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.

Mar 17

Wright Expresses No Regrets; Doesn’t Mean He’s Right In WBC Flap

David Wright is correct, his rib injury could have happened anytime. It could have happened carrying groceries from the car.

That isn’t the issue.

WRIGHT: Call it E-5

WRIGHT: Call it E-5

The issues are Wright was injured while at the World Baseball Classic – whatever he was doing at the time, it was away from the Mets – and did not report his injury in a timely fashion.

Also an issue is Wright has a strained left intercostal muscle and faces the strong possibility of being on the disabled list to start the season. What should be an issue if you’re the Mets is Wright gave no sign of regret about the WBC, and the perception of minimizing the injury.

“You can get hurt in spring training,’’ Wright told reporters prior to today’s 2-1 loss to Atlanta. “You can get hurt before spring training. Playing baseball, there’s some risk that comes along with that. … It has nothing to do with the tournament itself. It has everything to do with some bad luck.’’

Sure, it is bad luck, but that’s not Mets fans want to hear. They want to know if their All-Star third baseman, who was just signed to a $138 million package, will be able to play Opening Day. The WBC is a hard enough sell as it is in the United States, and Wright was injured participating in the international tournament. Mets fans don’t care about promoting baseball around the globe.

There is also the perception Wright placed his personal desire to represent his country – as admirable as that is – over his obligation to the Mets.

“Of course I owe it to the Mets to be honest with them, and I was,’’ Wright insists. “Ultimately when I started going in and getting treatment for it, the Mets saw that and they called me. I was honest with how I was feeling.

“Once it got to the point where I started not being able to sleep, or when it was painful to lounge around, that’s when obviously I started going to get treatment and talking to [trainer] Ray [Ramirez] and [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and those guys.’’

Wright said those conversations took place Wednesday, which contradicts Alderson’s assertion the Mets didn’t become aware until shortly before game time Thursday. That doesn’t help the Mets’ image. The Mets have been known for their sloppy handling of injuries, ranging from Ryan Church’s concussion to Carlos Beltran’s knee to Johan Santana’s shoulder this spring.

That won’t go away, especially if Wright isn’t ready for the season, as appears the case. Wright can’t commit to Opening Day, saying he needs to be cautious and not risk further injury and be out even longer. So, where was the caution when Wright felt pain for a week before reporting it to WBC trainers?

“Once it got to the point where I thought it might obviously prohibit me from coming back and producing with the Mets, that’s when it was time to make that decision,’’ Wright said. “I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what’s tolerable and what’s not tolerable.’’

Well, how about when Wright played a month with pain in his lower back which was later diagnosed as a stress fracture? And, last spring he had the same injury and was out a month. Nobody ever questioned Wright not being a gamer, but that isn’t the issue.

Wright’s desire to represent his country and honor his commitment is admirable. However, it is his judgment here that is in question. His first obligation is to the Mets.