New York Mets: Hoyt Wilhelm

Mets morning briefing 6.22.12

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
8:42
AM ET
After an off-day, the Mets open the Subway Series. Southpaws Jon Niese (4-3, 3.82 ERA) and Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.77) match up in the opener.

Friday's news reports:

Frank Francisco tells Mike Puma in the Post about the Yankees: "I can't wait to strike out those chickens. I want to strike out the side against them. I've done it before." Francisco, pressed about the poultry reference, added: "I think I've said too much already."

• Read Subway Series previews in the Record, Daily News, Post and Newsday.

• During SNY's show determining the top Mets player in franchise history by position, Tom Seaver buzzed Darryl Strawberry with a zinger. Writes Cody Derespina in Newsday:

But during a question and answer session with the Mets All-Time team, things got testy when SNY's Kevin Burkhardt posed an innocent enough question to Strawberry: "Who would have won a game between the '69 Mets and the '86 Mets, Seaver vs. [Dwight] Gooden?" During his answer, Strawberry took aim at Tom Seaver, the pitcher, saying he "would've loved to get a piece of that with my Louisville Slugger," drawing loud applause from the crowd in attendance. Seaver seemed to chuckle, but later appeared to take aim at Strawberry, the man. "You don't have any handcuffs on your hands, wrists there, do you?" Seaver said. The audience responded with hushed, nervous laughter as Seaver cracked up. For his part, Strawberry handled the incident quickly.

• Columnist John Rowe in the Record, meanwhile, objects to the panel's selection of Davey Johnson over Gil Hodges as the all-time manager.

Ronny Cedeño is expected to rejoin the Mets for Friday's Subway Series opener after a week-long rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo. Ruben Tejada (1-for-4, RBI) played a second straight game at shortstop with Buffalo on Thursday, and is expected to remain with the Bisons for a little longer. Read more in the Record.

• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record notes Citi Field likely will not be as homer-friendly to the Yankees as their Bronx bandbox. Writes Klapsich:

The Mets are wary of the Yankees, and rightly so -- they were swept in the Bronx two weeks ago, and suffered in silence as Johan Santana was crushed for four HRs. But the Mets have two factors working in their favor this time: First, their pitching has reached a surreal level of domination, having run through a stretch of 29 consecutive scoreless innings. And second, unlike the Stadium, hitting home runs in Citi Field is a different reality. It might even be enough to bust down the Yankees a rank, from machines to mere mortals.

• Columnist John Harper in the Daily News has similar contrasting ballpark-dimension thoughts. Writes Harper:

Going deep may not be so easy this weekend, despite the new dimensions at Citi Field. Naturally, no one in the Mets organization is saying such a thing publicly. “It’s the Yankees: They have enough power to make their ballpark look small and enough power to make our ballpark look small,” David Wright said. “It’s less about where they play the games than the lineup they run out. They can make a one-run lead a four-run lead real fast. It’s hard to ask a pitching staff -- ours or anyone -- to hold a one-run lead for a whole game against them.” Met radio voice Howie Rose, however, took some abuse from Yankee fans for showing his exasperation on the air at the time and dismissing at least a few of the eight home runs the Yankees hit in that series as cheapies. To which Rose responded: “If you don’t like it, why are you listening to the Mets’ broadcast? Go listen to your own broadcast.”

• Right-hander Zack Wheeler and third baseman Wilmer Flores will represent the Mets in the July 8 Futures Game in Kansas City during the All-Star festivities. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger looks at Daniel Murphy's slump, which prompted Terry Collins to start Jordany Valdespin at second base in two of the three games in the sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. Writes McCullough:

For more than a month, that sensation has eluded Murphy. On May 16, he was hitting .336. Since then, he’s hit .192, with little power behind it heading into the second leg of the Subway Series tonight. Murphy has the most plate appearances (281) of any player yet to hit a home run this season. His .655 on-base plus slugging percentage ranks ninth-worst among National League hitters qualified for the batting title heading into Thursday night’s games. “Dan’s mired in a slump,” manager Terry Collins said last week. “And I never thought Dan Murphy ever got into a slump. He’s such a good hitter.”

Neil Best in Newsday explains the Mets' move this season to dynamic (floating) ticket pricing based on market conditions, which is designed to keep people buying tickets from the team when resellers such as StubHub have lower prices than the originally determined price on the ticket. Writes Best:

Even with their unexpected success, the Mets are averaging 27,515 in paid attendance, down from 28,390 last year at this point. And they are not above using gimmicks, such as a promotion for the Subway Series in which some prices were tied to the game-time temperature during this week's heat wave. But [executive VP Dave] Howard said the idea is working as intended, getting more people into the ballpark, generating revenue that otherwise might not have been realized and reflecting real-world forces. "The Mets fan will know,'' he said, "that they don't have to go to a secondary market source, because Mets.com is being priced based on the same factors.''

Read more on tickets in the Times.

• Prospect Jeurys Familia struggled and was knocked out in a five-run third inning by Norfolk in Triple-A action. Read Thursday's full minor league recap here.

R.A. Dickey has not allowed an earned run in 42 2/3 innings, and can take the franchise record away from Dwight Gooden (49 innings) when the knuckleballer opposes CC Sabathia on Sunday. Ebenezer Samuel in the Daily News gets Yankees reaction to their upcoming challenge. Team Dickey coverage in the News also includes the knuckleballer's Thursday book signing as well as this article on Dickey's one-time conflict with analyst Bob Ojeda.

David Waldstein in the Times notes the last pitcher to no-hit the Yankees in a complete-game effort was an original knuckleballer, Hoyt Wilhelm, on Sept. 20, 1958.

Raul Ibanez, who played with Dickey in Seattle, tells Kevin Kernan in the Post that Dickey really has taken the knuckleball to a different level in terms of controlling where the pitch is going. "Sometimes the catchers were moving in and then moving away and I said to my teammates, ‘You know what? I think he’s doing that on purpose,’" Ibanez said. "And they said, ‘No, he’s not, he can’t control the knuckleball that way.’ But I felt he was using it like a slider, like a changeup."

• Columnist David Lennon in Newsday goes over some weekend storylines.

TRIVIA: Who was the last Yankee other than Derek Jeter to start at shortstop in a regular-season game against the Mets?

Thursday's answer: Among current Yankees, Ibanez has the most career homers at Citi Field -- five, as a member of the Phillies.
The 5-0 record that R.A. Dickey takes into his start with the Tigers tonight is rarified air for a knuckleball-throwing starting pitcher.

With the help of Baseball-Reference.com and the "Knuckleball Headquarters" website, we checked win streaks to start a season for nine of the most prominent knuckleballers we knew.

That would be: Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough, Joe Niekro, Phil Niekro, Steve Sparks, Dennis Springer, Tim Wakefield, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Wilbur Wood.

That's far from an encyclopedic list, but it's a good starting point for us.

Do you know how many of those pitchers ever had a season in which they began 5-0 as a starting pitcher?

Just one. That was Wilhelm in 1959, a run that the Yankee-hating Mets fan will be glad to know included three wins (and back-to-back shutouts) against the Bronx Bombers.

Hall of Famer Phil Niekro never did it. His best start was 4-0 in 1984, one matched by his brother Joe in 1986. Joe's knuckler is said to be the one that most resembles Dickey's because both threw the pitch at a speed of around 80-miles-per-hour.

The best start for Wakefield's knuckler was also 4-0 in his first season with the Red Sox, 1995. Wakefield actually ran off 10 straight wins in one stretch that season. His second-longest win streak at any point was six, done four times, but not since 2002.

Dickey can reach six both overall and to start the year, if he can find a way past a tough Tigers lineup tonight.

The way Dickey's season has gone bears a strong resemblance to that of Wakefield's first year, 1992, even though Dickey isn't making his major league debut this year.

Both pitchers started the season off well for their respective Triple-A affiliates in Buffalo (Dickey had a one-hitter) in which he retired 27 straight hitters, and then both arrived in the majors to provide a strong, significant impact.

In Wakefield's case, that included pitching two superb games against a reeling Mets team in August, to knock them into oblivion and propel the Pirates to a second straight NL East title and near-miss of a World Series berth.

In Dickey's case, he's hoping his impact is as significant for the Mets, instead of against them. And surely he'd take a level of success anything close to what Wakefield has done.

For more on tonight's game, check out our TMI blog on Jose Reyes recent efforts to spark the Mets.

Mark Simon is a researcher for Baseball Tonight. Follow him on Twitter at @msimonespn or e-mail him at webgemscoreboard@gmail.com.

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