Feb 22

For Beltran, his best move is to right

When Carlos Beltran said at the start of camp he might need a little extra time to see if his arthritic right knee will adjust to the riggers of playing center field – saying he doesn’t want to be “embarrassed,” – he might as well have said the move to right field  should be made sooner rather than later.

BELTRAN: Should make the move now.

I’ve been saying a healthy Beltran playing center could be easier to move at the trade deadline because of his contract, and while that might be true, him playing right field might be in the best interest of future contract. The move to a corner outfield spot will happen eventually, and with Beltran being a free agent after the season, his ability to show he can adjust now will only enhance his chances of landing another multi-year contract.

With the Mets undoubtedly not bringing him back, this year will be an audition for Beltran to prove he can stay healthy and be productive. At 34, any team considering Beltran would need to know if he can play the corner spot, so this year is an opportunity for him to get that question out of the way.

Right field will decrease the wear on his legs, which should help increase his offensive production, and that’s what any team will be looking from Beltran at this stage of his career.

Beltran’s pride might deter him from wanting to move positions, but there will be an even greater hit to his ego – and perhaps his bank account – if he tries and fails. From agent Scott Boras’ perspective, playing right field would prove to be a good business decision.

Feb 21

Collins addresses his team with a basic message

The boys are back in town and manager Terry Collins will have his first team meeting this morning. What’s he gonna say? What can he say?

This is a team with low expectations. This is a team with a myriad of issues and a bleak economic forecast to correct those concerns.

The message isn’t, “do your job and you’ll stay here,” because nobody is assured of anything.

With so much turmoil and uncertainty surrounding these Mets, the message must be, “do your job, play fundamentally sound baseball and hustle, and just be a professional and somebody will want you.”

It can’t be much more than that because this is a team that can’t promise anything, else.

It’s a team where the players’ first goal must be professional survival.

Feb 18

What’s the message from these Mets?

Technically, position players don’t have to be in camp until Saturday, but one would think – and hope – several of the question marks would have bothered to show up early. If David Wright, Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan can do it, so can every body else that doesn’t have a personal issue or visa problem.

In particular, Castillo was annoyed this morning when it came to Luis Castillo, the often-maligned second baseman who ranks highly on Mets’ fans enemies list. Castillo, who is to be paid $6 million for his mediocre production, is still in the Dominican Republic. Manager Terry Collins said it would have sent a symbolic message to the organization had Castillo been in camp earlier.

The same applies to Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay, both who missed a considerable amount of last season to injuries.

Beltran is coming off a knee injury and could be moved to right field. This is his walk year and the Mets will try to move  him by the All-Star break. Both, for his contract and for what he might bring in a trade, it is imperative he gets off to a strong. One or two days shouldn’t make a difference, but with the Mets this year it is all about appearances.

As for Bay, he was having a lousy year before he was sidelined with a concussion. So far, he’s done nothing to justify his $66 million contract. Would it have killed him to show up early?

Wright and Reyes are the leaders of this team and they’ve been here. The others are question marks and will wait until they absolutely have to.

So much for initiative.

Feb 17

Fred declares innocence; K-Rod wants fresh start.

Yesterday it was Jeff Wilpon’s spin on the Mets’ legal issues. Today it was father Fred Wilpon.

WILPONS: Telling their side.

The message was basically the same:  They were duped, insists Fred Wilpon. The father said he invested millions with Bernie Madoff shortly before the Ponzi scheme unraveled. His argument does make sense: Why would he throw good money after bad if he knew Madoff was scamming him?

It’s a reasonable defense, but only the legal process will decide if it holds water. Both Wilpons said the payroll will be around $140 million, which is what it was last season. They also stressed GM Sandy Alderson wants more payroll flexibility, which is to say there will be no big signings or trades at the All-Star break. Contracts might go, but they won’t come.

With all that’s swirling around the Mets these days, it was good to see the Wilpons show up and not go into hiding. There’s nothing that screams guilt like hiding.

As for Francisco Rodriguez. He said all the right things about anger management, wanting to apologize to his teammates, and needing to turn his life and career around. For his part, manager Terry Collins said Rodriguez’s appearances to finish 55 games aren’t an issue and haven’t been discussed.

I know Rodriguez has to say those things, but who really knows what’s in his heart? Ditto for Collins.

The Mets can’t come out and say they will limit Rodriguez’s contract as it would raise ire with the Players Association and send a clear signal to the fans the team doesn’t want to compete.

It will be interesting to see what will happen if the Mets amazingly are competitive this season and are in the race deep into September. If there is a slight chance of making the playoffs, how can they limit Rodriguez.

Even so, smart money says the Mets will closely monitor Rodriguez to close save siutations. There will hold him back whenever they can to avoid the $17.5 million option from kicking in. This option is in his contract and makes him nearly impossible to trade, so don’t expect him leaving in July.

I know Carlos Beltran is going and the team doesn’t want to bring back Rodriguez. The Mets will do everything they can to unload Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. None of that is surprising and shows their financial concerns.

To me, the one issue that dictates financial fear is Jose Reyes. If Reyes has a good year and they don’t bring him back it will raise the red flag. However, if Reyes has a poor season, it would be his third straight down year and they can’t be faulted for being conservative.

Feb 16

Don’t get excited about ownership news

Bernie Madoff’s confession that the Wilpons “knew nothing,” about his Ponzi scheme coupled with the news Fred Wilpon talking with Donald Trump about purchasing a portion of the Mets makes for interesting copy, but don’t put too much stock into it turning the franchise around.

Translation: Still no big spending.

Madoff is in jail for fraud, lying and stealing so what is his word worth anyway? Madoff’s confession certainly won’t get the lawyers off the Wilpon’s back so the lawsuit will go on as planned.

As for Trump, well, his money would indeed help and he’s indicated a willingness to help the Wilpons. However, his reputation is not for playing second string so I don’t see him, or any other investor for that matter, spending millions and not getting a say in the way things are handled. That’s just not his style.

It is also not the Wilpons’ style to give up control. Today in Port St. Lucie, Jeff Wilpon insisted to reporters that controlling interest in the team is not for sale.

“We’re not selling controlling interest in the team. It’s not on the table,” said.

Perhaps more importantly, Major League Baseball won’t allow Trump to invest in any percentage of the team as long as he owns casinos. MLB has hard rules on gambling and there will be no allowing him to own part of a team if he’s connected with gambling. At one time, MLB banned both Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays from baseball while they were employed after their careers at casinos.