Oct 03

Immediate Mets’ issues

There’s a sentiment the Mets over achieved this year, but that is more a case of lessened expectations. While their desired off-season budget will preclude much activity toward improvement, that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues needing to be addressed:

DECIDE ON JOSE REYES: Actually, they already have, but aren’t ready to reveal the numbers. For public relations purposes, the Mets don’t want to appear to be pushing Reyes out the door, but it is clear he is the first domino and every thing they do revolves around him. What the Mets can’t afford to do is get strung out dealing with Reyes ultimately to have him go elsewhere and have their other options get snapped up. From the direction they take on Reyes you’ll ascertain where the Mets are immediately headed. Should they determine they can live without Reyes – or need to live without him – they will be saying there’s considerably more rebuilding to be done. Bringing him back says they believe they are ready to compete, but it makes no sense to do so if they aren’t willing to spend in other areas.

THE COACHING STAFF: With manager Terry Collins’ contract extended, there’s the matter of his staff. Once again, pitching coach Dan Warthen’s future is suspect. Last year, Mike Pelfrey lobbied hard to retain Warthen, but considering his anemic performance, he won’t carry much weight this time around.

ADD TO THE ROTATION: Pelfrey regressed and surprise Dillon Gee was the only starter with a record over .500; four of the five had ERA’s of 4.40 or higher; and the staff had a composite 1.378 WHIP.  Jonathan Niese and Johan Santana have injury issues, and since there are no assurances, the Mets have little alternative but to bring back Pelfrey and Chris Capuano. There are some good names on the free agent market, notably C.J. Wilson, Rich Harden and Mark Buehrle, but they aren’t going to spend much, especially if they bring back Reyes. The Mets will likely fish from the pool where guys like Joel Pineiro, Jason Marquis and Freddy Garcia swim.

FIX THE BULLPEN: The Mets used 16 arms this summer and enter the offseason with a zero reliability factor in the pen. They’d like to see Bobby Parnell win the closer job, but he allowed 89 base runners in 59.1 innings pitched. That he strikes out over one batter an inning means he has the stuff, but his command of it is erratic.

ANGEL PAGAN: Pagan took a step back, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Mets don’t tender him a contract.  There are decent stopgap options in the outfield, such as Rick Ankiel, Nate McLouth and Ryan Ludwick, but again, I don’t see the Mets going in that direction. It would be good if they could plug in Fernando Martinez, but his injury history makes him unreliable.

SECOND BASE: Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips is the best available, but wants a lot and the Mets won’t  go there, especially if they bring back Reyes, because what would they do with Ruben Tejada? If Reyes goes, they could go with Tejada and Justin Turner as their double play combination.

If you’re getting the impression most of the Mets off-season tinkering will come from within and be of the middle-tier cost variety, you’re right. Sandy Alderson is already on record saying he sees a budget of around $110 million, which is $30 million less than this summer.

Figure with much of that $30 million differential was in the person of Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo, then it isn’t hard to reason next summer won’t be much different than this one.


Oct 02

Bay not going anywhere.

In ticking off the Mets’ priorities for the offseason, getting rid of Jason Bay isn’t on the list, regardless of how much they’d like to shed the balance of his $66 million contract.

BAY: He's staying.

It’s amusing to hear those who said the Mets should trade, or even release the high-priced and low-achieving left fielder.

After two non-productive seasons and $16 million due him each of the next two years – plus a $17 million option or a $3 million buyout – just who is lining up to trade for him?

And, considering how the Mets do business, you know they aren’t going to eat $35 million. Bay is here for the duration.

Whether it was trying to make a splash in the first year of Citi Field, or yielding to public opinion to add more power, the Mets clearly made the wrong decision with Bay.

And, it’s not second guessing either, because they knew Citi Field’s dimensions and their stated objective was to build with pitching, defense and speed. Bay has played better defense than expected, but he’s still not the player to take the Mets to the next level.

The Mets are now considering altering Citi Field’s dimensions to better accommodate Bay and David Wright. No doubt, their intent is to try to salvage something out of Bay’s contract because he isn’t going anywhere.

Much like it was with Oliver Perez, the Mets are saddled with a bad contract and hoping for the best. The only value Bay has to the Mets is the hope he pulls it together.

Not exactly a position of strength.

 

Sep 30

Don’t expect much this winter.

Sandy Alderson said not to expect the Mets to spend much for than $5 million last winter and he held true to his word, and still they paid out $147 million in salaries this summer. He just said the payroll will probably not be much more than $120 million next year, and that’s after taking Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo off the books and not picking up the option on Carlos Beltran.

Alderson said there’s money to re-sign Jose Reyes, but strongly suggested the Mets won’t be able to do much more than him, and this is a team with a multitude of holes, most of them pitching.

The free-agent market has several marquee names, but outside of Reyes, they won’t be big players, and current indications the Mets won’t bust a gut on their shortstop. They’ll make an offer that won’t be accepted, Reyes won’t give the Mets a hometeam discount and he’ll be gone.

There’s also a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to be negotiated, and don’t expect any big spending before then. There are a lot of pending issues and unique financial circumstances surrounding this team.

I’ve been following the Mets long enough to realize nothing with them ever gets done easily and this winter won’t be an exception.

Sep 29

Beautiful history … and Reyes.

It was stunning to see the Red Sox and Braves collapse over the past month, then finally crumble last night. We witnessed two of the great finishes in history, and the nature of it reminded us again of baseball’s magical power and hold on us.

It told us again a game and season are never over until the mathematics dictate it to be true. The winters will be long in Boston – which they are used to by now – and in Atlanta. Both teams seemed givens a month ago, only to turn around and give it away.

Maybe, there will be a new curse in Boston.

A pennant race is the best baseball has to offer, and heading into September there seemed no suspense, not much to make us curious. But, as it has for generations, the sport inexplicably grabbed us by the scruff of the neck and shook us awake.

It made us scramble in the morning to find the scores, to force us to take a peak at the television in bars and restaurants, to ask a stranger if he knew what happened. I was in a restaurant last night that was pro-Boston. It was raucous early in the evening, but a deathly Buckner-like quiet at closing time.

As ugly as it was in Boston and Atlanta, it was beautiful to see in St. Petersburg and St. Louis, and magical throughout the rest of the country. It was truly something historic and made us realize nothing should be taken for granted.

As I thought about the grand scale, I recalled  of how earlier in the day Jose Reyes took his place in baseball history for granted. He got his hit, a bunt hit, then decided to pack it in. He figured the odds were in his favor, Ryan Braun wouldn’t catch him and he’d have is own secure spot in history.

He figured right, but didn’t count on how he’d be remembered. For those of us who follow the Mets, he is the franchise’s first batting champion. But, he backed in. One of the great stories in baseball lore is how Ted Williams refused to sit on his average and insisted on playing both games of a doubleheader in 1941, went six-for-eight and finished at .406.

Williams’ .406 is one of baseball’s magical numbers and we’ll forever remember him. But, there’s nothing magical, or special, about Reyes or his .335. He’s somebody history will forget, and fittingly, take for granted.

The Mets finally have a batting champion, but he’s no champ.

Sep 28

Thanks Joe; Sorry Jose.

First, I’d like to thank Joe D. for his earlier posting this afternoon. Joe and I will be working more and more in the future, adding to each other’s blogs. I’m very happy to be affiliated with him and hope he feels the same.

REYES: Shortchanged everybody today.

We’re working on a lot of things and hope you enjoy them over the coming weeks as the offseason progresses.

The offseason’s biggest issue will be the decision to re-sign Jose Reyes.

The Mets won their season finale, but even should he hold on to win the batting title tonight over Ryan Braun, as far as I’m concerned he’s a loser in my book. To pull himself after one at-bat, and a bunt single no less, was bush.

Ted Williams did it the right way when he became the last player to hit over .400. Reyes was merely protecting a .335 average. Big deal. He should have done it the right way and played the whole game, if for no other reason, then reward the fans who have been cheering him all these years.

Sorry, I can’t feel good for Reyes and how he handled things. And, he certainly didn’t do anything to garner respect around the league and among his fans. His teammates didn’t say anything, then again, did you expect them, too?

Real weak, Jose. Real weak, Jose. I thought you were classier than that.