It's an off-day between road series in Miami and Philadelphia. And I'm finally traveling home this morning to New York after reporting early to spring training on Super Bowl Sunday.
On to Monday's news reports:
• David Waldstein of the Times goes over the Mets' road woes in 2010 and contrasts it to the series win in Miami to open 2011. Writes Waldstein:
The Mets won only 32 out of 81 road games last year and did not win a series on the road until the middle of June. Worse, they were 1-8 when visiting the Marlins. The one victory came in San Juan, P.R., so the Mets had not won a game at Sun Life Stadium since Sept. 27, 2009, when it was known as Land Shark Stadium. But in the first series of this year, the Mets have already eliminated what became a mounting blight on their season a year ago. By beating the clumsy Marlins, 9-2, in front of 18,936 fans, the Mets took the series, two games to one, winning their first series on the road in their first try, and eclipsing last year’s victory total on the road against the Marlins.
• Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff talks to the opposing side about facing Dickey. Davidoff writes:
The image of the day, if you want to know what it's like to hit against R.A. Dickey , came from Marlins cleanup hitter Gaby Sanchez -- who swung through a 78-mph knuckleball for strike three and stumbled across the plate as if he were auditioning to play Inspector Clouseau. "You've got to anticipate where the ball's going to go," Sanchez said later Sunday afternoon, "and I guessed wrong . . . Usually when I faced him, his ball would go in. Those were going all the way [outside]."
• Post columnist Mike Vaccaro also marvels at Dickey, writing:
"The wind can be a big help," he said yesterday. "Or it can be a big problem." ... "How do you know which is which?" he was asked. ... "A lot of times you don't," he said. He smiled as he said it, not surprising since in his first outing of 2011 Dickey looked an awful lot as he did across most of 2010.
• Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger notes inexperienced right fielder Lucas Duda wasn't trying to be flashy when he made a diving catch on one fly ball and fielded another play barehanded. "The diving catch was just a bad read on my part,” Duda tells McCullough. As for the barehand play, Duda said the ball took an unpredictable hop. "I wasn't trying to show off," Duda says.
• McCullough also talks to quick-starting Willie Harris about how he cleared his head during the offseason. Harris spoke with a sports psychologist, which actually is a fairly common practice. Among those who use that resource is Mike Pelfrey. Harris was motivated by reading how Alex Rodriguez used a pyschologist to help with his mental game. Writes McCullough:
During his sessions, he talked about the frustrations from 2010, the unluckiest season of his nearly decade-long career. His batting average on balls in play sunk to .199, his lowest mark since a nine-game cup of coffee in 2001. His line drives were caught. His frustration mounted. As he reflected, he learned to let go of anxiety. “Situations when I’m at-bat -- and it might be a pressure situation -- I don’t feel any pressure,” Harris said. “Because I’m just relaxed and I’m having fun.”
• Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal also profiles Harris.
BIRTHDAYS: The late Gil Hodges was born on this date in 1924. ... Eric Valent, who hit for the cycle for the Mets in 2004, turns 34. ... Former major league manager Jim Fregosi, who played for the Mets in 1972 and '73 after arriving in a trade for Nolan Ryan, turns 69. ... Second baseman Tom Herr, known for his days with the Cardinals, not the Mets, was born in 1956.