to get off to a hot start, the time is now to answer at least a few of them, and answer them correctly.

Korbid Thompson can be found at the Bleacher Report and the New York Mets Audio Minute on Lexy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mike Pelfrey: Does One Bad Inning Make A Season?

As you're watching the spring training game between the Mets and Atlanta Braves on Monday, you see the Opening Day starter for the New York Mets in one of his grooves. Mike Pelfrey was pitching very well – until...

Well, the fourth inning came. That's when Pelfrey got peppered by Atlanta for 7 runs. Hard hit ball, after hard hit ball. It always seems to be that one bad inning with Mike that does him in. If he's going to be considered a true ace, and considered among the elite pitchers of the National League, consistency will be a huge factor, where the Big Pelf is concerned.

You're beginning to think that the time is now or never for Mike Pelfrey. In five Major League seasons, Pelfrey has a record of 45-43. That does not instill a lot of confidence as the #1 starter, if you are a Mets fan. On the bright side, Pelfrey won 15 games for the first time last season, which shows a tremendous sign of progress. Last year, Mike set career highs in strikeouts, wins, and innings pitched. Let's hope that trend continues upward.

David Wright – who has been one of Pelfrey's biggest supporters, will be counted on heavily to keep the big guy focused, when things start to melt down. We will also see if pitching coach Dan Warthen can keep his improvement in a positive direction.

It may be a long shot to say that the Mets will go as far as Pelfrey does. After all, this team needs a lot of things to come together, in order to make any type of run at a National League playoff spot. However, with Johan Santana on the shelf, all eyes will be on #34. It's time for Mike Pelfrey to come of age. Let the Bar Mitzvah begin.

Korbid Thompson can also be found at the Bleacher Report, and the New York Mets Audio Minute on Lexy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Josh Thole: Is #30 the Real Deal?

First of all, I will start by saying that I like Josh Thole quite a bit. I think that he should be the starting catcher for the New York Mets in 2011, hands down.

With that being said, Thole is only 24 years old. He's not a seasoned veteran, i.e. Ronnie Paulino. Josh ended up taking over for Rod Barajas, once he was traded last season. In other words, there are still some questionmarks, concerning one of the future stars of this franchise.

You figure that being 24 will be an advantage, in that Thole will be able to handle the physical responsibilities of being the everyday catcher for 140-150 games. We know by now that he can hit the baseball, batting .277, with 17 RBI in 2010. He has the tools and the makeup to be successful.

However, Thole's youth and inexperience could work against him, which is not likely, but still possible. Teams now have a book on him, and pitchers will make adjustments. Can he bump his power numbers up from the three home runs that he hit one year ago? Can he consistently throw out baserunners from behind the plate?

With Thole having a red hot spring, hitting .419, with 2 homers and 6 RBI in 31 at-bats, there's no reason why the Mets shouldn't be optimistic.

There are definitely some questions to be answered with Joshua Michael Thole. I do think that most of them will be addressed positively, in his first full big league season. I don't know yet if he will be the Mets catcher for the next 10 years. I wouldn't go that far. After all, Todd Hundley, who was tabbed as the next great Mets catcher back in his time, did make it through 9 seasons in the blue and orange. Will #30 have such luck? Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Fifth Dimension: Luis Hernandez at Second Base???

According to the New York Post, Luis Hernandez – who has played a whopping 22 career games at second base, is set to be named the starting second baseman for manager Terry Collins, and the New York Mets.

Hernandez has a lifetime batting average of .245, with four career home runs(including one on a brokern foot), and the Mets were his third team in his first four season of the majors.

Let's assume for a second that this is actually true. I suppose there are two things at play here. For one, I will give Terry Collins some guts for going outside the box, if nothing else. Now, if this doesn't work, Collins will be second guessed, until the cows come home. However, he at least took a stand for something he believed in. Either that, or he just doesn't know the pressure cooker he's walked into. Welcome to New York, Mr. Collins.

As for the second thing, Collins and staff were evidently not overly impressed by any of the other four candidates' performances, which includes Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus, Justin Turner, and of course, Luis Castillo.

Castillo has the most soap opera-ish story here. Reportedly, if Castillo is not named the starter, he has requested to be let go. I'm sure there are a lot of Mets fans who will oblige him.

Now, the other thing I will say that the Mets' season will not make or break with Hernandez being the second basemen. That will be up to the big boys, and we all know who they are.

One final thought – it's a long shot, but could this move actually be a sparkplug that this team desperately needs to shake things up, before the season begins? Probably not, but the question is worth asking.

Feel free to pass along your thoughts, either here, or at my Bleacher Report column. Until next time...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bats to the Future: Are These New York Mets Stars on the Rise?

    While I was watching today's spring training game between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins, there were two things that jumped out at me. First, the fact that the Marlins will have some very long days in the field this year, as they have in past years. Second, if you look at it, the Mets do actually have some homegrown talent looming on the horizon, if not ready to knock down the door to the big leagues.

    Earlier this week, I talked about Lucas Duda as a possible replacement or stop gap move, should Carlos Beltran be unable to give it a go, when the bell rings for Opening Day on Aprill 1st. Well, I will even take it a step further by saying that Duda could be a long term solution, if and when the Mets decide to unload Beltran, and his remaining contract on another team – this is greatly assuming that the Mets take a nose dive in the standings, sometime this season. Duda has shown considerable power from the left side of the plate, both in spring, and last year as a mid-season call-up. Could be a sign of the future in the Mets outfield? I certainly will not rule it out.

    Now, that brings me to a couple of candidates for the second base job in Justin Turner and Brad Emaus. While neither of them have jumped out at anyone in spring, they certainly have to be considered for the future. They are both still very young, just as some current Mets were, not too long ago.

    There is a guy that I have always liked, and that's Nick Evans. He's someone that can certainly hold his own with the bat, and always seems to find his way somewhere in the mix, at least over the last couple of seasons, even though he has not been able to stick with the big club for any extended length of time. Just maybe, this season will prove to be different. Time will tell.

    Now, while I do not consider Dillon Gee a hot prospect, he certainly has as good a chance as anyone to make the back end of this rotation, if he can pitch well enough. I think the same would go for a guy like Pat Misch, especially if Oliver Perez gets banished to the bullpen permanently.

    There are certainly other names that you can throw into the discussion, and I will leave that up to you guys. For right now, those were the prime suspects that I was thinking of.

    If you can imagine for a second – a lot of those young guys, to go along with the youth that's already there, such as Josh Thole, Ike Davis, and even David Wright and Jose Reyes, who are still in their 20s. Of course, the only question remaining is does that make a championship team? Hard question to answer, I would think.

    Now, by some miracle, if guys like Fernando Martinez and Rueben Tejada round into form, that would make things all the better. Being that those 2 guys were just reassigned back to the minors, don't count on it happening anytime soon.

    Feel free to pass along your thoughts, either here, or on my Facebook page. Until next time...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Extra Bases with Korbid Thompson

Spring Training Developments

    With another 3 weeks before Opening Day, maybe it's time for some assessments of exactly where we are at with our beloved New York Mets.

    I'll start with the situation in right field, and Carlos Beltran being out for a few days with a sore knee. It's certainly not good, and while it opens the door for someone such as Lucas Duda(.296, HR, 2 RBI this spring) to show what he can do, I'm sure that's not what the Mets brass was anticipating, heading into spring training. If Beltran is not 100% by Opening Day, do you risk putting him out there, and exposing him to further injury? Remember the multiple Jose Reyes injury debacles over the years, and those were at the beginning of his career. Duda, along with Willie Harris(we all know about his glove vs. the Mets) would be the prime candidates for a fourth outfielder. Any way you slice it, those are not great options, at least to the untrained eye.

    I'll move along to the continuing saga of Oliver Perez(1-1, 9.00, 5 BB, 4 K). He has now been reassigned to the Mets bullpen. I'm not sure if it will make a big difference, or even if Perez will make the team, period. You would have to think on some level that this demoralizing for Perez, as he was reduced to once a month mop-up duty last year, under Jerry Manuel, and now this. Given the state of the Mets bullpen before you give the ball to Francisco Rodriguez(which is another story), I don't think you can entirely rule him out.

    Speaking of the bullpen, that brings me to Jason Isringhausen(0-0, 2.25). He has appeared to open some eyes in camp, so far. As I mentioned, given the state of the bullpen, particularly the instability of Bobby Parnell, and the departure of Pedro Feliciano, Izzy could fit in anywhere from the 6th to the 8th innings. I know it's a scary thought for some Met fans, but I could think of worse.

    Speaking of which, I think Luis Castillo(3 for 14) is putting up at least somewhat of a fight for the second base job. He's drawn a couple of walks, and has a couple of hard hit balls this spring, but I still don't think it will be enough for him to overtake sentimental favorite Daniel Murphy(.292, 6 RBI). Even if Murphy didn't get the second base job outright, he will still be considered valuable as a guy who can play third base, first, and a little outfield, although I wouldn't test that theory, if I were Terry Collins. Brad Emaus(.167 average) could probably use more seasoning in the minors, while Justin Turner(.167, 1 RBI) hasn't fared too much better. It looks like in the end, it will come to Murphy and Castillo.

    Also, it looks more and more like Josh Thole is coming into his own, while Ronnie Paulino is just trying to get back into the United States. Maybe I was wrong about there being competition for the catcher's spot. Wouldn't be the first or the last, unfortunately.

    Talk to you next time...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Very Few Openings for Opening Day

    This week, I wanted to talk a little bit about the position players with our beloved New York Mets. Now, a lot of the slots are settled already, especially with the announcement of Carlos Beltran voluntarily moving to right field to accommodate Angel Pagan.

    I think that Carlos did that as much to avoid the every day questions, just as much as the fact that he is not physically ready to take the center field position. Now, some of that is his own doing, being that he waited too long to have his knee surgery done, and hence, this has become the end result.

    Having said that, with Jason Bay back in the fold, there really are only 2 positions out of the starting eight that you would consider up for grabs. I'll start with the less obvious one, which is the catching position. While the young phenom Josh Thole has certainly impressed, and he is perceived to be the starting catcher on Opening Day, I don't believe he is guaranteed the job, just yet. Veteran catcher Ronnie Paulino will be given a look by new Mets manager Terry Collins – as soon as his visa problems clear up, that is. After all, he did have 316 at-bats with the Marlins last year. However, until he can get out of the Dominican Republic, and finish out the the 8 games remaining on his 50-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy, it's all pointless.

    As for the second base job, it looks as though the top 3 candidates there are upstart Justin Turner, the re-surging Daniel Murphy, and the virtually hated Luis Castillo. We'll start with Murphy. We know that the guy can hit. Only question was could he catch a cold at second base? If so, Met fans would love to hand the keys to him, and revoke Castillo of his. So far in the spring, his .250 batting average is good enough to lead the 3 candidates.

    With Justin Turner, he is an unknown, to say the least. He will definitely need an extended look in the spring to find out if he is a serious contender to head to New York.

    That bring us to Mr. Castillo. While he is not winning this 3-man race at the moment, nothing would shock me, when it comes to him. After all, there are only a handful of Mets fans and media – if that – who thought he would make it this far.

    We can always worry about the bench, towards the end of spring training.

    Also, I'll get more into what I think this lineup needs to produce, when the bell rings for the regular season on April 1 in Florida.

    One other side note: Carlos Beltran will be doing some DHing, at least for the next few games, it seems. From first glance, he is running well, which is always a good sign. We'll see if that lasts over 150 games in the regular season.

    In the meantime, let's roll forward, and talk to you soon. My audio thoughts can be heard this season on the New York Mets Audio Minute at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    As a New York Mets fan of now 27 years, I have seen the good, the bad, and the absolute ugly. As a matter of fact, between the Wilpons trying to stay afloat, and the players in denial about how many pieces are missing from this team to make them into a contender, somebody could definitely write themselves into a movie deal on the chronicles of this team.

    I'll stay away from the team' financial woes for now, and concentrate on the one thing that matters, and that's what happens in between the white lines. Right now, with Johan Santana expected to be out of action until at least the All-Star break, Mike Pelfrey is your Opening Day starting pitcher on April 1. After that, I'm not expecting a new version of Generation K to emerge, even with the return of Jason Isringhausen to the Mets' bullpen.

    R.A. Dickey(11-9, 2.84) performed well last season,  but I'm not expecting much from Jon Niese(9-10, 4.20), and who knows what you're getting from recent acquisitions Chris Young, Taylor Buchholz, and Chris Capuano? It will take a small miracle, and some pure wizardry from the think tank of Sandy Alderson, J.P. Ricciardi, and Paul DePodesta to stay in the N.L. wild card race by mid-August, assuming that Carlos Beltran and/or Jose Reyes do not get traded before then.

    As for the bullpen, the Mets took a big hit, with Pedro Feliciano bolting for the Bronx, not only games-wise, but if Feliciano pays dividends for the Yanks, that will not bode well at all for the aforementioned braintrust. Speaking of the aforementioned, that brings us to Jason Isringhausen. After his 14-year absence from the Mets, Izzy wants to give it one more shot with his original team. It would be scary if he became an integral part of this team, but with the existing state of the bullpen, don't rule it out.

    After all, Francisco Rodriguez is not out of the clear of his legal troubles, by any means. I shudder to think what this bullpen will look like, if K-Rod loses it again after a game, particularly one he doesn't pitch in.

    Well, the one silver lining here is that it's almost baseball season again. No matter how you feel about your team, the breeze of the summer can make it all better - well, maybe. I'll put in my two cents on the position players next week. Until then, thanks for reading this inaugural edition of Extra Bases.

    During the baseball season, be sure and catch me, along with my partner, Matt Dagastino on the New York Mets Audio Minute, which can be found at