Jul 15

Tonight’s lineup at Giants; no Reyes.

MANUEL: Playing Russian Roulette with Reyes.

First Jose Reyes was in the lineup, and then he wasn’t. He still can’t hit left-handed. However, with Barry Zito going tomorrow, they are hoping Reyes will be able to play.

In a word: Stupid.

Jerry Manuel has butchered this decision unbelievably. How is it hard to figure that if he’s not good enough to bat left-handed then he’s not 100 percent.

They were lucky Reyes wasn’t seriously re-injured Sunday instead of merely aggravating the oblique. This whole scenario is absurd. They should stop listening to Reyes and say he won’t play until he’s ready. This can’t go on any longer.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Angel Pagan, RF

Alex Cora, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Carlos Beltran, CF

Ike Davis, 1B

Jason Bay, LF

Josh Thole, C

Ruben Tejada, SS

RA Dickey, RP

Jul 15

Second-half opens with questions.

The Mets open the second half of what has been a surprising season tonight in San Francisco a team with confidence and resiliency – just four games behind Atlanta despite several questions.

Many of those questions were only partially addressed and remain to the point where they are issues.

Here’s the top five questions for the Mets entering the second half:

BELTRAN: Back tonight, but at what percent?

1. QUESTION: How healthy is this team?

ASSESSMENT: The Mets will get Carlos Beltran back tonight, but don’t know how he’ll respond to a heavy workload. For now the plan is to juggle playing time between Beltran, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur, with the latter’s time reduced the most. Beltran returns to center and the clean-up, but don’t expect him to immediately be in All-Star form.

Another pressing issue, or at least it’s turning out that way, is Jose Reyes, who strained his right oblique muscle, June 30. Reyes sat out a handful of games before the Mets foolishly let him return only to bat right-handed, even against righty pitchers. Had Reyes been placed on the disabled list originally, or continued to sit until he was 100 percent, he might be fine today.

Instead, Reyes is still ailing and considered day-to-day. The Mets are still toying with him batting right-handed exclusively and not waiting until he’s 100 percent. Reyes aggravated the injury and the Mets are pushing their luck.

Also, Mike Pelfrey, after a string of non-descript to poor starts, says he might have a dead arm, although not an injury it is physical related.

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Jul 14

Reyes a question as second half opens.

REYES: Needs to come back only when he's ready.

The second half begins with Jose Reyes’ strained oblique a pertinent question, and all because the Mets foolishly tried to rush him back into the lineup.

After treating his thyroid issue with kid gloves, Jerry Manuel did the opposite with Reyes, letting him bat right-handed against righty pitching.

Reyes still can’t bat left-handed with confidence and the Mets should dismiss any thoughts of him playing tomorrow night at San Francisco.

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Jul 13

Steinbrenner passes; his legacy endures.

“It was a beautiful thing to observe, all 36 oars working in unison.’’ – late Cardinals announcer Jack Buck quipping he had seen George Steinbrenner’s yacht.

It is a timeless quote about a timeless subject, George M. Steinbrenner, the demonstrative, cantankerous and blustery owner of the New York Yankees, who died today of a heart attack at age 80.

STEINBRENNER: Always King George

Buck’s comment has long been the perception of Steinbrenner by the public through screaming headlines and video and audio sound bites. The man was positively driven to win and it didn’t matter the cost in dollars or whom he stepped on. The Yankees would throw millions at players, and if they didn’t win Steinbrenner was ruthless in his handling of his managers and front office staff.

It was that way from the day he purchased the Yankees in 1973 for less than $10 million from CBS and said: “I won’t be active in the day-to-day operation of the Yankees. I’ll stick to building ships.’’

What he did was rebuilt the dynasty – twice.

By the time I started covering the Yankees in 1998, Steinbrenner’s legacy was well cemented in that he revived a struggling team and turned professional sports’ most revered franchise to a billion dollar empire.

The Yankees Brand is world-renowned and that is Steinbrenner’s legacy on the grand scale, but for me I’ll remember him like most beat reporters for the exhilarating paces he put us through.

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Jul 12

Update on first-half questions.

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into the season. Let’s revisit those questions at the All-Star break.

1) Question: What is this team’s attitude?

Assessment: By all accounts, it has been superb. There is a different chemistry in the Mets clubhouse than I have previously seen. The Mets have shown a remarkable resiliency to bounce back from adversity and Sunday’s win is just another example. There have been no issues about a lack of hustle, and no finger pointing. Both Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan said the right things about the prospect of reduced playing time as Carlos Beltran is about to be activated from the disabled list. The only sour note was, surprise, Oliver Perez’s refusal to accept a minor league assignment, instead, waiting for the disabled list to leave the roster to work on his issues.

2) Question: How healthy is this team?

Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and injuries have cost Beltran and Daniel Murphy in the first half, and Jose Reyes for nearly a month. Beltran is due back to start the second half, but there’s no timetable for the return of Murphy, who reinjured his knee while on a rehab assignment. Murphy was playing second base at the time in preparation for a position change. After treating Reyes with kid gloves in the wake of his thyroid issue, the Mets rushed him back from an oblique injury, which he aggravated Saturday. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out. Luis Castillo is on the disabled list and his is another injury where the Mets tried to have him play through. Fortunately, his replacement, Ruben Tejada, has been more than filled the void. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, is out for the year with a shoulder injury. The Mets are still trying to find an eighth-inning solution. Oliver Perez and John Maine are currently on the disabled list.

3) Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?

Assessment: Pelfrey made a point of saying he understood this trio represented a significant key to the Mets’ success this season. Perez and Maine are on the disabled list, but the team upgraded with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi. Pelfrey was superb for much of the first half but has been going through a dead arm period and has been largely ineffective over his last five starts. Perez balked at a minor league assignment, but an injury was found that conveniently landed him on the disabled list. He has been sound, and somewhat effective, in his rehab assignment. Look for the Mets to activate him shortly after the break and send Takahashi back to the bullpen. There’s no timetable for Maine’s return.

4) Question: Who is fifth starter?

Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi were in the mix in the spring, but Niese won the job and has been very good since coming off the disabled list. Niese has been so good that management tabbed him untouchable when Seattle asked for him in trade discussions surrounding Cliff Lee. Figueroa is now in Philadelphia, while Nieve is in the bullpen. Takahashi replaced Perez in the rotation and pitched well at first, but clearly showed he’s more valuable in the bullpen. The Mets are searching for a fifth starter in the trade market, as there are lingering questions about Perez and Maine.

5) Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

Assessment: Jenrry Mejia went north in the pen in an undefined role, but eventually went to the minor leagues to work on being a starter, when he was injured. Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia, who threw hard, but never grasped the eighth-inning role. Bobby Parnell, who appeared to wash you last year, now appears to be the arm having the inside track in the eighth inning to start the second half. Ryota Igarashi was the guy at one time, but pulled a hamstring and hasn’t been the same since. He’s now in the minor leagues. Nieve and Pedro Feliciano were over worked early, and still have heavy workloads. The distribution of work should be improved when Takahashi goes back to the bullpen.