3 ex-Mets singin’ the swan song

In the past week, former Mets Matt Harvey, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lucas Duda were released by their teams. Harvey’s attempt to resurrect his stalled career with the Angels came up way short as he put up embarrassing numbers. Duda had a similar experience before being cut loose by Kansas City. Cabrera was  slashing a modest .235/.318/.393 when he was released by the Rangers. Everyone’s favorite ex-Met, Curtis Granderson, may be next in line as the veteran has been hitting below the Mendoza line almost all season for the Marlins.

It’s a bit sad really as these players all hold their place in Mets history. For too short a period, Harvey electrified the whole city as the Dark Knight. Though the back of his baseball card may not reflect it – thanks largely to a lack of run support – Harvey had two brilliant seasons for the Mets and a very memorable post-season. At his peak, Harvey had mound presence and swagger to go along with a filthy arsenal of pitches. He can still throw 95 mph, but the extra ticks, the late movement and the trademark two-strike slider are all gone. Harvey is still young enough to attempt a comeback. Maybe with some rest, strength training and the right mentors he can find a second life as a back-of-the-rotation guy or reliever.

Mets fans have a tainted view of Duda as he made one of the most costly errors in the 2015 World Series. He’s also well-remembered for hitting home runs either with a big lead or no one on base. That said, the big guy was a likable, soft-spoken guy with a boyish farmboy charm and you never knew when he might launch one onto Shea Bridge. Plus, he was such a good sport about letting Granderson and others make him the butt of clubhouse gags and social media jokes.

Granderson left an indelible mark on the Mets organization just through his charitable and community efforts. His infectious smile, energy on the field and penchant for the big hit certainly won over his New York fans as well. And who could forget his brilliant catch in the 2016 Wild Card game? This may be Granderson’s last year as a player, but, with his charm, you have to think we’ll be seeing more of him around the game. He’s really well suited as an MLB Network or ESPN personality.

Cabrera, due to his versatility, may well find a new home to finish out the season, and along with several other ex-Mets he’s hoping he might have one more good one left in the tank. Relievers Addison Reed, Fernando Salas and Carlos Torres have all struggled this year either with injuries, effectiveness or both. But with so many bullpens in disarray, a new job is always a phone call away.

When it comes to relievers, the Mets have a lot of ex-players floating around, some better than others – Darren O’Day, Ollie Perez, Hansel Robles, Jon Gant, Joe Smith, Jerry Blevins, Chasen Bradford, Gabriel Ynoa, Tyler Clippard and probably a few more that I missed. Relievers are hard to predict, but there are some ex-Met everyday players still making hay, like Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores, and Neil Walker.  Catcher Travis d’Arnaud is bouncing like a dead cat in Tampa, while his former caddy, Kevin Plawecki, is hanging on as a backup in Cleveland.

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I watch for these names in the box scores. They may not be on the Mets anymore, but some of them – like Granderson and Flores – are hard not to continue rooting for, as long as they’re not playing against the Mets.

 

How long will Lucas Duda’s job be safe?

lucas dudaWith the New York Mets calling up Wilmer Flores and toying with the idea of replacing Jenrry Mejia in the rotation, the team is certainly trying to mix things up and give the team an added boost.

Will there be any other moves? Who’s jobs are safe?

One such player who has to start pulling his weight is first baseman Lucas Duda. We can excuse him for missing Friday night’s game for feeling under the weather.

After the Mets finally traded away Ike Davis, it gave Duda the prime opportunity to seize the job and run with it. He hasn’t exactly lit it up. Since the Mets traded away Davis on April 18, Duda is 14-54 with one home run and seven RBI’s in 17 games. Overall he has a .266/.355/.425 slash line to go with four home runs and 15 RBI’s in 94 at-bats.

Granted, that’s still a small sample size, but he has not given the Mets the lift many thought he can when they decided to give up on Ike Davis. (side note, Davis is not exactly on fire with the Pirates either).

First base is usually a power position and the Mets would ideally like to get more offense from it. If Duda continues to underwhelm, eventually the Mets might make the call to bring up Allan Dykstra.

With a name like Dykstra, he’s already ahead of the curve with Mets’ fans.

Seriously, though, Dykstra has some pop in his bat and perhaps he can rejuvenate the Mets slumbering bats. In 86 at-bats with the Las Vegas 51’s, Dykstra is sporting an impressive .326/.478/.628 slash line with five home runs, 11 doubles and a team-leading 31 RBI’s.

Now, we have to take those numbers with a grain of salt considering he plays his games in the Pacific Coast League, which is a haven for hitters. But prior to arriving in Las Vegas, Dykstra did hit 21 home runs in 372 at-bats last year in Binghamton. Scouts have said that Dykstra has decent power and sooner or later the Mets might be impulsed to roll the dice on him if Duda can’t cut it.

As a lefty though, if the Mets recall Dykstra, they might put themselves in a another sticky situation like they did when they rostered both Duda and Davis. Two lefty first basemen will not cut it, since you really can’t platoon the both of them and neither will play in the outfield.

With the offense sputtering and, outside of making trades, something has to be done soon. Perhaps Duda needs more time to establish himself with Davis now gone. But if he falters, the Mets just may make another move.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Lucas Duda, this is your last chance

DudaOne man’s pain is another man’s game.

With Ike Davis likely being shelved for the rest of the year with an oblique strain, it now opens the door for Lucas Duda to reassert himself with the Mets.

For those rallying around Duda to get his chance at first base—his “comfortable” position—you all got your wish. The opportunity Duda has in front of him couldn’t have come more fortuitously. These next 24 games will give Duda an appropriate window to collectively wow us.

It’s now or never. But are 24 games enough time to properly evaluate Duda in advance of next season?

Maybe not, but Duda is definitely doing well in his chance. On Wednesday against the Braves, Duda went 3-5 with a double and a home run. In the four games since Davis went down, Duda is 7-14 with a home run and four RBI’s. He’s clearly doing his best to make a great, and perhaps, final impression.

When the Mets’ season ends, the front office will have the unenviable task of trying to figure out who they want to roll with at first base when next season comes around. Will it be Duda? Will it be Davis? Or perhaps, will the Mets go outside the organization and find help elsewhere at first?

Many Mets’ fans want Davis out on the next flight out of JFK, as he has continued to disappoint in his first four injury-plagued seasons with the club. Can he ever capitalize on the upside he showed early in his career?

Regardless, Duda has a big opportunity in front of him and now that he has a clear shot at playing time (and at a position he likes playing at), here’s wishing he can grab a hold of it.

Whatever the end result will be, Sandy Alderson has to trade at least one of Duda and Davis this offseason. There is no way, no how, that both Duda and Davis can be on the same team next year. Both are very similar in the way they play the game. They are both hulking, slugging-types, and for the most part hit or miss.

So, outside of Josh Satin getting some at-bats against some lefties, Duda will get the lion’s share of at-bats at first for the last month.

Will he impress enough in this audition or will the Mets go back to Davis. It’s a dilemma that will ultimately have to be solved soon. Whoever is patrolling first base in 2014, will be a major storyline as we get set to end the 2013 season.

***Got something to say about the Mets? Go to the Mets360 Forums to talk about whatever you like in regards to the Amazins!***

Lucas Duda or Ike Davis: Pick one

The title says it all.

Pick one (considering their only justifiable position being first base) who you could plug in as your everyday first baseman and stick with it for the foreseeable future. It’s becoming readily apparent that both of these players can’t exist on the same team.

Sooner or later the  Mets are going to have to make a solid, concrete decision on who their first baseman of the future shall be, and it all comes down to Lucas Duda and Ike Davis.

While Daniel Murphy is filling in at first for the time being—where he shouldn’tt be in the first place—he is nothing but a stop gap option until Davis can fix what ails him.

So, what should the Mets do here?

Should they commit to the player who is performing at the moment in Duda. This way, they can fix two problems at one time. First, they could field a player with an OPS more in line with that of a first baseman. And secondly, they can take Duda out of the outfield, a position he was never—and never will be—equipped to play and plug him at a position he was built to play.

Or are some of you in the camp that we should be a little more patient with Davis? After all, this is the same guy who has hit 63 home runs in 1,357 career at bats. While his OPS this year is an dreadful .500, Davis has a career .756 OPS and that is a number  more indicative of what kind a hitter Davis really is. Plus, Davis has shown, although not this year, that is more than a capable defender and is good with the glove. More so than Duda.

Regardless, the Mets can’t go into ext season with both of these players on the roster.

Clearly Davis needed to be demoted. He needed a mental break from the spotlight and get away from New York. He needed to rediscover his stroke, as that was not going to happen in Queens. No one will argue this.

However in due time, Davis shall get better and then the Mets will recall him in a few weeks.

While Duda does profile best as a first baseman, he would have been playing first base on a temporary basis while Davis is in Las Vegas. (Then again it makes no sense that Murphy is there now, as Josh Stain should be getting his chance there. Why bring him up in the first place?). So I guess I see the Mets stance there. I think the Mets know that Duda’s best position in first base. Perhaps they wanted to showcase Murphy’s versatility to enhance his trade value.

Regardless, in the next few weeks as trade deadline speculation heats up, it would behoove the Mets to figure who they want as their first baseman going forward—and decide fast.

Ike Davis’ colossal slump masks recent ineffectiveness of Lucas Duda and John Buck

 With each mounting loss, it is becoming incredibly hard to find a silver lining to the Mets’ start to the 2013 season.

With the Mets’ 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday night, the Mets have now dropped six consecutive games. This is the second time this year that the Mets have dropped at least six games in a row. The Mets now have the third worst record (14-23) in the majors.

Ike Davis, who has become every fan’s favorite whipping boy for the Met’s pathetic offensive troubles, is not alone in this fight. Sure, once again Davis has been atrocious to start the season while sporting a pathetic .164/.254/.279 slash line to go with just four home runs and nine RBI’s.

But like I said he is not alone.

After good starts, Lucas Duda and John Buck have come crashing down. Between the two of them, they are a combined 8-66 in their last ten games. Duda, who was getting on base at a great clip early on, is now only sporting a meager .205/.350/.464 slash line. Buck has been great at knocking the ball out of the park (10 home runs-tied for second in the NL) and driving in runs in bunches (30-tied for fourth in the NL), but he now has a measly .232 batting average to go with a scant .290 on base percentage.

Simply put, outside of David Wright, the middle of the order (or for that matter any part of the order) is punchless.

You certainly can lay a lot of blame of the Mets’ failures this year on the pitching (outside of Matt Harvey‘s heroics, no will argue with you there); the offense isn’t doing their part either.

The Mets are second to last in the NL in batting average (.227), third to last in on base percentage (.301) and 12th in slugging percentage (.378). And just think how bad these stats would be if not for the hot starts by Buck and Duda.

Also not helping matters is the funk Daniel Murphy finds himself in. Murphy is also struggling and his batting average has dropped 79 points (he was batting .357 on April 23 and is currently batting .278) in the last month or so. But we have seen enough from Murphy over the years to know he’ll heat up soon enough.

So while Davis needs to shape up or be shipped off to Las Vegas, Duda and Buck should not be exempt from criticism either. For the Mets to have any notion of turning things around, they have to provide Wright with some more protection, and no, Rick Ankiel is not the answer.

It would have been nice if uber-catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud did not have to get hurt and in the process stall his eventual call-up to the big leagues. d’Arnaud will likely begin to rehab soon, but he is probably months away from getting the call. d’Arnaud could have caught while Buck got some time spelling Davis at first base. In any event, we’ll have to keep waiting for d’Arnaud to make his impact.

All these hitters need to collectively get their heads out of their, well, you know what. If not, this season could resemble the 2003 edition of the Mets when the team only finished with 66 wins.

Lucas Duda should get as much playing time as possible down the stretch

Based on merit, the following headline doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I’ll give you that. Since his recall from Buffalo, Lucas Duda is only batting a measly .225 with one home run and seven RBI’s. Those are hardly the numbers that scream more playing time.

There is no other way to slice it: Duda’s 2012 season has been a major disappointment. For a guy that finished the 2011 season on fire and began this season amid much fanfare, Duda has failed to deliver on the promise that he showed last year.

In the second half of the 2011 season, Duda hit .322 with 10 home runs and 38 RBI’s in 205 at-bats and there was every reason to think that he would grow on that finish. Thus far in 350 at-bats this year, Duda is sporting a not-so-impressive .243/.332/.389 slash line.

However, for the Mets to truly know what they have in Duda, they need to start playing him on a regular basis and even against lefties.  Just why in the hell should Jason Bay get more playing time at this juncture of the season? And now comes word that Terry Collins will be using Duda more at first base (like he did in Wednesday’s game) to see what he can do there while not being such a liability in the outfield.

Obviously all this jockeying with Duda is for perhaps a possible trade down the line. The Mets would ideally love to move either Duda, Ike Davis  or Daniel Murphy (all players could conceivably play first base) while upgrading the outfield. In this scenario, the Mets could also include a pitcher (say Jon Niese, Colin McHugh, etc.) to sweeten the pot.

Hence, it is very important that Duda get as much playing time as possible down the stretch to either enhance his chances for success with the Mets in 2013 or use this time as a way to showcase himself for a trade.

I still think there is upside in Duda’s game. The guy clearly has power, but sometimes Duda is too passive while not being aggressive at the plate. You also have to realize that Duda is still young and has only 735 major league at-bats to his credit.

I think the jury is still out on Duda. That’s why playing him more in September is both vital for the personal growth of Duda and beneficial for the Mets in knowing what they really have in the young, hulking hitter.

Maybe Duda is not part of the future, but at least use this last month (which has now been rendered meaningless outside of R.A. Dickey’s starts) to know what you have in him before you start making plans for 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Lucas Duda and the longest on-base streaks in Mets history

A double in the sixth inning Sunday extended Lucas Duda’s streak or reaching base to 20 games. It’s the career-best mark for Duda and he has moved past Josh Thole for the second-longest streak this season, trailing only the 23-game stretch posted earlier by David Wright. It got me wondering what the longest streak in team history is.

It turns out that I was unable to find the career leader, much less a top-10 list, anywhere online. While I found out without even looking for it that ex-Met Gary Sheffield is the career leader for the Braves with a streak of 52, I was unable to find out who held the same place for the Mets.

Baseball-Reference.com, on its game log pages for individual players, lists what their best streak for a given season is. I went through the names of players I thought might be among the best ever for the Mets and compiled the following list. It’s important to note that this list is not complete or definitive. I didn’t check Rey Ordonez, for example, so if he posted an extended streak, it’s not here.

But if nothing else this is a start. Below are all of the players I found with a streak of 30 or more games where they reached base safely.

46 – Darryl Strawberry (1987)
43 – John Olerud (1999)
37 – Jose Reyes (2008)
33 – Kevin McReynolds (1988)
32 – Keith Hernandez (1983)
32 – Carlos Beltran (2006)
32 – Beltran (2011)
31 – Tommie Agee (1970)
31 – Rusty Staub (1973)
31 – Strawberry (1990)
31 – Lance Johnson (1996)
31 – Moises Alou (2007)
30 – Hernandez (1984)
30 – Beltran (2008)

Strawberry’s streak seems very impressive until you consider that the MLB record is the 84 straight by Ted Williams in 1949.

Duda has quite a ways to go before he cracks the top 10 for the Mets. Still, it’s a nice measure of consistency and shows how Duda is living up to the high expectations many had for him coming into the season. He has a .923 OPS during the streak and for the season Duda’s OPS checks in at .790, good for a 120 OPS+.

And if you find a list of the longest streaks elsewhere, please post a link in the comments section. Also, if you know someone else had a streak of 30+, please let me know that, too. But don’t just give me guesses. Please don’t say – What about Bernard Gilkey in 1996? I checked Mr. Gilkey and his longest streak that year was 15 games.

Lucas Duda powers Mets during recent hot streak

It’s hard to concentrate on anything other that Johan Santana’s no-hitter right now and it is an achievement that deserves every bit of attention it is receiving. But with two stories on the site already about it, I’d like to talk about another recent development that is big news for the Mets. And that’s the return of Lucas Duda’s home run stroke.

Duda delivered a home run in Santana’s masterpiece, giving him 4 HR in his last 23 ABs, a stretch covering seven games. The Mets are 5-2 in that stretch. Before the recent longball outburst, Duda went 77 ABs without a homer. In that stretch, which went from April 29th to May 24th, the Mets were 12-12.

Santana’s remarkable comeback from shoulder surgery has been a key item in the Mets’ surprising play in 2012. David Wright flirting with .400 has been a fun little ride and his return to form has been the other key storyline for the surprising start that the Mets have enjoyed in the first two months of the 2012 season.

But if the Mets hope to keep their hot start going, they will need to have production from Duda. This was probably a necessary thing anyway, but the pronounced struggles at the plate from Ike Davis – and to a lesser extent the complete lack of homers from Daniel Murphy – has only magnified the need for power from Duda.

In 2011, the Mets played their best baseball when Davis and Wright were on the DL and the team hit very few homers. The lineup put runners on base at a high rate, thanks to big efforts from Beltran, Reyes, and Murphy, and kept rallies alive by not striking out. While they missed the power of Davis and Wright, they compensated by not having hitters in the heart of the order strike out one-quarter of the time.

But the 2012 team has high strikeout guys in Davis, Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. And the lineup suffered a hit when Josh Thole went down and was replaced by guys with higher strikeout rates. And it is the increased strikeouts that make over the fence power a necessity in 2012 that it wasn’t a season ago, at least while Beltran and Murphy were in the lineup.

Now the club has Thole back and Duda hitting for power, we can hope for continued good things from the Mets. The team is 15-8 when Thole starts behind the plate and 5-1 in games when Duda homers.

Last year Duda did not hit his first homer until July 23rd. But he hit 10 HR in his final 185 at-bats of the season. Hopefully he is in the beginning of a prolonged homer binge. In his last 10 games, Duda is batting just .235. But the Mets are 7-3, thanks to his homers. It’s a tradeoff the Mets should be happy to make.

Lucas Duda has got to start pulling his weight

With the Mets now getting a little more production from Ike Davis (3-7 in his last two games with two home runs and four RBI’s in his last two games), it’s high time that Lucas Duda starts contributing to the Mets’ bandwagon.

While the Mets lost in Miami last night 6-5, the team was right there in the mix after mounting another comeback, only to see it foiled by Frank Francisco.

For this team to score runs and win more games consistently in the future, Duda has got to start pulling his weight. There is no other way to spin it: Duda has not lived up to expectations thus far.

In last night’s game vs. the Marlins, Duda did go 2-5, but prior to that outing, he was only four for his last 20. Duda has only one home run in his last 21 games and is struggling to find a groove. For the season, Duda has a pedestrian .247/.342/.397 slash line.

While we should admire the fact that Duda has a great eye and has shown great discipline at the plate in his time with the Mets, it seems to me that he is playing a little timid. Maybe it’s just me, but Duda is looking at for too many hittable pitches. It’s good to be patient, but when you got a chance-go for it.

We all know of Duda’s erratic tendencies playing outfield, so for him to pull his weight with the team, he needs to start hitting-and hitting with some aggressiveness and authority.

What is also disturbing is Duda’s lack of success vs. lefties. Last year Duda was remarkably better hitting against southpaws, sporting a .274/.328/.387 line. This year those marks have dropped to .214/.281/.250. Some pitchers have adjusted to Duda and having him fishing for balls outside the zone.

Maybe Duda is just a slow starter. We all know about his pronounced slumps to start seasons and maybe he is more comfortable when the weather heats up.

Whatever it is, Duda has to start to contribute and once he does, then there is no telling how good the Mets offense can be. For the Mets to be 18-14 with the way Duda and Davis have underperformed, it’s actually quite astonishing.

For a guy who was described as nothing short of Thor, yielding his “Hammer of the Gods,” it’s about time for Duda to yield his big stick and start providing the Mets with some lumber-thumping hits

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Ike Davis & Lucas Duda: Slumps, hot streaks and defense

The 2012 Mets need Ike Davis and Lucas Duda to be healthy and productive in the middle of the order to have a successful season. Unfortunately, both of these players started off the year hitting poorly. Here were their numbers through April 13th:

ID – 1-23 with 9 Ks in 26 PA (34.6 K%)
LD – 3-25 with 9 Ks in 28 PA (32.1 K%)

The Mets were able to stay afloat thanks to surprisingly strong pitching and big starts from Josh Thole and David Wright, among others. Meanwhile, since April 14th, here are the numbers for the team’s two big lefty hitters:

ID – .188/.235/.375 with 13 Ks in 51 PA (25.5 K%)
LD – .333/.418/.500 with 12 Ks in 55 PA (21.8 K%)

Davis is suffering from the double whammy of an elevated K rate and a dismal average on balls in play. His BABIP in the last 13 games is .188 and it sits at .152 for the season. We know that Davis is an MLB-quality hitter and that a .152 OPS simply cannot last. Interestingly, Davis is performing better against LHP (.561 OPS) than he is RHP (.468 OPS), so sitting him some against lefties does not appear to be the right approach, as I thought earlier.

All players go through slumps during the year and this one by Davis is magnified by being at the start of the season. Ryan Braun, last year’s NL MVP, went through a 60-PA stretch early last year where he had a .193/.233/.386 line. The Brewers went 5-10 in that stretch. Both Braun and the Brewers ended the year in fine shape, as Braun notched a league-leading .994 OPS and the Brewers won 96 games.

On the positive side, Davis has fanned just once in his last 12 PA and seems to be making solid contact. Perhaps he will break out with a three-hit game in the near future.

Meanwhile, Duda has already broken out of his early-season slump thanks to a more-patient approach at the plate and a .412 BABIP. For the year, Duda now has a .306 BABIP, or more or less what we should expect from an MLB hitter. His .452 SLG is the 29th-best mark in the National League and marks him as a solid middle-of-the-order hitter.

What will be interesting to see going forward is if Duda can continue to lower his K%. In 347 PA last year, he had a 16.4 K%, a really nice rate for a young power hitter. This year it sits at 25.3 percent. If Duda can continue to lower his K% as the year progresses it will be an excellent sign for his continued growth as a hitter.

While Duda is again hitting with authority and showing that last year was no fluke, he is also showing that last year’s fielding numbers were not an aberration, either. In 364.1 innings in the OF last year (about 30 percent of a full season), Duda had a -12 DRS. This year in 170.1 innings, he has a -6 DRS. With 10 runs essentially equal to a win, his outfield defense is going to cost the Mets nearly four wins at this rate.

It should be mentioned that fielding numbers take longer than batting numbers to stabilize and it’s possible that Duda is not *this* bad in the outfield. But I think it’s fair to say that Duda is a poor outfielder and the only thing up for debate is if he’s going to be simply bad or the worst defensive outfielder in the majors.

Last offseason I lobbied for the Mets to trade either Davis or Duda because of concerns about Duda’s outfield defense. With Davis coming off an injury and Duda only having limited MLB success to his credit, perhaps the trade market wasn’t there for either player. But what we have seen in the early going in 2012 only confirms what we saw last year – that Duda is not an OF. It’s hard to be a productive player when you give away four wins on defense. Right now, Duda has a -0.3 fWAR, meaning he’s below replacement level overall.

I like both Davis and Duda. But it’s hard to imagine them both being on the team when the Mets are serious contenders for the division title.

The legend of Lucas Duda

There are some who say he was born of the Storm Giants who live in the clouds, and others who claim he was raised by bears in the Adirondacks, still more believe that he could fell a tree with one swing of his mighty club but Met fans know that he’s their best hope to survive this troubling 2012 season.

When I look at Lucas Duda, I can’t help but think of the frontier legends of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  Maybe it’s that Keith Hernandez is fond of calling Duda a giant, but it’s definitely there when I watch him.  From his humble origins as an early-mid-round pick to his rise as a power lefty all the way to his emergence as a legitimate MLB hitter, he gives off a legend that’s larger than life.  What follows is the All-American folk tale, Mets style.

Duda was born in Fontana, California on February 3, 1986. He attended Arlington High School in Riverside, California.  His high school coaches knew they had something special in the 6’4 gawky youth with hope in his eyes and hunger in his heart.  He grew into the hulking man he did eating nothing but rhubarb and a special blend of protein shakes mixed with the tears of a unicorn.

Duda then enrolled in the University of Southern California, playing for the USC Trojans baseball team from 2005—2007.  All seemed well for him until fate struck: A series of wildfires that began burning across Southern California. At least 1,500 homes were destroyed and over 500,000 acres (2,000 km², or about 770 mi²) of land burned from Santa Barbara County to the U.S.–Mexico border. Nine people died as a direct result of the fires; 85 others were injured, including at least 61 firefighters. The raging fire was visible from space.

Legend holds that Lucas personally saved an entire school of orphans, a convent full of nuns and the 2007 Swedish Bikini team by blowing the fire back and diverting it into a lake.  While reports of this feat are sketchy at best, it seems that someone was paying attention as Duda was drafted by the New York Mets in the seventh round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, as the 243rd overall selection.

It wasn’t easy for Omar Minaya to draft a fella like Lucas in the 7th round, but somehow he was convinced by that same magical sparkle that inspires Met fans to this day.  On that day, the legend that already was… became a New York Met legend that would soon be.

Duda began the 2010 season with the Double-A Binghamton Mets and was promoted to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons on June 14. While in Buffalo, Duda homered in five consecutive games, tying a Bisons record and earning a supporting actor nomination for being the inspiration for George Clooney’s entire acting career. In 70 games for Buffalo, Duda hit 17 home runs, 2 triples, 23 doubles, and had 53 runs batted in, while compiling a .314 batting average and winning several underground fighting tournaments run by the Yakuza crime family. At the end of the season, the Bisons named him their Most Valuable Player and presented him with a gold plated AK-47.

Former Mets manager Jerry Manuel watched Duda during batting practice when he was first called up to the Majors and noted that Duda reminded him of Abraham Lincoln mixed with Bruce Lee and Shrek.

In 2012 Duda will be handed the starting right field job and be expected to shoulder the burden of, not only his great awesomeness, but also the success of the New York Mets.  What will he do with the opportunity?  We can only imagine what great things a man like Lucas Duda might… but I’m hoping he breaks every record in baseball and cures cancer.

Is too much hype being bestowed on Lucas Duda?

The secret is out, Lucas Duda is good.

And while that is good news for the Mets, sometimes it’s best for some things to be kept a secret.

After blowing up in the second half of last year while batting .322 with 10 home runs and 38 RBI’s in 205 at-bats, a lot more is expected out of Duda this year. His power potential is tickling the fancy of many Mets’ fans in need of some good news. Reports out of Port St. Lucie is that Duda is launching some bombs in batting practice and he already has a grand slam to his credit this spring.

Because his legend is growing this spring, Duda won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this season. While, of course, this means little in the whole scope of things, I fear too much hype may get to Duda’s head. ( I know, I know, I could very well be overreacting.)

While Duda’s offensive potential will be on full blast this year, the same can’t be said about his defense. If there is one thing Duda has to prove this year is that he can hold up for a full year manning right field. Hopefully, Duda’s quest to make himself a complete ballplayer will keep him humble and driven all year.

The good news is that there should be hardly any pressure on Duda this year. With the fences being altered at Citi Field, more pressure will be on veterans David Wright and Jason Bay to make up for lost time and carry the load. Ike Davis also has to prove he is healthy (and getting over valley fever) and get back to what he was last year: an emerging slugger in the middle of the lineup.

The burden for Duda to live up to some of the promised being heaped on him could get dicey but at least he’ll have the comfort of likely batting sixth in the order where he’ll make way for the veterans.

Duda has to just go out and do his thing while making the natural progressions in his game. He has to let the game come to him. Although it would be nice if Duda could be our secret weapon, I would be more than thrilled if the results match the hype.

Duda is earning himself a lot of fans (and you can call me one too) this spring and the bar has been raised for him to exceed expectations. Here’s to hoping Duda makes good on his promise.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon