May 15

Thoughts On Terry Collins Blasting the Fans

COLLINS: Lashes at fans.

COLLINS LASHES AT FANS OVER VALDESPIN ISSUE

Terry Collins did what no manager should do, especially one with a career losing record likely to be made a scapegoat for what figures to be the Mets’ fifth consecutive losing season.

Collins, who has been erratic and puzzling on several issues this season, took on the exceedingly frustrated Mets’ fan base Tuesday night, basically calling them clueless and he didn’t care for their perception of his team, which is rapidly falling out of relevance before June.

Not surprisingly, the catalyst for Collins’ anger was the lingering Jordany Valdespin issue. Neither Collins nor general manager Sandy Alderson has been able to get through to Valdespin, and both handled his self-glorifying home run and subsequent beaning poorly.

If the Mets were winning, it would have gone away. Because they are not and in the midst of a stretch that could blow up their season, Valdespin is an issue.

After Valdespin’s homer last Friday in a blowout loss, Collins alluded to the possibility of the temperamental outfielder getting beaned as payback. Collins spoke of baseball’s unwritten code, and how Valdespin’s attitude is the norm and he couldn’t do anything about it.

Basically, he left it up to the Pirates teach his player a lesson, when what he should have done was rip Valdespin’s actions. Collins could have also told Pirates manager Clint Hurdle he would handle Valdespin.

By not doing so, Collins invited the Pirates to throw at his player. After the plunking, Collins pretty much said, “that’s baseball,’’ and Alderson took the same milquetoast approach.

No Met approached Valdespin after his dugout temper tantrum, and only David Wright offered any verbal support. The perception is the Mets don’t have Valdespin’s back, and several nameless quotes say he is universally scorned in the clubhouse.

Collins was asked whether Valdespin is on an island and told reporters in St. Louis: “I don’t answer to fans. They don’t play this game. They have no idea what goes on. They have no idea what goes on in there.

“They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level. … I’ll tell you one thing: Jordany knew they were going to throw at him. He knew it. And you’ve got to go take your medicine. That’s part of being a big guy in this league.’’

If Valdespin knew he would get hit – and his reaction suggests he might be oblivious to the baseball code – then why would he put his player in that position?

Telling Hurdle he would handle things might have prevented the rib-banging pitch.

There are varying perceptions of the incident brought on by how Collins and Alderson handled things. Shipping Valdespin’s butt out the next day would have sent a strong message to the Pirates as well as his clubhouse his hot-dogging would not be tolerated.

The perception of that would have been clear and decisive. If nothing else, it would have shown Collins and his front office were in sync.

Instead, Collins put himself in position to handle another question of which its answer could grease the skids on his exit.

“I don’t care what the perception is,’’ Collins said. “All I know is what goes on here. I’ve been doing this for 42 years. I don’t care what anybody on the outside thinks.

“I know how to get it done in the clubhouse. I’ve been doing it a lot longer than a lot of people. He’s fine. He handled it great, I thought, the way he went about it. He went to first base. He didn’t throw his bat any place. … He did it the right way. And now it’s over. Now we move on.’’

Easier said than done, because Valdespin did not handle it the right way. No, he didn’t throw his bat or charge the mound, but he did slam his helmet, which prevents moving on.

Collins then went on to make excuses for Valdespin, saying he had a tough background. He also said Valdespin has to be careful not to alienate his teammates, which might already be the case.

One day, Collins spoke of baseball’s code and another made excuses for his polarizing player. You can’t help but wonder how Valdespin’s teammates might be annoyed by that defense.

Valdespin was not in the lineup Tuesday, and for a team struggling for offense, the perception is clear he’s on the outs. So, why is he still here?

Yes, Collins has been in the game for over 40 years, and in that time one would have thought he would have learned a few things.

One, managers are hired to be fired, so don’t align yourself with a seemingly lost cause like Valdespin, because by the time he gets it, you’ll be gone.

Secondly, this fire keeps on burning because Collins refused to put it out. He knows he could have given a neutral answer with the Cardinals media in the room, then after the session gathered the New York writers into his office for an off-the-record briefing. That way, his ripping the fans never gets out.

Finally, don’t take on the fans, as they always have the last word. That word is “boo,’’ and Collins will hear it loudly if things don’t change fast.

Thoughts from Joe D.

I get emails all day long asking me why don’t we let the story die. My answer to them we are not the story, the Mets are the story and we do what we’ve been doing which is to report and debate things as they happen.

Two weeks ago there were plenty here who told me that it was a non-story when I wrote that there was something amiss between Jordany Valdespin and his teammates in the clubhouse.

I picked up on that during the start of Spring Training when two players came into the clubhouse to find their lockers and said, “Thank god I’m nowhere near Valdespin’s locker.”

“Joe D. you are reading too much into things.”

I commented on the jokes that were made when Valdespin was hit right in the groin and lied on the ground in pain.

Then there was the pie.

All I did is what any rational and reasonable person who reports would do and connected the dots.

Now it’s a full blown controversy and the only story that anyone is talking about.

How can you hope it goes away when the General Manager only two days ago added more fuel to the fire by saying he wasn’t hung out to dry, and then learning that Valdespin ask out of going to the plate a second time after being plunked the first time. A fact that Collins even admitted to shortly after he ripped into the fans.

The Mets create the stories and it’s on the Mets to stop feeding us the stories, not me. I don’t have the power to keep players, coaches and management from saying things that are better left unsaid. I can fault the players for saying silly and inappropriate things, but when management does it how can you find that to be acceptable and professional behavior.

I agree with Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post regarding Collins who said:

Collins probably knew, as soon as he said this, he shouldn’t have said this. He knows the fastest way to be packing your belongings in boxes — faster than losing games in bunches — is to take on fans. Fans are undefeated. Fans are a franchise’s lifeblood. Fans …

 

Well, fans allow you to stay relevant, long past your expiration date. I’ve believed, and written, that Collins deserves a full and fair accounting before his time is done here. But Collins has also found trouble in Houston and Anaheim when the losing became too much for him. In both cities, he lost the players, and that’s bad enough (and judging from the listless way the Mets mailed in another game with the Cards last night, 10-4, that may be happening again).

My big concern right now is that the Mets are blind to their own problem. That means nothing is being done to keep more incidents like this one from taking place. The best way to fix a problem is to admit you have one. So far management seems to think everything is hunky-dory when it’s clearly not.

How many dog houses does Terry Collins have and why was Ruben Tejada apparently in one of them last night when the manager decided to scratch him from the starting lineup before last night’s trouncing at the hands of the Cardinals?

That factoid came from Eddie Coleman who is not known for exaggerating the truth and conjuring up false storylines. Eddie is as straight as an arrow.

Is there anyone else residing in these dog houses aside from Jordany Valdespin and Ruben Tejada and when are their parole dates?

I don’t make the stories, I just talk about them and ask the tough questions and am usually the first to do so. Ahh… the benefits of having an independent Mets site.

May 10

Wally Backman Out Of Line On Wheeler Comments

Like everybody else, I am anxious to see Zack Wheeler with the Mets. Even if he’s half of what he’s been cranked up to be, he has to be some improvement, if not a gate draw, from what the Mets have now.

BACKMAN: Out of line.

BACKMAN: Out of line.

Yesterday, Las Vegas manager Wally Backman told a local radio station: “Personally, I think if he has a couple of more starts like his last start he’ll be headed to the big leagues, and rightfully so.’’

Huh? I don’t recall GM Sandy Alderson saying something like that.

I’m not saying Backman is right or wrong in his analysis or projection of Wheeler, just wrong in saying anything of that nature in the first place.

Backman manages Triple-A Las Vegas. He does not speak for the Mets’ organization, and his comments put undue pressure on everybody, from Backman, to Wheeler, to Terry Collins, to Alderson.

Once somebody from the organization, even Alderson, suggests a timetable, a clock starts ticking. So, what happens if Wheeler isn’t up in two starts? What then? Another timetable? You can’t keep teasing the fan base that way.

Backman is out of line in making such statements. But, could it be he spoke because the Mets don’t have a policy in place on how to publicly handle Wheeler?

There were no such conflicting messages with Washington about promoting Stephen Strasburg. Why aren’t similar precautions and guidelines in place for Wheeler?

There was more structure to Matt Harvey’s promotion this year in that everybody knew he would go north with the team coming out of spring training. There seemed more structure to Harvey’s promotion last year, primarily because Alderson did most of the talking.

The only structure with Wheeler is we knew he wouldn’t be up at the beginning of the year because of the contractual links to his arbitration and free-agency eligibility seasons. The best-guess estimate for that is the end of the month or early June, but either way that exceeds a couple of more starts.

At least the Mets made a determination, although there was the caveat of “if we really needed someone,’’ that could be waived. Wheeler wasn’t pitching well enough early in his season to warrant a promotion, but he has been good his last two starts. Perhaps, two or three more and he’ll be ready, but that’s Alderson’s call and not Backman’s.

It’s confusing when not all the parties are on the same page. It is Alderson’s responsibility to define that page, and Backman’s to follow the guidelines.

There should be no loose cannons here, just one voice. That’s the case with winning organizations.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 04

Not Right How Mets Are Judging Terry Collins

As of now, Terry Collins’ job is safe and deservedly so. Based on getting the most out of what he has been given and basic fairness, there’s nothing justifying Collins’ job being in question.

COLLINS: What's he thinking? (AP)

COLLINS: What’s he thinking? (AP)

However, fairness is irrelevant in sports. A manager’s job security always becomes an issue when he has lame duck contractual status and his team has lost six straight games.

Losing streaks get everybody edgy, with questions directed to management, in this case, GM Sandy Alderson, who was asked the inevitable by The New York Post.

“That’s not something that has entered my mind or any mind within the organization,’’ Alderson said. “Has it entered the minds of others in the media or what have you? Yes.’’

Well, of course it has. It’s been on the back burner since pitchers-and-catchers in February. And, I don’t think for a second it hasn’t crossed Alderson’s mind, either.

Walter Alston used to work on one-year contracts, but he was Walter Alston and his Dodgers teams were perennial winners. They were an organization that believed in consistency. They were the exception to the rule.

By contrast, Collins manages the Mets, a franchise that last went to the World Series in 2000. Thirteen years later, and they are on their fifth manager. That’s not even three years each, and that’s no stability. While this trend doesn’t suggest good things for Collins, it might work in his favor for at least this summer. If the Mets aren’t going anywhere, there’s no reason to make a change and have owner Fred Wilpon pay two managers.

Bobby Valentine managed that World Series team, but frequently clashed with then GM Steve Phillips – one of four since 2000 – and with his personality wore out his welcome. Art Howe was the polar opposite of Valentine, and that didn’t work, either. I thought Willie Randolph had a chance, but he was hamstrung from the beginning when he wasn’t given full reign to hire his coaches and had to deal with clubhouse spy Tony Bernazard, who usurped his authority. Jerry Manuel was overmatched, but that’s what you get when you sack a manager after midnight.

Now there’s Collins, who was brought in by Alderson to clean up the mess. However, Alderson doesn’t have free economic authority to spend, and consequently Collins doesn’t have the pieces. He’s basically a custodian; here to keep things clean.

The pieces he’s been given don’t fit, but here’s the rub, Collins is judged on what he does with those pieces, much like on those cooking shows where the contestants have to make something out of a basket of random ingredients.

“He came into the season without a contract for next year and may not have one for next year through this season,’’ said Alderson, meaning don’t expect an in-season extension. “But as I’ve told him and said before: This isn’t just about wins and losses. It’s about how we approach the game and fully taking into account what he has to work with.

“We talk from time to time and the [job status] subject comes up. I’m not trying to avoid the topic. It’s status quo. You go through a tough week and people like to immediately jump to conclusions and start discussing a doomsday scenario. A good first week isn’t necessarily any more of an indication than a bad fourth week.’’

So, there you have it: Collins is the care taker for 2013.

Alderson wants to know more if his roster can work and play nice with each other rather than if it has any talent. He’s telling us – again – that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Unfortunately, they keep score and results do matter. Major League Baseball isn’t new wave, liberal physical education where everybody gets a prize for showing up.

Winning does matter on this level. Teams pay big money to get players capable of winning and fans pay big money to watch those players.

If the losing continues, attendance will eventually drop as it has every year since Citi Field opened. But, the players will get their money. And, Collins could be out of a job. Not fair, but that’s how they play the game. It is also something Alderson needs to think about concerning his own job status.

ON DECK:  The Summer of 1973 Series continues.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 18

Will We See Alderson With The Chains Off?

ALDERSON: Playing Scrooge.

We have seen Sandy Alderson wear several hats during his short tenure as Mets’ general manager. Some results have been good, while others have been lacking.

Alderson gets high marks for ridding the Mets of the stagnant culture they had with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. He gets kudos for unloading the contracts of Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, and avoiding the payday of what would have been a big contract for R.A. Dickey.

For them, he received highly-rated prospects Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud, both of whom could be factors this season.

It’s also a plus that he negotiated the buyout of Jason Bay – which eliminated a hovering distraction – and for letting Jose Reyes leave. The latter decision was good, although the methods could have been cleaner and more public relations sensitive.

Bay became expendable because he did not hit, and it didn’t matter that the Mets didn’t have a major league player ready to take his place. It will be interesting to see what Alderson does this winter if Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada don’t produce this summer.

Alderson has not done will in piecing together the bullpen and outfield, nor has he succeeded in building depth in the rotation is the wake of Johan Santana’s injury, Dickey’s departure and letting Mike Pelfrey go while arms were needed.

We have seen Alderson operating in several roles, but we have not yet seen him as a buyer. The Mets are promising they will have the resources this winter to enter the free-agent market.

Wherever Alderson has been – Oakland and San Diego – he’s operated with restraints. And, it has been that way in his stay with the Mets.

If you’re willing to drink more of the Kool-Aid and believe the Mets will be active this winter, you won’t be alone wondering what Alderson might accomplish.

If the first two weeks are any indication, he has a lot of shopping to do:

The Mets are two-deep in their rotation with Matt Harvey and Jon Niese, both of whom are being relied on to produce more than their current track records. Alderson has not brought up Wheeler for both economic and performance reasons. There’s no guarantee what he will do when he arrives. The Mets easily need at least two starters.

The bullpen remains a serious question. Most bullpens in today’s game are a patchwork creation and the Mets are no different. There will be arms available, but the better ones are more expensive.

The current outfield is wearing a Band-Aid when a tourniquet is required. Am I the only one who envisions an entirely different outfield next spring?

If Davis and Tejada continue to underachieve, to what degree will Alderson be patient with them? Does he chase other players, while at the same timing limiting his options in other areas?

These are the dilemmas and questions faced by a buyer, not someone who operates on the cheap. Will be finally see Alderson as a buyer? The first test will be in late July.

Mar 28

Santana Hurts Shoulder; Career Could Be Over

The bleak news concerning Johan Santana turned black this afternoon when the Mets announced the veteran left-hander would likely miss the season and could see the end of his career after a probable re-tear of the anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder.

Santana was attempting a comeback following surgery, Sept. 2, 2010, but hasn’t responded following nearly two years of rehabilitation. After throwing off the mound without the Mets’ knowledge, March 3, the 34-year-old was shut down with weakness in his shoulder.

SANTANA: Will we see this pose again?

SANTANA: Will we see this pose again?

Santana returned to New York where he was given a MRI, and team physician Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital of Special Surgery determined the diagnosis.

“A second surgery is a strong possibility,’’ general manager Sandy Alderson said in a conference call.

If so, it might mean close to another two years of rehabilitation, which would undoubtedly end his career.

Santana is in the final guaranteed season of a six-year, $137.5 million contract . He will make $25.5 million in salary with a $5.5 million buyout.

Alderson said the Mets prepared their rotation with the idea the two-time Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star would go on the disabled list. Jeremy Hefner will take his spot in the rotation. Alderson said the Mets don’t have plans to promote highly-touted prospect Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler, who is slated to begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, expressed his sympathy on his Twitter account: “Sad to hear about Johan. Got to know him this spring. Awesome awesome guy. Stinks to see it happen to him. Nothing but the best on recovery.”

There is no timetable for Wheeler’s promotion, but the Mets don’t figure to bring him up until mid-June, thereby extending his free-agent and Super Two status.

Santana signed with the Mets during the winter of 2007, which followed a season in which the team blew a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining, citing a lack of strong starting pitching.

The Yankees and Red Sox were after him, but both deemed Minnesota’s asking price too high, so the Twins turned to the Mets. At the time, former Mets general manager Omar Minaya said “Santana fell back to us,’’ in explaining the acquisition of a franchise pitcher for prospects Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.

Santana started 34 games for the Mets in 2008, his only full season with the franchise. Every other year was cut short by injury or ended with surgery.

After rehabbing during the winters of 2010 and 2011, Santana returned to the majors last year with initial success, including a 134-pitch no-hitter. There was speculation that high pitch count contributed to his shoulder weakness and later that summer he lost a career-high six games before going on the disabled list in August.

The Mets never conceded the high pitch count was a contributing factor, but instead attributed it to his rigorous rehab work, and a sprained ankle and lower-back injury that ended his season.

The Mets knew Santana was to lighten his off-season routine last winter, but Alderson said the pitcher wasn’t in top shape when he reported to spring training. That prompted an angry Santana to throw off the mound despite Alderson saying he was at least ten days away.

“Johan has had an exceptional career,’’ Alderson said of the pitcher with a career 139-78 record and 3.20 ERA. “We all hope that career will continue.’’

That’s unlikely now.