Dickey, Santana, Wright and More Reasons the Mets Should Be Taken Seriously
The past decade for the New York Mets has been heart-wrenching, demoralizing, astounding [in both the good and bad sense], and provocative. They have rarely been in the playoffs. They have seen highs—reaching the NLCS Championship series against the Cardinals in 2006—and some pretty awful lows—the monumental September collapses in 2007 and 2008 were followed by several years of relegation to the division's basement.
Mets fans have seen many aging stars put on the blue and orange: Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo, Shawn Green and Jason Bay to name a few. These many established veterans have failed to turn the team's losing ways around. Now, the team is filled with young players eager to prove that they are not the NL East's doormat.The team is trying to forget their recent past as they fight for a playoff berth in the claustrophobically close NL East. David Wright, Johan Santana, and R.A. Dickey are now leading the Mets playoff charge.
Santana's Return Has Been Better Than Expected
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After having surgery on his elbow to remove bone chips in 2009 and shoulder surgery in 2010 that would lead to him missing the entire 2011 season, one would’ve assumed that Santana’s career was pretty much over. He is no longer the fireballer he was in Minnesota and according to Thomas Boorstein of MLB.com, his command has been spotty but he has effectively used his changeup to get ahead of hitters in the count .He also reports that this is Johan's first complete game shut-out since 2010; on August 12, he blanked the Rockies and followed that up with a complete game outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He struck out seven Padres and walked none. After a 96 pitch outing against the Padres, Santana seems to be in good health and will be one of the main factors affecting the Mets postseason future. As he has gotten older, he has shifted his attention from amassing impressive stats to simply being healthy and helping out the ball club. In this tight race for the NL East crown, that kind of selfless attitude will go a long way.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis and the Citi Field Crew
Daredevil Nieuwenhuis Entertaining the Phillies Bullpen
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Captain Kirk is 24, Ike Davis is 25, Ruben Tejada is 22, Lucas Duda is 26, Daniel Murphy is 27, and David Wright is 29. Why is this important? Well, except for David Wright and Daniel Murphy, none of these players were in Flushing between 2006-2009. They don’t have the baggage of past Mets teams and they are eager to change the culture of losing that plagues the clubhouse. Watching Nieuwenhuis sacrifice his body as he careens off of walls trying to make plays symbolizes the controlled aggression and borderline reckless style of play that is exciting to watch but also exciting to be a part of. George Willis of the New York Post aptly described them as being “too raw or green to know they’re not supposed to be winning. They are hungry and fearless and play the game with the passion of Little Leaguers who want to get their uniforms dirty.” These guys are the nucleus of the team; their hard-nosed, scrappy play really fires up the club. The Mets are going to need it as the NL East is very closely matched. During the dog days of August, guys like Nieuwenhuis will need to hustle hard in order to gain some ground on their NL East rivals.
The Inscrutable David Wright
David Wright, one face of the Mets franchise
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David Wright has seen some highs and lows with the Mets since he came up from Virginia in 2004. He is what remains of the Mets' former dynamic duo, the other being current Miami Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes. With Reyes departure in the off-season, Wright now has donned the mantle of leader in the clubhouse. Wright has accepted this role without hesitation, and has tried to inspire the no-longer lackluster Mets. His anger with manager Terry Collins after he was pulled during the Milwaukee series earlier this month shows his commitment to the club has not waned despite hitting hard times. He wants to be in the thick of things, fighting for a winning record.He is currently batting .382, has an on base percentage of .484, has five home runs and has twenty-eight RBIs. Wright doesn't say too much and for now, he is content to let his bat do the talking.That is the kind of inspiration the Mets need now that parity has increased in the NL East. The Phillies no longer look like the run-away favorites for a sixth NL East crown. The Mets need to strike right now and start putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the division. It'll probably be a dogfight up until September. If anyone can inspire and lead the Mets, it will definitely be David Wright.
The Talented Mr. Dickey
Dickey keeps warm between innings as he looks on frmo the bench.
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R. A. Dickey has a past so colorful and troubled that I can't help but think it will certainly contribute to the Mets' recent momentum. He was drafted in the first round of the 1996 draft by the Rangers but was soon told he may never pitch again due to the absence of a ligament in his elbow, Dickey's life has been quite the roller coaster. After spending time in the minors trying to break through, Dodger legend and ESPN baseball analyst Orel Hershiser convinced Dickey to give up his conventional style of pitching in favor of the knuckle ball. After having transformed himself, he moved around from Texas to Seattle to Minnesota, until he finally found a home in the Mets' rotation. In 2010, Dickey was 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA with a WHIP of 1.187 and was the second starter. He buckled a bit in 2011, going 8-13 with an ERA of 3.28 with a WHIP of 1.227. Yet he has remained steady and based on his recent outing against the Padres he is enjoying more success. According to MLB.com reporter Ethan Asofsky, Dickey struck out ten batters over 7 1/3 innings. This is his second consecutive game in which he has reached double digits in strike outs. Given Dickey's past and his current success, this combination could be potentially lethal for the other teams in the East. His unpredictable knuckle ball is a nightmare for batters and as the season goes on, you'll bet he will keep racking up the strike-outs as he tempts hitters with his floating, nearly un-hittable signature pitch. Keep your eyes on him during the season; he will be one of the reasons why the Mets will make the playoffs.