Oct 25

Mets’ GM search in second phase

Mets fans might have celebrated hollow victories over the weekend when the Yankees and Phillies were eliminated from the postseason on consecutive nights, the final out in each game coming on a called third strike. Alex Rodriguez one night; Ryan Howard the other.

Of course, rooting against the Yankees and Phillies is futile work, as it does nothing toward the improvement of the Mets.

However, the most important development lately has been the narrowing of the GM candidates to Josh Byrnes and Sandy Alderson.

Byrnes will interview with ownership, including Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, today, and Alderson will be on stage tomorrow. Both are highly regarded and will inherit a team with a high payroll and a myriad of issues.

Neither will be able to turn the program around in a year, and such a promise hasn’t been made by either in the first round of interviews.

Both GM candidates indicate Wally Backman is on their list of prospective managerial candidates, which parallels the Wilpon’s thinking. That is not to say Backman is a given, but he will get an honest shot. There are several things about Backman that concern me, most is the perception he is the Wilpon pick and he’s being forced on to the new general manager. My preference for Backman is to be promoted to bench coach and work under an experienced manager.

The new GM will inherit a team slightly below .500, meaning there is reason to be optimistic about improvement should all the pieces fall into place, notably the healthy returns of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran, continued development from Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese, and an encore from RA Dickey. The Mets aren’t void of talent, and improvement should occur, but they are still behind the Phillies and Braves, but those teams have their own issues.

A GM decision could be made as soon the off day following Game 2, which is a travel day in the World Series. As written here before, the GM candidates have their thinking on the manager, so that process should turn around rather quickly.

The first order of offseason business might night be conducted by assistant GM John Ricco and Jeff Wilpon, and that would be the re-signing of reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The Mets have until Oct. 31 to re-sign Takahashi, otherwise he can become a free agent.

Takahashi did everything the Mets asked of him last season as a starter or in a variety of bullpen roles, but the left-hander prefers to start. The Mets could promise him a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training or they could overpay to keep him in the pen.

Reportedly, Takahashi is seeking a two-year deal and he’s worth it based on what he did in 2010.

Nov 03

About Last Night: We have a Series.

There’s a chance I could get my wish and this thing will go seven games. Those that know me understand that the only rooting interest I have is for a playoff round go seven games.

UTLEY: Two more bombs last night.

UTLEY: Two more bombs last night.


Last night was about the resiliency of the Phillies which was something the Mets have seen the last three seasons. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, a play here or there the other way and the Phillies could have won already as they held leads in the games they lost.

The Yankees got to Cliff Lee for five runs, but it took them until the eighth to do it. We could see him again in Game 7 as a reliever, as that is his throw day. Lee has thrown well north of 200 innings this season and maybe they are catching up to him. The Phillies won because he pitched deep into the game to keep the Yankees out of their bullpen.

Last night, we also saw Chase Utley, who I’ve said several times throughout the season that he’s one of the top position players in the game. If I were starting a team, Albert Pujols would be my first choice and Utley probably my second. Maybe A-Rod.

I’m looking forward to Game 6, which is often the most intense of the playoff games because of the sense of urgency. The key tomorrow night will be Andy Pettitte, who has pitched well this postseason, but not well over his career on three days rest.

Joe Girardi gambled by going with a three-man rotation. It could still work out for the Yankees, but Burnett was hammered and Pettitte has a losing record on three days.

Nov 02

About Last Night …. Yankees imposing their will.

They have the money and they have the star galaxy, but the Yankees are showing grit and resiliency. They are winning this World Series, with a 27th title within their grasp, despite Mark Teixeira not hitting; despite CC Sabathia not winning a game (all right, that’s semantics because he’s pitched very well); and despite Alex Rodriguez’s miserable start.

Many thought, myself included, this would go seven. Two potent offenses and aces on both teams, how could it not? The Yankees can wrap it up in five games tonight.

Bearing down on title 27

Bearing down on title 27


Rodriguez got the game winning hit last night, but wasn’t the game really won on Johnny Damon’s hustle when he stole two bases on one play? With the Phillies in a shift against Teixeira, who only has one hit in the Series, they neglected to cover third. That was closer Brad Lidge’s responsibility.

Rattled, Lidge hit Teixeira and Rodriguez delivered.

“There’s no question I’ve never had a bigger hit,” Rodriguez said.

It really is amazing how the momentum of the Series shifted so suddenly. It didn’t take much, either. After losing the first game, the Yankees were behind in Game 2 when Hideki Matsui tied it with a homer. You knew then the Series was going to be tied.

Down in Game 3, Andy Pettitte’s hit off a Cole Hamels curveball, tied that game and set up a big inning. The Series was now slipping away. Then, there was Damon’s play last night, after which you know what would happen next, and now the Yankees are 27 outs away from their 27th title.

That the Yankees came back last night after the Phillies tied the game in the eighth tells you what you need to know about them.

Like them or hate them, and there’s no middle ground, you must respect them. And, fear them.

Oct 31

Rodriguez off to slow Series start ….

He sizzled against the Twins and Angels, but has come up cold against the Phillies. However, in the interest of fairness, so too, have most of the hitters – from both teams – in the first two games of the World Series.

A-Rod: Six strikeouts in eight at-bats.

A-Rod: Six strikeouts in eight at-bats.


Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were on in Game 1, but stifled in Game 2. Rodriguez is hitless in eight at-bats with six strikeouts. Horrible at any time, but this is Rodriguez we’re talking about, and afterall, weren’t we just talking a couple of days ago how he shed his October label?

“It’s eight at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not concerned at all. … Everything right now is magnified.”

The Yankees, of course, will keep him in the line-up. It’s not like benching Hideki Matsui or Nick Swisher. Rodriguez carried the Yankees during the first two rounds with a combined 14 hits, .438 average, five home runs, 12 RBI and 10 runs in the first two rounds. He’s strong enough, and streaky enough, to do it again.

There was no way the Yankees were going to beat Cliff Lee, and maybe they got lucky against Pedro Martinez. The Phillies are happy with the split, that was their goal. The Yankees will take the split because they know it could have been worse.

Truer words were never spoken when Rodriguez said: “The fact that I’m oh-for-the-Series and we’re 1-1 and the guys picked me up makes me feel really good about going into Game 3.”

Oct 28

World Series Keys ….

I suppose it was going to come down to this all along, the Phillies against the Yankees in the World Series.

The Yankees, with the home field advantage because of the ridiculous All-Star Game gimmick, are considered the favorites. Would they be if the Phillies had the home field? I’m not so sure.

Looking at the match-ups, both teams are riding a hot ace and scorching bat, with the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES


In looking at the match-ups, I’ll give the edge to the Yankees at catcher (only when Jorge Posada plays), shortstop (Derek Jeter lives for these moments and third base (Rodriguez seems to have shaken the October blues).

I’ll give the edge to the Phillies at first (I recognize the year Mark Teixeira had, but Howard is a monster), second (Chase Utley, for my money is one of the best players in the game), and all three outfield positions.

The starting rotations and bullpens are relatively even. Mariano Rivera is better than Brad Lidge, but Rivera can be negated because the bridge to him is tenuous. The Phillies’ offense is superior to that of Minnesota and the Angels, and once in the Yankees’ bullpen there’s no guarantee we’ll see Rivera.

Here are some of the more notable keys to this World Series:

1. KEY: Is Brad Lidge back from the dark side?
BREAKDOWN: Lidge blew 11 save opportunities this summer, but has been perfect in the postseason. If he’s regained his touch this is a huge factor to the Phillies.

2. KEY: Which superstar will have the bigger series?
BREAKDOWN: Both Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig’s record with RBI in eight straight postseason games. Rodriguez appears to have shaken his October blues, but there is one more round. Both have the ability to carry a team.

3. KEY: Will the Phillies be able to run on the Yankees’ catching?
BREAKDOWN: Philadelphia led the majors with an 81 percent success rate in stole bases. Once Chase Utley gets on, if he wants second it is his (23-for-23). The Phillies also like to run with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. Surprisingly, the Yankees were second. The Phillies can run on anybody, but they haven’t seen a move as good as Andy Pettitte’s.

4. KEY: Will the Phillies limit Mariano Rivera’s appearances?
BREAKDOWN: If Rivera gets four save opportunities, it’s a good bet the Yankees will win their 27th World Series title. However, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the bridge to Rivera, has been rickety. Therefore, it is essential the Yankees will get innings from their starters to limit the bullpen exposure.

5. KEY: Will Cole Hamels return to prominence?
BREAKDOWN: Hamels, last year’s World Series MVP, had a miserable season. He’s pitched well in spots, but too often is vulnerable to the big inning.

6. KEY: Does Pedro Martinez have an encore in him?
BREAKDOWN: Assume for a moment CC Sabathia continues his roll in Game 1 and beats Cliff Lee. The Phillies would then need Martinez big time in Game 2 as falling down by two games would make defending their title difficult.

7. KEY: Will CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee continue to roll?
BREAKDOWN: Both have been virtually untouchable in the postseason and rightfully assume their roles as a No. 1. The Series could turn on who stumbles first.

8. KEY: Is there a rebound series for Mark Teixeira?
BREAKDOWN: Teixeira carried the Yankees for much of the season and had a hot ALDS against Minnesota. The Angels handcuffed him, but gave away that edge with their faulty defense. A hot Teixeira gives the Yankees another superstar bat.

9. KEY: Whose second level stars perform best?
BREAKDOWN: Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez vs. Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Both teams are loaded and both have the marquee names, but those on the undercard are also vitally important.

10. KEY: What happens in the AJ Burnett and Joe Blanton games?
BREAKDOWN: Both starters have the capacity to pitch big and small. To win a series, a team needs a solid start from its No. 3 and No. 4 starters.