Nov 09

Mets laying a good foundation

I really like what the Mets have done so far as it shows thoughtfulness and the implementation of a real plan as opposed the quick-fix mentality.

Sandy Alderson was the best available general manager candidate and has not disappointed with the hires of Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi to the front office.

The Mets are laying a strong foundation, one that will carry them beyond the checkbook mentality of free agency. While it is premature to say theirs is the best front office in baseball, it isn’t to suggest they are showing signs of putting together a unit that could become one of the elite.

They are doing all the right things also in their managerial search and not giving into jumping at the hot name. The names being interviewed are solid candidates who could thrive in the right organization. The hiring of DePodesta to work the minor league system could open the door for Terry Collins to move out of that area and move into the manager’s seat.

Not caving into Hisanori Takahashi’s demands was also the prudent way to go. Giving into Takahashi, at his age and with only one year in the majors, would have been duplicating the acts of the previous regime.

As much as I like what Takahashi did last year, giving him three years would have only burdened the Mets with another contract they might want to unload in a year.

The Mets will still be bogged down in 2011 with a heavy payroll, but at least they are putting themselves in the right position to roll when they finally gain some financial flexibility.

So far, the first impression has been a good one.

Nov 06

New York Mets notebook

A lot of things happening with the Mets right now, beginning with the managerial interviews:

1) BACKMAN INTERVIEWS TODAY: Sandy Alderson will interview Wally Backman in California today and it is not a courtesy interview as the general manager doesn’t have time to waste. I’ve been hearing the Wilpons have some apprehensions concerning Backman, but nothing specific other than his lack of major league experience has come to light.

I’m still wary about Backman because of the experience factor, believing there are others that bring more immediately to the table.

2) COLLINS THE FRONTRUNNER: I don’t see how anybody can come to the conclusion Terry Collins is the frontrunner without all the interviews being conducted. The Mets do like Collins in his current role working with the minor leagues and could prefer him to stay in that role. Don’t forget, if Collins is reassigned then the Mets will need somebody else for the minor league job.

3) TAKAHASHI GONE: The Mets did not bring back reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The difference in gap  isn’t $1 million as people have suggested, but closer to $10 million if what has been reported is close. At 36, three years is a long time to give to a reliever with only one year in the major leagues.

4) CHARLIE SAMUELS: What was he thinking? The gifts Samuels received from the players is irrelevant. It’s the position he had and the betrayal factor. How much he bet on baseball, or if he bet on the Mets, is uncertain. The argument if he bet on baseball it would be OK if he wagered on the Mets doesn’t make it because of the message it sends if he didn’t bet on the Mets. Why?

I’ve always liked Charlie, but investigations like this don’t happen if there isn’t some degree of truth to the claims.

Too bad.

Nov 05

Tonight is deadline for Takahashi

The Mets have until midnight tonight to sign Hisanori Takahashi or lose the right to negotiate with the left-hander until May 15, which would be moot because he’d be gone by then.

If reports are true, that Takahashi wants a three-year deal at $4.5 million a season, then it is a sure bet the Mets will let him walk. The Mets want to offer a one-year contract with an option with a total value of $3 million.

So, the difference between what the total Takahashi wants (at least $13.5 million) and what the Mets want to give ($3 million) is $10.5 million. Despite how versatile and productive Takahashi was for the Mets last season, considering the potential dollars he wants and his age at 36, I can’t see the Mets bringing him back.

Nov 04

Time for Reyes to put up.

As expected, the Mets picked up the $11 million option for Jose Reyes for 2011 and left open the possibility of a long term extension.

REYES: Time to put up.

Those talks won’t happen soon.

When the Mets signed Reyes to a multi-year deal in 2006, he was on the verge of stardom and being a special player. The injuries that plagued him early in career were seemingly behind him, he was an All-Star and regarded as one of the top leadoff hitters in the game. There seemed to be no ceiling to his potential and the Mets rewarded him for they thought he might provide.

But, he hasn’t lived up to those expectations. He hasn’t provided.

Reyes missed most of the 2009 season with hamstring injuries, and was sidelined this spring with a thyroid issue causing justifiable concerns about his durability. For several weeks this past summer Reyes was at the top of his game, but then came the oblique problems and the season faded away for both the Mets and their shortstop.

Now it’s time to talk money.

Based on what he gave the Mets the past two seasons, would you sign Reyes to a long-term deal now?

Alderson’s thinking is to keep Reyes for 2011 to see where he is in his career, then make a decision for the future beginning for 2012 when he has more money. Reyes must prove  he’s healthy and the player the Mets have long envisioned. He needs to improve his on-base percentage, start being a threat on the bases again – where is the guy who stole over 60 bases? – and sharpen a focus that still wanders.

All that talk about Reyes becoming a gamebreaker, a force, an elite player … well, Alderson is waiting for it to happen this summer. Reyes must prove to the Mets he finally is that player if he’s to get the extension he wants.

If he doesn’t, then this time next year the Mets could be letting him walk.

Nov 03

What will be the “Mets Way?”

Sandy Alderson’s first hire is former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi as his special assistant, with presumably one of his responsibilities to help implement a “Mets Way,” throughout the organization, beginning with the lower levels of the minor league system.

Considering the dimensions of Citi Field, presumably an organizational philosophy will place an emphasis on pitching and defense first, followed by situational hitting, and down on the list power.

As the Giants proved, power is not essential to win, and the Mets have enough to get by with David Wright, Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran (presuming all are healthy, each has 30 homer potential) followed by Ike Davis.

It must begin with pitching, with the first step pounding the strikezone and getting ahead of the hitters. Hopefully, it will include instilling the mindset of working deep into games. When Mike Pelfrey was winning in June he worked fast, efficiently and kept the ball down. When he struggled in July he was the opposite and lost confidence.

The Mets have some talented arms below and I’d like the organization to keep them and not rush their progression. Let them develop a variety of pitches and not be reliant on just one pitch. The prime example is Mike Pelfrey, who gradually developed his secondary pitches, and Jenrry Mejia, who still has a way to go.

If the Mets are able to harness arms and pitch to contact, they should then let the defense take care of them. The Mets still gave away far too many outs, and this must be addressed in spring training. There were still instances of overthrowing the cutoff man and not knowing ahead of time of what to do with the ball.

Defensively, there must be more of a concentration on fundamentals, and this also pertains to the offense, where at times it was glaring as emphasized with the amount of strikeouts.

Offensively, way too many at-bats were given away because the hitter lacked patience and didn’t have a mastery of the strikezone. On-base percentage is a statistic that could be improved by nearly every hitter on the team, including Jose Reyes and Wright.

When the team was winning in June Reyes and Wright were on their games, which meant forcing the play and using the whole field. When they hit the skids in July, their situational hitting as a team was non existent.

Wright, Davis and Bay must reduce their strikeouts, which would automatically increase the on-base percentage and lead to more productive outs.

Power is baseball’s great eraser and always has been. The three-run homer can overcome a lot of things. However, being consistent fundamentally applies continuous pressure on the opposition and that’s the way to go.

I want players who’ll force the action, who know how to take the extra base, who’ll make the correct decisions and not take plays off. I want to see a hustle that was absent at times. We saw Angel Pagan have a horrific season fundamentally in 2009, but he greatly improved last year so it can be done.

I want pitchers who’ll throw strikes and not beat themselves with walks. I want pitchers who’ll go after hitters, and not lose concentration after an error, bad umpire’s call or poor pitch.

This must be emphasized on the major league level, with consequences when it is not. It must also be taught and drilled in the minor leagues.

It’s not an overnight process, but if strongly implemented we should see results the first year.

The Mets’ Way should be to play smart, aggressive, fundamental and relentless ball. It shouldn’t be a novelty when a player advances a runner, hits the cutoff man or doesn’t get lazy in the strikezone with a pitch when he falls behind in the count.

It should be an all time thing.

Let’s face it, the Mets don’t have a rotation like that in San Francisco. They don’t have the power or the ability to buy their way out of trouble like the Yankees.

The Mets have talent, but to win they must out hustle and out work their opposition.