Apr 14

April 14.10: About Last Night; Maine in trouble.

I don’t know if last night was John Maine’s worst game as a Met, but it sure could have been. It definitely was as complete a loss as the Mets have endured in recent seasons.

* Maine gave up eight runs on seven hits and three walks in three innings. His ERA is 13.50 and his spot in the rotation is now under question.

* Met hitters were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, effectively eliminating any chance at making a game of it last night.

* Met pitchers walked nine and their hitters struck out 11 times.

Jerry Manuel talked about a 20-game window to determine what is a fast start. At 2-5, and a miserable 2-5, maybe they are already there. Maine, hammered in both starts, is not only off to a bad start, but he’s in trouble.

“When you have that much traffic in that few innings you have to be concerned,’’ Manuel said. “He got the two outs and couldn’t put them away. You have to have some concern.’’

Maine broke 90 mph. a few times but was consistently in the high 80s. Manuel doesn’t think there’s a health problem.

“This is a performance business,’’ Manuel said. “We don’t think there are any health issues.’’

Perhaps Maine isn’t hurting, but he’s also not strong enough to be throwing that way. In the past he’s been able to get by with poor location with his velocity, getting a foul tip instead of a double in the gap.

Manuel said that’s part of the problem and he’ll have “dialogue’’ with his coaches about Maine’s spot in the rotation.

Last night was a continuation of a trend of falling behind early. Save Johan Santana’s first start, the Mets have consistently fallen behind in their games, putting pressure on their listless offense. And, right now the Mets aren’t hitting well to compensate for their pitching.

“We wanted to pitch well,’’ Manuel said. “That’s the key to everything.’’

Right now, the Mets are thinking what’s wrong with Maine and what to do about it. If it is simply a matter of building up his arm, then sending him out has to be considered. A MRI to be sure about the structure of his elbow must also be evaluated.

Currently, Maine is not getting it done. But, unlike the coin flips known as Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey, he’s not showing any upside.

Ah, what the hell. I’m not going to wait for 20 games. This is a bad start.

NOTE: Vote in the new poll concerning what should be done about John Maine.


Apr 13

April 13.10: Chat Room, Game #7 at Rockies: Maine needs a big night.

With the 2-4 Mets six games into the 20-game plateau manager Jerry Manuel defined as fair to evaluate the start of the season, the team begins its first road trip to Colorado and St. Louis, perhaps two of the more unfriendly venues for visitors.

After losing two each to the Marlins and Nationals – teams they should handle at home at least – the mood of the Mets isn’t panic as much as it is urgency.

There have been three bad starts by the rotation, a trend that would wear down the bullpen eventually, and no hitting with runners in scoring position.

“It’s six games,’’ said outfielder Jeff Francoeur. “With that being said, we’d better get it going quick, because we’ve got some teams coming up that are really, really good.’’

Manuel ripped his team for being unprepared – for which he assumed responsibility – and others wondered about the intensity level.

If the Mets are going to get it started, they’ll have to do it tonight behind John Maine, he of the 7.20 ERA and slow fastball.

Maine has lost some of the velocity, and worse, some of the movement off his fastball, a byproduct of shoulder problems. He says he’s fine, but he still needs to build up strength.

“We’ll continue to hope for that,’’ Manuel said of Maine building up his shoulder strength. “He’s healthy and I don’t see why, being free from setbacks and those types of things, we won’t see that at some point.’’

Maine is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in three starts versus the Rockies, so there’s some reason for optimism.

NOTE: I am taking classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights for the next few months, and won’t be around for the start of the game. With the game at 8:40 p.m., I’m expecting to be back by nine, so I might miss the first inning or two.

Apr 13

April 13.10: Line-up and notes; Reyes still leading off.

Good for Jerry Manuel not to tinker with his struggling line-up by dropping Jose Reyes to the three hole. At least let Reyes get into some kind of groove before doing anything.

Personally, I still want Reyes leading off where he can do the most good. Better to leave Reyes where he is. Let’s look at it this way. If Reyes doesn’t bat third they still have a good option in David Wright. But, if Reyes doesn’t bat first, where do they go?

Why create a problem in the leadoff slot if you don’t have to?

Here’s tonight’s line-up for the Mets (2-4):

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Angel Pagan, CF
John Maine, RP

NOTES: Lefties Johan Santana and Oliver Perez will stay on schedule, meaning the latter won’t be skipped to keep the former at every fifth day. … Jon Niese goes tomorrow followed by Mike Pelfrey Thursday against the Rockies. … Carlos Delgado, who is rehabbing from hip surgery in Colorado, visited the clubhouse this afternoon. … Many of the Mets, who are hitting .245 as a team and .189 with runners in scoring position, took early batting practice. … As a bonding exercise, most of the team took in the Nuggets game Monday night.

NOTE FROM ME: For the next few months I am taking a night class. I will be in the Chat Room tonight, but won’t get there until nine. So, you’ll have to do the first inning without me. Thanks-JD

Apr 13

April 13.10: A troubled team heads on the road.

It wasn’t too long ago that it was March and the Mets were telling everybody who was asking that spring training records and statistics mean nothing.

Well, the games and numbers count now, and the Mets are 2-4, losing consecutive series to the Marlins and Nationals, teams they should at least be beating at home.

Pitching will decide this season and already the winter concerns resurfaced during the first week. Mike Pelfrey pitched better, but he’s had moments like that before and then regressed. For Pelfrey to be lit up in his next start, Thursday night in Colorado, wouldn’t be a surprise.

John Maine did not pitch well in his first start and neither did Oliver Perez. While Maine goes tonight against the Rockies, look for the Mets to skip Perez to keep Johan Santana on regular rest.

Jon Niese was strong in his start, but still lost – primarily because the offense is still in Port St. Lucie – and Santana has had both a good and bad outing.

The pitching has not been good with an average of just under five a game. Everybody has been wild and no starter has made it past the sixth inning, and everybody save Pelfrey has an ERA over 4.50.

Is there help on the horizon? Nope, and let’s not even think about trading for Cincinnati’s Aaron Harang, who is due $25 million over the next two years. Despite the talk on the call-in shows, Bronson Arroyo is not available.

Let’s face it, any pitcher of substance would, 1) be not be offered, and 2) if he were would cost a lot in prospects.

Help, quality help, isn’t coming. These guys have to pick it up for themselves.

If they don’t the bullpen will be quick to fall.

Without the bullpen, the Mets are 1-5 and there would be more wailing than wondering. Even so, a trend of recent seasons has returned, and that is an over reliance on the pen. At this rate, before you know it, the innings will have piled up and we’ll be talking about the holes in the bullpen.

Fernando Nieve has the hot arm and he’s been in four of six games already. With how Jerry Manuel has used the pen before, it won’t be long before Nieve is burned out.

Some of the pitching problems would be offset if the team was hitting, but it is third worst in the National League at .245, and .189 with runners in scoring position.

All of the losses can be traced to their inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

It’s too early to panic, but not too early to recognize a trend and how the Mets aren’t headed on a good path.

And, that path takes them into Colorado and St. Louis this week, two of the more difficult venues to play in the National League. Those aren’t places where a team gets well.

Apr 12

April 12.10: What to make of the first week?

To be sure six games is too small a sampling to get a definitive feel about the Mets. However, it isn’t too small to quash some first impressions.

Among them:

1) The preseason concerns on John Maine. As has been the case with Maine, he throws far too many pitches and labors with his command. He gets his second start tomorrow in Colorado, a place where it is not easy to pitch. Maine is No. 2 in the rotation currently and insists his shoulder is fine. OK, but his velocity is down and control is off. Not good and there have been little signs of turning it around.

2) Oliver Perez is Oliver Perez, which is to say he’s an enigma. Through his first five innings Saturday he threw 12-24-12-24-12 pitches. He walked four or which two of the runners scored. Perez will live and die with his command. When he worked quickly his control was good, but get a runner or two on base and he takes forever and his ball can go anywhere. Perez is not the pitcher you bet on.

3) The offense is as spotty as it was last year. Hitting with runners in scoring position seems to be a foreign concept. It’s not too many games in which they’ll hit four homers.

4) Mike Jacobs is Mike Jacobs. He’s always been a streaky hitter and so far he’s gotten off to a slow start. Maybe the homer Sunday will get him on track. Colorado is often a good place for a hitter, or an offense, to get hot.

5) Until David Wright hits the inside pitch he’s going to be pounded inside and handcuffed. When Wright is on he drives the ball the opposite way, but he’s not getting many pitches on the outside half of the plate. He needs to pull a few to keep the hitters honest.

6) The bullpen will be a key. So far it has been outstanding, and perhaps the biggest reason why these games have been competitive. Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano are in competition for the eighth inning role. If the bullpen can maintain the Mets will be all right. However, it can’t keep throwing three innings a game. That will add up before you know it.

7) I’m not worried about Jason Bay. No homers so far, but he’s making contact and I love his hustle. He’ll be fine.