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.

Jul 27

REPORT: Beltran to Giants.

Although the Mets haven’t confirmed it, several media outlets are reporting the team agreed to a deal with San Francisco for outfielder Carlos Beltran in exchange for top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler.

In addition, the Mets will pay $4 million of the roughly $6.5 million remaining on Beltran’s contract.

Calls to the Mets and Beltran’s agent, Scott Boras, have not been returned.

Beltran has been held out of the lineup for tonight’s game at Cincinnati, and manager Terry Collins expects the deal to be finalized by tomorrow. Beltran has 24 hours to approve the trade. Beltran has not reported to the Mets’ clubhouse in Cincinnati.

With Beltran in the final season of a seven-year, $119 million contract – and with his contract not allowing arbitration and subsequently compensatory draft picks – it was a formality coming out of spring training Beltran would be dealt.

Five teams – the Giants, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston and Texas – emerged as the favorites, but Boras said the determining factor was which team has the best chance to win.

It had been speculated with catcher Brian McCann’s injury last night Atlanta might sweeten its offer, but the Braves held firm on not wanting to part with their pitching prospects.

Likewise, Alderson held his ground on demanding a top pitching prospect, which defines Wheeler, 21, who throws a fastball in the mid-90s with a fall-off-the-table curveball and a change-up with movement.

Some scouting reports have Wheeler three years away – he’s currently in Single A – but that’s to be expected for such a young prospect.

In the end, Alderson made the best possible deal considering his limitations. Beltran was going to walk at the end of the year and the Mets would not get any compensation.