Oct 05

How Mets Answered Preseason Questions

Like all teams, the Mets had questions entering spring training. The Mets, of course, had more than most. At that time I listed the top ten questions facing the 2012 Mets. Let’s take a look back at how the season answered those questions. Some were in the positive, others not.

1) QUESTION: To what degree will the Wilpon’s financial problems impact the Mets?  

ANSWER: Did you see any new faces of consequence added at the trade deadline? Nope, I didn’t think so. Despite a strong first half, the Mets had issues – notably the bullpen – which they did not address at the end of July. Failing to improve the team, the Mets spiraled down in the second half. While the Mets received a favorable verdict in the Madoff case – they have two more years before they have to pay off – it will not induce GM Sandy Alderson to significantly enter the free agent market. The Mets spent $100 million this year on player salaries and don’t expect them to pay much more than that in 2013.

2) QUESTION: What will we get from Johan Santana?

ANSWER: Actually more than anticipated, including the first no-hitter in franchise history. There remains speculation throwing 134 pitches in that game might have derailed him. Even though there were no arm issues, Santana did lose his command and struggled in the second half before being shut down with an injury. The Mets are on the hook for $31 million more to Santana next year, including a buyout.

3) QUESTION: How long will David Wright remain a Met?

ANSWER: Well, he’s still here and Alderson said retaining him will be an offseason priority. Because of a good first half Wright’s name didn’t come up at the trade deadline as Jose Reyes’ did the year before. Wright proved to the Mets his durability this season and had a good season, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. How much better could it have been had he not slumped trying to carry the team in the second half?

4) QUESTION: Which Mike Pelfrey will we see?

ANSWER: He was good while he lasted, but was shutdown early with an injury and underwent surgery to his elbow. Pelfrey might not be ready until May or June, making it highly unlikely for the Mets to tender him a contract despite Terry Collins’ urging. After a seemingly breakthrough 2010 season, Pelfrey regressed dramatically last year. Overall, Pelfrey has not lived up to expectations. The only way I see him staying with the Mets if he were to re-sign with them at a discount, but with Scott Boras his agent, don’t count on it.

5) QUESTION: What is the configuration of the bullpen?

ANSWER: That was supposed to be Alderson’s priority last winter, but it wasn’t to be as the pen factored greatly in the second-half swoon. Frank Francisco was the primary closer, but finished the season with tendinitis. Bobby Parnell pitched considerably better later in the season and will likely enter spring training in a set-up role if Francisco is healthy. The Mets received promising production from lefties Josh Edgin and Robert Carson. Look for Jon Rauch to be a part of the housecleaning.

6) QUESTION: Is Ruben Tejada the answer as Jose Reyes’ replacement?

ANSWER: That’s still up in the air over the long haul, but for now Tejada is the right fit. Tejada has a great glove, and his .289 average was better than one could have expected. With other pressing needs, Tejada showed enough to where the Mets don’t have to shop for a shortstop this winter.

7) QUESTION: Can Daniel Murphy make it at second base?

I don’t think we’ll see the second coming of Wally Backman, let alone Ryne Sandberg or Roberto Alomar. Murphy’s range could be better, but he showed promise this summer that the position isn’t a lost cause for him. He was less awkward around the bag and made most of the plays. His footwork on the double-play needs to get better. Overall, he showed enough to where the Mets don’t need to sign a second baseman in the offseason.

8) QUESTION: How healthy is Ike Davis?

ANSWER: There was speculation the virus was a contributor to a poor first half, but he refutes that notion. Not wanting to shatter his confidence, and probably moreso that there weren’t other alternatives, the Mets didn’t send him down when he hovered under .200. Davis responded with a strong second half and finished with over 30 homers.

9) QUESTION: What’s the make up of the rotation?

ANSWER: It changed considerably, beginning with Pelfrey’s injury. Dillon Gee and Santana also went down. Chris Young was brought in and gave them over 100 innings. The positive developments were Jon Niese taking another step and the emergence of Matt Harvey. Most positive of all was R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games to become a Cy Young Award candidate. Dickey has gone from journeyman to an offseason priority to be re-signed. 

10) QUESTION: Will it ever happen for Jason Bay with the Mets?

ANSWER: The newest theory is Bsy’s concussion last year caused him to be sluggish at the plate. It’s only speculation. A greater speculation is it won’t happen for Bay, who has given the Mets nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay him. Not even moving in the fences helped Bay. The Mets are just counting the days until he’s off the books.

Oct 04

Explaining What Went Wrong For The 2012 Mets

Other than a lack of overall talent, there’s never just one reason why a team fails to win. The Mets began the season projected for the basement, with some corners speculating 100 losses.

So, at 74-88, 14 games below .500, and in fourth place, the Mets did better than expected, but in the end were still disappointing and kicked a promising season away with a dismal second half.

The Mets were 46-40 at the break, but ended the first half on a sour note by losing two of three at Citi Field to the Cubs. This coming after losing two of three to the Cubs at Wrigley Field a short time earlier.

You can’t consider yourself a serious contender when you lose consecutive series to a team that lost 100 games. You just can’t do it.

So, what went wrong?

STREAKY BAD: The Mets’ longest winning streak in the second half was four, accomplished twice. Conversely, they had five such losing streaks, including dropping six straight three times. When a team is streaky bad like that players begin to press, which is what happened in July and August.

STAYING WITH A PAT HAND: GM Sandy Alderson said several times the team had the resources to add talent if they were in contention at the trade deadline. But, that doesn’t meaning waiting until July 31. The bullpen had shown signs of breaking down in late June and early July, and there was a woeful lack of power with Ike Davis, Jason Bay and Lucas Duda doing nothing, but Alderson was content to believe things would get better and was satisfied at the break with a 46-40 record. The Mets opened the second half with two losing streaks of at least five games and by that time it was too late.

INJURIES: All teams have them and the Mets were no exception. It’s hard to win when three-fifths of your rotation goes down. First, Mike Pelfrey, then Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. The Mets simply didn’t have the replacement parts they needed, although the got more from R.A. Dickey than they could have wished for and Matt Harvey made a good first impression.

THE BULLPEN COLLAPSED AGAIN: The wasn’t bad in April, but was non-existent in the second half. The pen’s failures can be summarized by just 36 saves, and a 20-22 record in one-run games and 3-7 in extra innings. Clearly, they couldn’t slam the door late. The problem wasn’t really the closer as much as it was the bridge leading to the closer.

NO OFFENSE: The Mets had three players with 20-plus homers, but that’s not enough. The Mets went 15 straight home games in the second half where they scored three or fewer runs which lead to a minus-56 runs differential. If Davis had any kind of a first half he might have finished with 40. David Wright couldn’t carry the team from July on and one wonders if he’ll be a 30-homer player again. The Mets received very little from Bay, Duda, Josh Thole and Andres Torres. Who would have thought Scott Hairston would lead the outfield with 20 homers?

 

Sep 26

Alderson On Wright And Dickey

Listening to Sandy Alderson last night on SNY gave me little hope the contract extensions for David Wright and R.A. Dickey will reached any time soon, but he did say there’s more a sense of urgency with the latter.

“R.A.’s situation is a little bit different in the sense that there is more immediacy there,’’ Alderson said. “Here’s a guy that’s 37 years old and is pitching and presumably doesn’t have the same horizon that a David Wright might.

“So at the end of the season we’ll talk with R.A. and see what he’s thinking and try to have him back. He’s been a great story this year. He’s been a great asset over the last three years, really.’’

Dickey has been solid since getting here, but this season has been a breakout one for him as he’s on the cusp of winning 20 games. While Wright has already had one payday, this will be Dickey’s only chance.

Dickey said he’d like to stay, but also realizes what’s at stake. Just last week he said it would take more than one piece to make the Mets a legitimate contender. He and Wright are two of those pieces, but the team needs more, including the bullpen, the outfield and catcher.

Based on published reports, the Mets aren’t going to splurge in the free-agent market, with their resources earmarked for these two. Subsequently, you can’t expect 2013 to be much different than this year. The hope for improvement is from within and injured starters Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming back.

Both players said they’d wait until the offseason, which is now a little more than a week away. Both have stated a preference of staying with the Mets, but also acknowledged the economics of the sport.

“Our intent is to work hard to try to keep them both,’’ Alderson said. “They’ve both been great for us this year. David has been here and is the face of the franchise — has been. We’d very much like him to stay. I think he wants to stay. I’m sure he wants to know where we’re headed and the things that we intend to do to make it a winner. We’ll have that conversation at some point.’’

That last comment is in response to Wright saying last week there are no moral victories in finishing strong and it is all about making the playoffs.

If a deal can’t get done, Alderson said trading becomes an issue.

“If we felt that there absolutely wasn’t any way that we were going to get something done, then we would probably approach something,’’ Alderson said. “But I think we tend to be optimistic and see where it takes us.’’

 

Sep 19

What Can The Mets Do When They Have So Little To Trade?

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets were more likely to build via the trade route than by making a big splash in the free-agent market. Amidst the Ike Davis flap, one must wonder what pieces the Mets have to trade.

When you read between the lines from what Alderson has said, everybody is fair game outside of Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler. There might be more arms down below the Mets would find untouchable, and Jenrry Mejia probably isn’t one of them any more.

Let’s examine several of the higher profile Mets as to their trade worthiness:

DAVID WRIGHT: He’s the one that always comes up first, but it appears the Mets will make a play to keep him. He’s their biggest position-player talent, but his contractual situation would make it difficult to move him. Most teams wouldn’t want to pay Wright’s 2013 salary as a rental without having the opportunity to sign him to an extension first. Trading him in the offseason is highly doubtful, but a team with a lot of resources could do something next year at the trade deadline. Signing Wright to the long-term deal he deserves would be pricey and those are difficult to unload. The situation with the Dodgers was a stroke of luck for the Red Sox.

R.A. DICKEY: Dickey is one reason I’m still watching the season and haven’t moved on to football season entirely and Kevin’s NFL picks. Outside of the young prospects, he’s their most valuable pitching chip. He has a movable contract, and even a contract extension would probably be palatable to another team. Even if Dickey wins the Cy Young Award – now appearing doubtful – there’s the specter of the knuckleball and finding a catcher who can handle the devilish pitch. Despite Dickey’s success, too many people in baseball would shy away at such a pitcher. You don’t have to look any further than Tony La Russa’s decision at the All-Star Game to realize there’s prejudice against the pitch.

JOHAN SANTANA: The Mets’ best hope here is if he makes a full recovery and pitches lights out in the first half. Then you might find a taker for the remaining $12 million or so remaining. Even that’s a lot and there’s always the fear of him breaking down again. The Mets got all they could from Santana before he broke down and would be foolish to think they could get anything more in a trade. His value to the team is to come back strong as he did this year in the first half and pitch them into contention for a wild card.

JON NIESE: He’s young, left-handed with a strong arm and affordable. What’s not to like? He’s the type of pitching talent teams are built around. Yes, he would bring something in return, but the Mets covet him and would be crazy to trade him.

JASON BAY: He’s been injured, non-productive and has a ridiculous contract. He’s not going anywhere.

All this makes Davis the most tradable.

Aug 27

The Perfect Scenario For Announcing Wright’s Extension

In his most forceful comments to date, Mets GM Sandy Alderson, while speaking to season ticket holders yesterday expressed optimism about bringing back David Wright and R.A. Dickey. However, it must be noted optimism and guarantees are two different things.

WRIGHT: Be creative. (AP)

“I fully expect that David Wright and R.A. Dickey will be here not only next year, but long term,” Alderson said. “As you all know, we have options on both those players and it’s not our intention to simply rely on those options and go into next season and deal with their free agency after 2013. We’re going to deal with it up front while we still have a little bit of room to maneuver. But we’re committed to trying to bring those two back. I hope they’ll both be back and I’m excited about the possibilities they will be.”

Sounds warm and fuzzy, now make it happen.

We all know this season turned disappointing after a post-break free fall. The Mets went from being eight games over .500 in the first half to a dozen under recently. There have been reports the Mets won’t be big spenders in the free-agent market and we all know there are precious few chips they have to trade.

On the surface, it appears to be another long, bleak winter. So, do something about it.

Prior to the last home game of the season, it would be great if the Mets announced Wright’s extension, and for the icing, also name him captain. It won’t erase another losing season, but it might provide a glowing optimism for winter.