Oct 18

On the eve of the Series …. Alderson knew what he was getting into.

The drive to Ohio is long and tedious, much like a New York Mets summer the past three years. Went back home to visit my father, who was hospitalized, and apologize for the lapse in posts.

My mind was on other things.

I am anxious for the World Series to start, and I would like to see the Cardinals because that would complete one of the great comebacks in baseball history. The Cardinals have what it takes to complete history.

Either way, if the Rangers won, that would also be a compelling story, especially for Mets fans who still have a fondness for Nolan Ryan.

The Cardinals have the best pitcher and player in the Series in Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols, plus the extra game at home. Both teams are sizzling at the right time.

In looking at the two teams, it is easy to see what separates them from the Mets, and, of course, you have to wonder how far our boys are away.

Both teams have a stud hitter in Pujols and Josh Hamilton, reliable starters in Carpenter and CJ Wilson, good bullpens and support throughout the batter orders.

The Mets have David Wright and Mike Pelfrey, holes in the order and are shambles in the bullpen and rotation. If everybody in the NL East stands pat, and you know they won’t, at best the Mets are fourth in the division.

Bringing back Jose Reyes won’t change that, either. So, it was interesting to read the ESPN report of Chip Hale’s assessment, and that of some NL scouts, on Ruben Tejada’s development.

One scout said Tejada is ready to play and the best decision for the Mets would be to plug him in, let Reyes go and spend the money patching their numerous pitching holes.

I’ve been saying that since the trade deadline.

It’s not that I dislike Reyes. To the contrary, he’s been one of my favorite Mets to deal with, but realistically, he has limitations and the team has other priorities. If Tejada was a lost cause, it might be different, but there is promise there.

The Cardinals and Rangers wouldn’t be here without Pujols and Hamilton, respectively. Reyes, and also Wright, don’t carry the same weight with the Mets.

At one time, Reyes and Wright represented the Mets’ core, but times have changed. The team has lost key complementary pieces while both players have declined and have had health issues.

Sandy Alderson was brought in here to rebuild this franchise, and it is becoming clearer that both Reyes and Wright or no longer cornerstones. Too bad, but that is the reality.

Another reality, is Alderson knew the guidelines when he took the job. Not much got by Alderson, if anything, when he was working in the commissioner’s office. He got the job on the strong recommendation of Bud Selig, so he had a strong sense of the Wilpon’s financial issues.

When he came here he said it would take time, rebuilding wouldn’t come over night and the Mets’ culture had to change. That would include handing out massive contracts.

That is why I would be shocked if Reyes was brought back, wouldn’t be surprised if Wright isn’t dealt, and why the team would love to cut ties with Johan Santana and Jason Bay.

We knew 2011 and 2012 would be written off, and we wouldn’t have a clearer idea of the future until 2013 at the earliest.

Oct 13

What will be Mets’ splash?

Let’s not kid ourselves, the Mets won’t be players for any of the big-ticket free agents, perhaps even their own in Jose Reyes. The top pitching free agent is the Rangers’ CJ Wilson, whom the Yankees have their sights on and don’t we already know which New York team he’d choose? It’s always that way, isn’t it?

The Mets say they have the resources, but even after positive news on the legal-financial front, there’s been nothing from GM Sandy Alderson saying they’ll spend. He said they have the money to compete for Reyes, but to add little else, and with a myriad of needs and David Wright’s contract to be an issue soon, there’s not much light ahead.

It’s not comforting when the outfield dimensions and the search for a bench coach is what appears to be what passes for off-season news. On one hand, there’s a sense of comfort Alderson being up-front in pretty much saying “don’t expect much,” but on the other there’s uneasiness in knowing that’s where the Mets stand.

What we do know is the Phillies will be angry and will spend as they always do; Atlanta is always trying to improve; the Marlins will spend to try to make a splash heading into their new stadium; and the Nationals have shown a willingness to write checks.

The Mets? Well, they said they want to cut payroll by as much as $30 million. Kind of makes you want to run out and buy season-tickets now, right?

Oct 06

Warthen survives coaching staff purge.

Since you can’t change all the players, you might as well change the coaching staff.

WARTHEN: The answer?

 

The Mets made a big deal of saying this year they’ve changed the culture of the franchise, but shouldn’t some of that credit go to the coaching staff?

If things were so improved, then how come only two coaches are staying on?

Only pitching coach Dan Warthen and hitting coach Dave Hudgens will remain in their current roles for 2012. Rising star Chip Hale, bench coach Ken Oberkfell, first base coach Mookie Wilson and bullpen coach Jon Debus are gone.

Stunning actually, considering how this team’s attitude had supposedly changed. Then again, did it really after watching Jose Reyes take his bow and leave?

Triple-A manager Tim Tueful is now the third base coach and his pitching coach at Buffalo, Ricky Bones, takes over as bullpen coach.

They’ll fill the bench coach and first base coach positions in the next few weeks. Wally Backman is not being considered for a major league job, but instead will take over for Teuful at Buffalo.

The Mets raved about Hale, so it makes you wonder why he didn’t get the bench job. Or, why he felt the need to leave.

The speculated answer as to the departures was a chemistry issue with Terry Collins. Hale was invited to stay in another capacity, but bolted for the bench job in Oakland. He obviously didn’t see a future here, or a co-existence with Collins.

Oberkfell, who managed on the Triple-A level for six years with the Mets, was not invited to stay. Sandy Alderson gave a song-and-dance about doing a nice job but needing somebody with a “different set of experiences,’’ clearly GM speak for a clash in personalities.

The only surprise is Warthen, who presided over one of the worst staffs and rotations in the majors. Perhaps he got a pass because of the injuries to Johan Santana and Jon Niese, and helped make Chris Capuano a positive reclamation project, but pitching is clearly an issue with this team.

Mike Pelfrey regressed tremendously and the Mets used 16 different relievers in the pen, few of them consistently effective. Bobby Parnell, whom the club envisions as its closer, has definite shortcomings. There isn’t a starter without a significant question next to his name.

Only one starter, Dillon Gee, had a winning record, and only R.A. Dickey had a sub-4.00 ERA among the starters. The staff walked 514 hitters this year, down from 545 the previous season. The Mets ranked ninth worst this season as opposed to seventh in 201o, so we’re not talking that great of an improvement.

Without question, pitching is the Mets’ main priority, and I wonder, with no influx of talent expected from the trade and free-agent markets, what makes Alderson think Warthen has the answers now after not having them since taking over for Rick Peterson in 2008?


Oct 04

Quit the charade and say good-bye to Reyes.

If the Mets are to become the team hoped for them, general manager Sandy Alderson has some tough decisions to make in the coming months and years, and it begins with Jose Reyes.

REYES: Let him slide on out of here.

And, that decision is to say good-bye to Reyes now and quit the charade.

If history is an indicator this process will get drawn out by Reyes and his agents to drive up the bidding price the Mets already know they won’t meet.

The Mets know what their price is – Alderson calls it “our choking point,’’ – and it is no where the money offered Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, players who wilted this summer under the weight of their wallets.

Unless they are counting on a hometown discount from Reyes – which won’t happen – the Mets already know their shortstop is gone. For public relations purposes Alderson won’t say so, at least not before the Mets’ exclusive negotiating window opens five days after the World Series.

But, we know it is true and Alderson is posturing. We know the Mets will offer a credible offer in comparison to Reyes’ past performance, injury history and prospect he’ll break down long before his contract expires.

We also know Reyes is in it for the money and about himself – his self-serving act of backing out of the batting race at .337 tells you what you need to know – and he will jump at somebody else’s through-the-roof offer.

San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia (assuming Jimmy Rollins leaves) will be in need of a shortstop and have the money. San Francisco and Boston, particularly, are desperate to make splashes after their disappointing seasons.

The Mets won’t compete financially with them, and can’t compete with them as far as immediate postseason prospects are concerned.

The way Reyes left the season finale was reminiscent of how LeBron James stripped off his Cleveland Cavaliers’ jersey before getting into the locker room. James was gone and the free-agent process was for show. It’s the same with Reyes and the Mets should make a take-it-or-leave-it proposal with a deadline and move on.

They don’t need to dance with Reyes; don’t need to let him hold all the cards.

Reyes can be a dynamic player when he wants to be, which he was at times during his walk year. No surprise there, is it?

Even so, Reyes missed 36 games with two stints on the disabled list. He hasn’t played a full season in the last three. In nine seasons, he’s played in at least 150 games just four times.

Reyes is a speed player, yet hasn’t stolen 50 bases in three years. He barely made an attempt when he came off the DL, and that was to stay healthy for the market. His career on-base percentage is .341, mediocre at best for a leadoff hitter with his projected production. He still strikes out more than he should, walks less than the prolific leadoff hitters, gives away too many at-bats and has lapses in the field and on the bases.

Reyes has always been more about potential than production, and you have to wonder if this year was all about the contract and he’ll regress again after he gets what he wants. Based on his history, it isn’t hard to project he’ll break down during this next contract, whether it be seven, six or five years, all which have been speculated and are all too excessive.

He should get no more than $85 million over four years, which will be denied. The Mets already have $55 million in salary commitments in 2012 to Johan Santana, David Wright and Jason Bay. Add $20 million for Reyes and you have $75 million of the Mets’ projected budget of $110 million tied into four players.

Never mind winning, you can’t compete with such an unbalanced payroll.

For all those Reyes apologists out there that say the Mets will be nothing without him, ask yourself where they are now. What have the Mets won with Reyes?

The Mets are five years removed from their last playoff appearance. They are a sub-.500 team over the last three seasons and have been below .500 in five of Reyes’ nine years with the team. Sure, he’s been injured much of those five years, but that’s not an argument for him as much as it is one that he’ll break down again.

Alderson does have some tough decisions to make, but come to think of it, keeping Reyes isn’t one of them.

It is time to say good-bye. Time to quit fooling around and start rebuilding this team for good.

Sep 25

A hollow feeling

I admit I didn’t watch all 18 innings yesterday, and when I did my mind wandered. It’s that way when what is left of the expense of this season is whether the Mets will finish with a better losing record than last year and if Jose Reyes will say good-bye to New York with a batting title.

That’s why RA Dickey’s flirtation with Mets’ first no-hitter in 7,963 games was fun to watch, but like the playoffs or a winning season I knew it wouldn’t happen. It’s just that way.

As the outs ticked away in the second game – and 2011 – I thought how thrilling it would have been to see a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies in July, or if it meant something.

It’s always fun to speculate on next year and in the coming weeks and months there will be a lot of opportunity for that, but there’s a hollow feeling when you start thinking about next summer when there are still games to be played.

I’m excited about the playoffs, and can’t help but recall the September of 2007 and the Mets’ dramatic collapse when I see what is happening to Boston and Atlanta. There’s a morbid curiosity – like an accident on the highway – in watching a team collapse.

It is also interesting to see what is happening to the Phillies, losers of nine straight. They have the best record in baseball, but it could be hard for them to turn it on for the playoffs. It’s not as if there is a switch to be flipped.

Still, it is a better feeling than the end of this Mets’ season, when the expectations are low and there’s an empty sensation to playing meaningless games.

What is also  fruitless is hearing about all those what-might-have-been stories involving discussed offers for Reyes. Now, it is Tampa Bay that supposedly offered a bunch of prospects. What prospects? Well, we don’t know that.

What we do know is Tampa Bay is one of several teams that made overtures for Reyes. So, did San Francisco, St. Louis and Boston. Surely, there were others. Teams talk to each other all the time, so to hear the Rays called Alderson is not surprising.

And, there probably not too many, if any, surprises left to this season.