New York Mets: Frank Viola Jr.

Mets morning briefing 9.27.12

September, 28, 2012
R.A. Dickey became the sixth pitcher in franchise history to produce a 20-win season as the Mets completed their home schedule with a 6-5 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday afternoon. David Wright hit a tiebreaking three-run homer and the Mets survived Jon Rauch surrendering a two-run homer to Alex Presley in the ninth.

Jon Niese now begins the final turn through the rotation. Niese (12-9, 3.49 ERA) makes his final 2012 start tonight at Turner Field, opposite Tim Hudson (16-6, 3.61) The Braves will honor Chipper Jones in a pregame ceremony, as the third baseman's final home regular-season series at Turner Field begins.

Friday's news reports:

• Dickey became the first knuckleballer to win 20 games since Joe Niekro with the Houston Astros in 1980, according to STATS LLC. He will make one more start this season, in Miami. "The road to where he is today, a lot of people dream it. Few achieve it," Terry Collins said. In the Cy Young race, Gio Gonzalez improved to 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA after allowing three runs in six innings in Washington's 7-3 win at Philly on Thursday night.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau:

Dickey became the third-oldest pitcher to record the first 20-win season of his major-league career when he beat the Pirates at Citi Field. Dickey (age 37 years, 334 days as of Thursday), trails only Mike Mussina (who was 39 years old when he won his 20th game for the 2008 Yankees) and Jamie Moyer (age 38 with the 2001 Mariners) on that list.

Dickey is 20-6 this year for a Mets team that has a 72-84 record. He will be the first pitcher to win 20 or more games in one season for a team that finished with a losing record since 1997, when Roger Clemens was 21-7 for the Blue Jays (76-86) and Brad Radke posted a 20-10 mark for a poor Twins team (68-94).

Writes columnist Ian O'Connor at

[Wife] Anne got nervous as she listened to the radio and watched on her iPad in the ninth, just like all of New York got nervous. But soon enough her husband was at the end of a receiving line on the field, chewing on his bubble gum and basking in the moment. "It wasn't long ago when we were just hoping to get to the big leagues and keep the house," Anne said. "My hopes never got beyond job security, and now we have this incredible storybook ending." She was driving the kids to Atlanta as she spoke, driving to meet up with a journeyman who had arrived as an athlete and human being the only way he knew how: The hard way.

Writes columnist Filip Bondy in the Daily News:

Anthony Gruppuso/US Presswire
David Wright delivered a tiebreaking three-run homer Thursday afternoon against Kevin Correia.

Aside from a costly no-hitter by Johan Santana, another relative geezer, the likable Dickey has been the warmest, most surprising story this whole season in Flushing. When the Wilpons fervently told fans last March, "Stick with us," they probably didn't visualize Dickey as their best Velcro argument. Then again, they didn't expect their team to be 23 games behind the Washington Nationals in September. The fans came anyway, 31,506 of them, not because they trust or support ownership but because this guy Dickey is a truly fun phenomenon. Dickey is somehow both the first of his kind and the last of a dying breed.

Frank Viola, the Mets' last 20-game winner, who served as pitching coach with low-A Savannah this season, told Brian Lewis in the Post about Dickey: “I texted him and told him I’m happy. It’s a real year of firsts, Johan gets the no-hitter, R.A. wins 20 games. So there’s real hope for the future of this organization. You know there’s something there, that bright silver lining at the end; R.A. is definitely one of them this year.’’ Viola's son, Frank Jr., is trying to revive a professional baseball career with the knuckleball and has received lessons from Dickey.

Read more on Dickey's performance in the Times, Newsday, Post, Star-Ledger, Daily News and Journal.

• The Mets finished their home schedule 36-45. Overall, they're now 158-166 in four seasons at Citi Field. The Mets' 287 runs at home this season were their fewest since 1994, when they scored 235 runs at Shea. The Mets did benefit from the new dimensions to produce 67 homers this season at Citi Field -- their highest total in four years at the ballpark -- although opponents had five more new homers than the Mets that only would have been out with the new configuration.

"I don't expect them to change again," Collins said about the dimensions. "I just think they made a difference. Certainly we've seen the effects. And I don't have all the documentation about who hit what home runs, and how many last year would have been doubles. But I think it's fair park now. It's still a pitchers' park for me. It's still a big park. There's a lot of room in that outfield. But I think the change of the dimensions certainly lifted the confidence of a lot of guys in our lineup."

Keith Hernandez's mustache is outta here. With a sizable gathering as witnesses just before noon on Thursday outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, Hernandez had his "iconic" mustache shaved. Schick Hydro donated $5,000 to the Brooklyn center where Hernandez's mother Jacquelyn was assisted while dealing with Alzheimer's. Read more in Newsday and the Times.

• Chipper, the all-time Mets killer, faces them one last time this weekend. The pregame ceremony tonight will include Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy and Bobby Cox. Writes Jayson Stark at about the Atlanta third baseman:

All of a sudden, it's here. The End. The finish line. Not just of an unforgettable season, but of a unique and historic baseball career. And now that he's arrived, at last, at the final week of his surreal journey -- at least the regular-season portion -- Chipper Jones finds himself looking backward, looking forward, looking everywhere at once. It's a crazy time. And a beautiful time. He has accepted all the lovely parting gifts.

He has gotten "a little misty" over the ovations he's received, not just in ballparks where they've spent 18 years booing him but from the opposing players who play in those parks. He has clicked on the aerial photos of the giant No. 10 that has been carved in a sprawling Georgia corn field. "My first-ever corn field," he said with a chuckle.


Adam Greenberg, who was hit with a pitch in the head in his lone major league plate appearance back in 2005, will sign a one-day contract and get one at-bat for the Miami Marlins against the Mets on Tuesday. Read more in the Palm Beach Post and Times.

• Former Mets coach Manny Acta was fired as Indians manager. Bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., the Mets' former bullpen coach, will complete the season in Acta's role and is a "primary candidate" to succeed Acta in 2013.

TRIVIA: What did the Phillies present Chipper during his final visit to Citizens Bank Park?

Thursday's answer: Seaver became the Mets' first 20-game winner back in 1969.

Mets morning briefing 6.20.12

June, 20, 2012
After two less-than-stellar outings in the aftermath of his no-hitter, Johan Santana got back on track Tuesday. The southpaw followed R.A. Dickey's one-hit shutout by tossing six scoreless innings. Santana combined with Bobby Parnell, Miguel Batista and Jon Rauch on the 5-0 victory against the Orioles -- the Mets' NL-leading eighth shutout. The Amazin's upped their scoreless streak to 22 innings. It's their third streak of at least that length this season. The season high was 28 consecutive scoreless innings, from May 25-28.

Tonight, the Mets send Dillon Gee (4-5, 4.43 ERA) to the mound aiming for the series sweep. Gee will oppose left-hander Brian Matusz (5-7, 4.94). While praising Dickey and Santana, Terry Collins added: "For us to have a big summer, we've got get Dillon and Jon Niese going."

A sweep would continue an interesting pattern for the Mets: getting swept by the Yankees, sweeping the Rays, then getting swept by the Reds.

Wednesday's news reports:

Lucas Duda produced his team-leading 11th homer, a two-run shot in the sixth. Jordany Valdespin, manning left field a day after getting a start at second base, capped the scoring with a two-run single an inning later. Omar Quintanilla snapped an 0-for-16 drought with a seventh-inning single, but Ike Davis lost a nine-game hitting streak as his average sagged to .193. Justin Turner grounded out as a pinch hitter in his first plate appearance since returning from the DL. Turner may start at shortstop Wednesday, with Collins saying he expected to give Quintanilla the day off. Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger and Record.

• Columnist John Harper in the Daily News suggests Dickey and Santana's success may force the Mets to be buyers at the trading deadline. Not reckless buyers who turn around and trade Zack Wheeler, but buyers nonetheless. Writes Harper:

If Santana is going to be dominant again, then he and Dickey are a tandem that would make the Mets awfully tough to beat if they ever did get into the postseason. Especially since Collins almost certainly would use Dickey on short rest at that point. “If we ever got there,” Collins said Tuesday night, “we’d probably take advantage of that." The Mets have plenty of flaws, as they’ve demonstrated in recent weeks, and yet the idea of making a run at the postseason doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched anymore, mostly because of what Dickey is doing. If you gave GM Sandy Alderson truth serum, he’d tell you he had no such thoughts when this season began, as he goes about trying to build the foundation for long-term contention in the future. And this isn’t to say the Mets should do anything crazy at the trading deadline, such as dealing away a Matt Harvey or a Zack Wheeler for somebody such as Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza.

• Writes columnist Jeff Bradley in the Star-Ledger about Santana's bounceback:

And so it took three starts for Johan Santana to get back to the business of hanging zeroes on the scoreboard and not pitches in the strike zone. Crisis averted. “He’s back in his routine,” Mets manager Terry Collins said after Santana threw six scoreless innings in the Mets’ 5-0 victory over the Orioles tonight at Citi Field. “It was a big night. I think now he’s back. I think now we’ll see a lot of nights like tonight.” Poor Collins had to be tossing and turning the last two and a half weeks. Not that he should have been harboring even an ounce of guilt for allowing Santana to throw the 134 pitches needed to finish his historic June 1 no-hitter.

Jason Bay underwent an MRI and a second day of exams by doctors Tuesday as they try to gauge the extent of his most recent concussion.

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Jason Bay underwent an MRI on Tuesday to try to determine the extent of Friday's concussion.

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts can empathize with Bay. He returned last week after missing nearly 13 months with concussion-related issues. "I had migraine headaches for probably eight months, a lot of dizziness, a lot of balance problems," Roberts told Tom Pedulla in Newsday. "Any time I needed to exert a lot of energy, I just couldn't do it." Read more in the Times.

Ruben Tejada (quadriceps) went 0-for-4 while playing a second straight full game at shortstop for Class A St. Lucie. Tejada is expected to move to Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday. Ronny Cedeño made a fifth straight start for Buffalo on Tuesday, going 1-for-5 with an RBI. He is expected to be activated from the DL on Friday, for the Subway Series opener against the Yankees.

The returns of Tejada and Cedeño will set up interesting decisions for the Mets roster-wise. Quintanilla is out of options and must be exposed to waivers before being sent to Buffalo, and organization officials have been skeptical he would get through, perhaps preserving his spot. Valdespin, though, has started to pick up his play. (He is unlikely to start today against the southpaw Matusz.) Vinny Rottino also is on the 25-man roster. Read more on Valdespin in the Post and Daily News.

• The weekend matchups against the Yankees:

Friday: LHP Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs. Niese, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova (9-2, 4.32) vs. Chris Young (1-1, 3.06) 7:15 p.m., Fox
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia (9-3, 3.55) vs. Dickey (11-1, 2.00) 8:05 p.m., ESPN

Matt Harvey limited Norfolk to one run on six hits and two walks while striking out seven in six innings and Jenrry Mejia contributed two scoreless relief innings in his third appearance since a conversion to relief as Buffalo beat the Tides, 6-1. First-round picks Gavin Cecchini (0-for-3, two walks) with Kingsport and Kevin Plawecki (0-for-4, HBP) with Brooklyn made their pro debuts. Read Tuesday's full minor league recap here.

David Wright continues to lead in NL voting at third base for the July 10 All-Star Game in Kansas City. Wright (1,977,388) is ahead of San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval (1,612,497), Atlanta's Chipper Jones (1,547,221) and St. Louis' David Freese (1,540,085). No other Mets position player appears in the top five in voting at his spot in the infield or in the top 15 in the outfield. Collins will serve on NL manager Tony La Russa's staff. Dickey is the potential NL starter and should be in K.C. as well.

• Collins publicly declared he had toyed with having Dickey start every fourth day, with other Mets pitchers slotting around the knuckleballer. The manager eventually shelved the idea for the time being because it would disrupt the other starters' routines and potentially adversely affect their performances. And, at 37, Dickey isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore. Writes Brian Costa in the Journal:

In theory, [Dickey] said he could regularly pitch on three days' rest. The question is how effective he would be. In 11 career starts with three or fewer days of rest, Dickey has a 5.74 ERA. And while he might not have to exert quite as much force as other pitchers, he does not possess a bionic arm. Pitching still takes a toll. He is still 37 years old. "It's a mental grind," Dickey said. "Not that I don't love the challenge of that. It's just all of it [together]. You feel it in your feet, your knees, your joints, your hips. I know I move around out there like an 18-year-old, but I'm not one." That's one reason Collins nixed the idea to use Dickey more often. The other is how it would affect the rest of the rotation. Starting pitchers are creatures of habit, and using Dickey every four days would make for a quirky schedule.

Read more in the Post, Newsday, Record and Star-Ledger.

Dan Martin in the Post notes Dickey is willing to share his knuckleball insights with serious pupils. Frank Viola Jr., 28, the son of Savannah pitching coach/ex-Met Frank Viola, was a student during spring training, regularly watching Dickey's bullpen sessions. Martin notes Dickey also has helped 18-year-old Stephen Orso from Port Washington. “He got me to where now I can pinpoint my knuckleball better than my fastball,” Orso told Martin. “Without him, I don’t think my knuckleball would be where it is.”

• Another Viola, Frank Jr.'s sister Brittany, will compete in the U.S. Olympic diving trials on Wednesday, looking for a spot in London, notes Aimee Berg in the Journal.

Andrew Keh in the Times traces Dickey's early pro days throwing the knuckleball in the minors. Keh writes about Dickey's July 24, 2005 debut as a full-time knuckleballer, with Triple-A Oklahoma City:

Instead of success that day at SBC Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, there was disaster. Over five and two-thirds excruciating innings, Dickey gave up 14 hits and 12 runs before Bobby Jones, who was managing the RedHawks at the time, went out to rescue him. “I remember that game very well,” Jones, who now manages the Round Rock Express, the Rangers’ current Class AAA affiliate, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We were just going to leave him in there, and we knew we were going to take a loss that day if he didn’t have it.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Jones added with a laugh.

• Columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post salutes Dickey. Writes Vaccaro:

We wouldn’t be nearly as amazed by this if he were a classical ace in the classical sense. Seaver, a vintage fireballer, probably had his best season as a Met in 1971, a year he pitched to a 1.76 ERA. That year he enjoyed a 13-game stretch in which he allowed 12 earned runs, threw 10 complete games (including a 10-inning, 1-0 loss) and had six games of double-digit strikeouts. The last 25 games of Gooden’s storied 1985 season he went 18-1 with an ERA of 1.39. The first 22 games of Guidry’s ’78 season he started 15-1 with a 2.03 ERA and four shutouts, and struck out 18 Angels one night. In 1956, Don Newcombe went 13-1 in July and August and threw back-to-back-to-back shutouts at the Cubs, Braves and Pirates. Those were terrific pitchers at the top of their games, known for their high heat and their dominance. And yet Dickey’s numbers certainly deserve a spot in the same paragraph.

• Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post praises the Dickey-Santana tandem.

• Stony Brook University's baseball team, which reached the College World Series, was honored before Tuesday's game at Citi Field. Read more in Newsday.

TRIVIA: Cecchini was born in Louisiana. Who was the last player to appear in the majors for the Mets who was born in that state?

Tuesday's answer: In Game 2 of the 1969 World Series, Jeremy Koosman tossed 8 2/3 innings and outdueled Dave McNally, who contributed a complete game for the Orioles.



Carlos Torres
2 1.54 14 11
BAD. Wright .316
HRL. Duda 3
RBID. Wright 11
RE. Young Jr. 15
OPSL. Duda .817
ERAJ. Niese 2.84
SOZ. Wheeler 21