Friday, February 24, 2012
Mets morning briefing 2.24.12
By Adam Rubin
After another pitchers and catchers workout day, a large Mets contingent will travel down I-95 to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for the 7 p.m. memorial service for Gary Carter. ESPN.com/ESPNNewYork.com should have details later today about how to watch the service on our site. It will be streamed online. The Mets also plan to watch free-agent left-hander Scott Kazmir throw today.
Friday's news reports:
• A helicopter landed on a field at the Mets' spring-training complex late Thursday afternoon and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, GM Sandy Alderson, manager Terry Collins and other front-office staff boarded for a chartered trip to Miami to watch Jeremy Lin and the Knicks lose to the Heat. A Miami aviation expert estimated the cost of the charter to be $3,000 per hour. Read more in Newsday and the Post.
• At a hearing inside U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff's courtroom in Manhattan on Thursday, the judge decided to ban three expert witnesses -- two for the trustee suing Fred Wilpon and family, and one for the defense (coincidentally named John Maine). Rakoff also pledged to rule by March 5 whether to toss the case, whether to award $83 million pre-trial to trustee Irving Picard, or whether to allow the March 19 jury trial to proceed without any pretrial motions for summary judgment being granted.
Wrote Anthony M. Destefano in Newsday:
In a three-hour hearing, Judge Jed Rakoff asked attorneys about the deposition given last year by financial expert Noreen Harrington, who at one time worked as a financial executive for Sterling Stamos, the investment arm of Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz's Sterling Equities business. ... In a deposition, Harrington stated that Katz became angered when she said in a 2004 meeting that Madoff's investment returns seemed too good to be true and might represent fictional numbers or the illegal stock market practice of "front running," an illegal trading strategy. ... While Rakoff didn't tip his hand on how he would rule on the summary judgment issues, he raised the possibility through questioning of the attorneys, particularly trustee counsel David Sheehan, that Harrington's testimony might signal to a jury willful blindness by the Sterling defendants to Madoff's fraud. Rakoff particularly asked about Harrington's claim that Katz became very angry with her when she raised questions about illegalities in Madoff's business.
Richard Sandomir in the Times picked up on the same exchange in court. Writes Sandomir:
Rakoff, who read aloud portions of Harrington’s testimony, was curious about Katz’s reaction when she cast doubt on Sterling Stamos investing in a fund that fed its clients’ money to Madoff to invest. "Why get angry at that?" he asked Karen Wagner, the Mets' lead lawyer. He said Katz’s reaction would have made more sense if he had asked her to come up with evidence to back her claims and she did not. "A reasonable juror could say that he got angry before he even asks for an explanation," Rakoff added. Katz said in his deposition that he did not remember the meeting. Harrington testified that when she asked to meet with Madoff, Katz said no. She did not follow up on her request and left Sterling Stamos soon after. “It’s hard to see that the failure to give her that meeting can be taken as evidence of willful blindness,” Rakoff said.
Read more in the Journal.
• Jose Reyes arrived at Marlins camp Thursday. As for bench coach Bob Geren getting his No. 7 with the Mets, Reyes initially was unsure who Geren was. The shortstop then told Ken Davidoff in Newsday: "I'm not there. They can do whatever they want to with number 7." Read more in the Daily News and Post.
• Upon returning to Mets camp, Ike Davis revealed that doctors had sent him to New York for more testing because they discovered an infection in his lungs. Davis was cleared to resume working out and does not need to take medication. He never noticed any symptoms from the medical issue.
• Jason Bay reported to Mets camp Thursday, two days ahead of the official position-player report date. Bay pledged to stop tinkering with his swing every time he does not have success, and said New Yorkers have not yet seen the real Bay. (Watch Bay video here.) Bay's contract vests at $17 million for 2014 if he has 600 plate appearances in 2013, or 500 apiece each of the next two seasons, perhaps setting up an awkward situation, as was the case with Francisco Rodriguez's 55-games-finished vesting option. On Bay trying to rediscover the swing from his Pirates day, Andy McCullough writes in the Star-Ledger:
The 2011 season was, by most statistical measurements, the worst of Bay’s nine-year career. He finished with career-lows in batting average (.245) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.703). In 212 games with the Mets, Bay’s slugging percentage is .386. In 200 games with Boston, he slugged .534. ... Last August, hitting coach Dave Hudgens played dueling sets of video for Bay, a split-screen view of the 45 homers he hit with Boston and the 15 he had hit to that point with the Mets. Hudgens then ... forced the outfielder to relearn his old approach. So Bay did. He geared his entire approach to pull baseballs to left field. He straightened his back. He opened his stance. His hands rotated as a timing gesture before each pitch. The results were eye-opening. From April to August, Bay floundered along with a .660 OPS. After reverting to his old form, he scorched through the final month with a .954 OPS.
Read more in the Journal, Post, Record and Newsday.
• At Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla., Carlos Beltran told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he would follow through and pay the roughly $10,000 for Jon Niese's nose job, as Beltran had pledged to do in July before being traded from the Mets to the San Francisco Giants. Read more in Newsday.
• Johan Santana threw his third bullpen session of spring training -- 32 pitches. Afterward, Collins and the southpaw indicated he should be ready to throw batting practice toward the middle of next week, setting the southpaw up to pitch in the Mets' March 5 Grapefruit League opener against the Washington Nationals. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Andy Martino in the Daily News talks to Santana about ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who requires cancer treatments. "I hope he gets better,” Santana told Martino. "He is a human being just like any one of us. I hope the best for him."
• After signing a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels, two-time ex-Met Jason Isringhausen reported to camp much lighter than a year ago, when he ended a season with the Amazin's inactive because of a herniated disc.
• Andrew Keh in the Times profiles Mike Nickeas, who will be the backup catcher because of his defensive prowess if he proves he can hit at a minimally competent level. Writes Keh:
Nickeas spent the winter working out at Georgia Tech and e-mailing video of his swing to Dave Hudgens, the Mets' hitting coach. The two also had a continuing dialogue over the phone, with the aim of revamping Nickeas’s swing and plate approach in time for spring training. "I'm removing all the inefficiencies from my swing, so I have more time to recognize pitches and see the ball,” Nickeas said. "My goal is to be an extremely tough out. I don’t want to be the guy they get to, put a couple of pitches in, and be done."
• Left-handed reliever Tim Byrdak, who began his Thursday by arriving at work with a platinum-blond-dyed goatee, worked with a drop-down delivery during a subsequent bullpen session. Byrdak told Anthony DiComo at MLB.com that his arm slot typically rises as he gets closer to the season. He's starting lower this season than in the past before drifting upward, because he does not want his arm to be too high once Opening Day arrives. Byrdak last pitched sidearm in 1999. "I know it's going to go up," Byrdak told DiComo. "So if I go a little bit lower and I come up, I'm right where I want to be."
• Mets statistical analyst Ben Baumer reached the finals before losing to Angels assistant equipment manager Shane Demmitt in MLB Network's "Baseball IQ" baseball history/trivia show.
• Jenrry Mejia threw off a mound for the first time since Tommy John surgery in May. Without revealing Mejia's future role, Paul DePodesta noted to ESPNNewYork.com the success the Texas Rangers have experienced by beginning pitchers' careers in the bullpen before moving them to the rotation -- at least suggesting the possibility Mejia works in relief for the Mets during the second half of the 2012 season, then potentially revisits starting in future seasons.
TRIVIA: Reyes last season won the Mets' only National League batting title, but who had the best average for a season in franchise history among qualifiers?
(Thursday's answer: Benny Agbayani has appeared in the most games as a Met among Hawaiian-born players at 322. Ron Darling ranks second with 272 games as a Met, followed by Sid Fernandez at 255, Carlos Diaz at 58 and Tyler Yates at 21.)