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Eight Days to Pitchers and Catchers

Mike SteffanosWednesday, February 8, 2006
By Mike Steffanos


A great look at a beloved former Met leads off the morning news wrapup:

New York Sports Day: Tough as nails
Former Mets assistant trainer Bob Sikes has another excerpt from his upcoming book up at New York Sports Day. In this one, he offers some insights into Lenny Dykstra. My favorite one was from the 1986 NLCS against the Astros. After dropping the first game against scuffballer Mike Scott, the Mets were facing future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in game 2, badly in need of a win:

In our 5th, Santana singled to right. Ojeda tried to bunt him over, but Raffy was forced at second. So, with two outs, Dykstra came to the plate.

In the first inning, Lenny tried to bunt his way on against Ryan. The book on Ryan says that this pisses him off. This time Dykstra hit a ball way foul into the seats in right. Lenny swaggered outside the batter's box. The Old Schooler Ryan, probably remembering the first inning bunt, too, then buzzed Dykstra's forehead with his next pitch. Lenny was sent sprawling but quickly got up and stroked Ryan's next offering through the left side. Backman, Dykstra's good friend, singled to center. Billy Hatcher tried to throw out Ojeda at the plate, but his throw was wild and it allowed Lenny and Wally to advance to third and second, respectively. Hernandez put the game away then with a huge two-out triple to center. It was now 5-0.

Ojeda gave up a run in the 7th, but allowed only one other baseburner after that in route to a complete game victory. The series was now tied at a game apiece. The series now moved to New York for the middle three games.

I'm not sure whether Dykstra intended to rattle Ryan with that first inning bunt, as I don't recall Lenny leading off many games with a bunt. Only Dykstra really knew, but you can be assured that he knew the scouting report. Ryan's knockdown of Dykstra in the 5th clearly lifted the team's emotions as the Mets responded with three straight two out hits. In a subtle way, Lenny's style of play sparked the rally that led to the game two win.

That kind of play was typical Dykstra. When Frank Cashen traded Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel, that was when I realized that Cashen, who had built the Mets' championship team from nothing, had lost it. He really didn't seem to understand the mentality of the new generation of ball players.

As a side note, I realized as I was writing about the 1986 NLCS that Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan were both pitchers the Mets traded away in less-than-wonderful moves. Almost everyone knows about the Ryan for Fregosi fiasco, but Mike Scott was traded for fourth outfielder Danny Heep. In fairness, Scott looked fairly mediocre until he was taught the split-fingered fastball after being traded -- and then learned how to make it more effective by some creative ball-doctoring.

ESPN: Not Liking the Phightins
Sean McAdam looks at Five clubs that could fail this season:

The Angels were the Anti-Mets -- unwilling to deal from a large pool of prospects for a big bat for their anemic lineup.

The Cardinals are trying to do it on the cheap again. GM Walt Jockety does a good job for them, if he had a reasonable budget maybe La Russa would get that second World Series title. What makes it harder is that the Cardinals have traded away a lot of prospects, and aren't getting good, cheap players off the farm. Sound familiar?

The Orioles and the Padres -- well, what more do you have to say?

And finally, McAdam looks at the Phitin Phils, of whom he says:

The Phils remained in contention for the NL wild card until the final weekend before finishing out of the playoffs, then did little to move forward in the offseason.

They replaced Billy Wagner (who'll close for the division rival Mets) with Tom Gordon, a step backward, and they traded Jim Thome to get out from under most of his contract and injury history.

Aaron Rowand makes them better in center field, but there's much more work to be done here. They continue to lack a bona fide front-line starter and there are too many aging veterans (third base, catcher) occupying important positions.

Look for the Phils to continue to lag behind the Braves, with the Mets overtaking them in the standings, too.

I think Mets fans can understand the Phillies fans' frustrations with the way the off-season went, but I really can't gloat about it. I think replacing GM Ed Wade with Pat Gillick was a great move. Gillick looked around at what he had, and realized he lacked the pitching to really compete. What sense did it make for him to overpay Wagner, especially in length of contract? He took a step back, and the Phils will be better for it down the road. I just don't understand Tom Gordon -- besides his age, he has a somewhat fragile mentality that won't play well in Philly.

SI: The DC Shuffle
Ah, those whacky Washingtonians... After rejecting a stadium lease -- which could have forced MLB to pack up the Nationals and move them elsewhere -- the District of Columbia Council approved a revised lease a few hours later.

MLB isn't happy with what's going on here, but they have only themselves to blame for the silly way this team has been handled for several years. Find an owner and get out of the way, Mr. Selig.

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