Nov 23

Some issues for Collins

The thing that stood out most in listening to Terry Collins this morning is his emphasis in “playing the game the correctly.’’

Collins promised an accent on fundamentals with a team that too often disregarded them in the past. This is a team that gives away too many at-bats, both at the plate and on the mound, and loses focus.

That is the culture Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins vowed to change.

One thing apparent in Alderson’s comprehensive search and handpicking of Collins as manager is the continuity between the front office and field staff. There will be no more players taking their issues over the manager to the general manager.

That was the chemistry in Anaheim when the players revolted against Collins, and with the Mets when Tony Bernazard sabotaged Willie Randolph, and the last two years when Jerry Manuel managed without the respect of his players.

Collins said the right things, but there’s more I’d like to hear from him:

THE CORE: Collins wants the game played correctly, but hasn’t elaborated on what he doesn’t like about David Wright and Jose Reyes.

Wright put up decent numbers last season, but they were somewhat deceiving because of his strikeouts. Wright still gives up too many at-bats to kill rallies. The right way also means increasing Reyes’ on-base percentage. Injuries have limited Reyes from running and if he’s healthy will Collins turn him loose?

CARLOS BELTRAN: Collins mentioned how badly Beltran wants to win. The team will keep Beltran because of his contract.  Collins hasn’t said yet whether he wants Beltran to move to right field to make room for Angel Pagan in center.

THE BULLPEN: The Mets will offer arbitration to Pedro Feliciano. If he accepts the Mets will have a proven lefty specialist. With the assumption Francisco Rodriguez is back as closer, the next order of business in the pen will be designating a set-up man. Presumably, that will be Bobby Parnell. The Mets must now fill four spots in the bullpen. How many could be filled from the minor league system Collins oversaw last summer?

THE ROTATION: With Johan Santana on the shelf indefinitely, the Mets have three starters heading into the winter meetings: Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey and Jon Niese.

With the Mets not expected to be free-spending in the free-agent market, their options are from within, trades and middle-tier arms in free agency.

Collins must operate on the assumption there won’t be any significant additions so his thoughts on Dillon Gee are important. As it is now, no matter how healthy the Mets are with Jason Bay and Beltran, it means little without a strong rotation.

Alderson wants to unload Oliver Perez, but that’s a monumental task. Assuming the worst, that Perez is still here in the spring, how does Collins envision using him?

SECOND BASE: There are three candidates: Luis Castillo, Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy. If Murphy can handle the position defensively, he offers the best bat.

Collins knows Tejada from the minor leagues and probably has an idea of his ceiling.

JENRRY MEJIA: As of now, the Mets regard Mejia as a potential starter.  With Collins’ background in player development he likely has his ideas of how he was used last year and what his timetable might be.

Nov 04

Time for Reyes to put up.

As expected, the Mets picked up the $11 million option for Jose Reyes for 2011 and left open the possibility of a long term extension.

REYES: Time to put up.

Those talks won’t happen soon.

When the Mets signed Reyes to a multi-year deal in 2006, he was on the verge of stardom and being a special player. The injuries that plagued him early in career were seemingly behind him, he was an All-Star and regarded as one of the top leadoff hitters in the game. There seemed to be no ceiling to his potential and the Mets rewarded him for they thought he might provide.

But, he hasn’t lived up to those expectations. He hasn’t provided.

Reyes missed most of the 2009 season with hamstring injuries, and was sidelined this spring with a thyroid issue causing justifiable concerns about his durability. For several weeks this past summer Reyes was at the top of his game, but then came the oblique problems and the season faded away for both the Mets and their shortstop.

Now it’s time to talk money.

Based on what he gave the Mets the past two seasons, would you sign Reyes to a long-term deal now?

Alderson’s thinking is to keep Reyes for 2011 to see where he is in his career, then make a decision for the future beginning for 2012 when he has more money. Reyes must prove  he’s healthy and the player the Mets have long envisioned. He needs to improve his on-base percentage, start being a threat on the bases again – where is the guy who stole over 60 bases? – and sharpen a focus that still wanders.

All that talk about Reyes becoming a gamebreaker, a force, an elite player … well, Alderson is waiting for it to happen this summer. Reyes must prove to the Mets he finally is that player if he’s to get the extension he wants.

If he doesn’t, then this time next year the Mets could be letting him walk.

Nov 03

What will be the “Mets Way?”

Sandy Alderson’s first hire is former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi as his special assistant, with presumably one of his responsibilities to help implement a “Mets Way,” throughout the organization, beginning with the lower levels of the minor league system.

Considering the dimensions of Citi Field, presumably an organizational philosophy will place an emphasis on pitching and defense first, followed by situational hitting, and down on the list power.

As the Giants proved, power is not essential to win, and the Mets have enough to get by with David Wright, Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran (presuming all are healthy, each has 30 homer potential) followed by Ike Davis.

It must begin with pitching, with the first step pounding the strikezone and getting ahead of the hitters. Hopefully, it will include instilling the mindset of working deep into games. When Mike Pelfrey was winning in June he worked fast, efficiently and kept the ball down. When he struggled in July he was the opposite and lost confidence.

The Mets have some talented arms below and I’d like the organization to keep them and not rush their progression. Let them develop a variety of pitches and not be reliant on just one pitch. The prime example is Mike Pelfrey, who gradually developed his secondary pitches, and Jenrry Mejia, who still has a way to go.

If the Mets are able to harness arms and pitch to contact, they should then let the defense take care of them. The Mets still gave away far too many outs, and this must be addressed in spring training. There were still instances of overthrowing the cutoff man and not knowing ahead of time of what to do with the ball.

Defensively, there must be more of a concentration on fundamentals, and this also pertains to the offense, where at times it was glaring as emphasized with the amount of strikeouts.

Offensively, way too many at-bats were given away because the hitter lacked patience and didn’t have a mastery of the strikezone. On-base percentage is a statistic that could be improved by nearly every hitter on the team, including Jose Reyes and Wright.

When the team was winning in June Reyes and Wright were on their games, which meant forcing the play and using the whole field. When they hit the skids in July, their situational hitting as a team was non existent.

Wright, Davis and Bay must reduce their strikeouts, which would automatically increase the on-base percentage and lead to more productive outs.

Power is baseball’s great eraser and always has been. The three-run homer can overcome a lot of things. However, being consistent fundamentally applies continuous pressure on the opposition and that’s the way to go.

I want players who’ll force the action, who know how to take the extra base, who’ll make the correct decisions and not take plays off. I want to see a hustle that was absent at times. We saw Angel Pagan have a horrific season fundamentally in 2009, but he greatly improved last year so it can be done.

I want pitchers who’ll throw strikes and not beat themselves with walks. I want pitchers who’ll go after hitters, and not lose concentration after an error, bad umpire’s call or poor pitch.

This must be emphasized on the major league level, with consequences when it is not. It must also be taught and drilled in the minor leagues.

It’s not an overnight process, but if strongly implemented we should see results the first year.

The Mets’ Way should be to play smart, aggressive, fundamental and relentless ball. It shouldn’t be a novelty when a player advances a runner, hits the cutoff man or doesn’t get lazy in the strikezone with a pitch when he falls behind in the count.

It should be an all time thing.

Let’s face it, the Mets don’t have a rotation like that in San Francisco. They don’t have the power or the ability to buy their way out of trouble like the Yankees.

The Mets have talent, but to win they must out hustle and out work their opposition.

Jul 15

Mets Chat Room; Beltran returns.

Game #89 at Giants

The Mets welcome Carlos Beltran back to the lineup tonight after a lengthy stint and rehab assignment following knee surgery.

Beltran appeared in 14 rehab games for Single-A St. Lucie. He said he’s pain free, but that’s not to say he’s rust free.

“I think I swung the bat well, but at the big league level it’s a different story,’’ Beltran said.  “I do feel like I need to make adjustments. It will take me time. I don’t expect to come here and rake. I just expect to come here and like I say, do my part. Being able to contribute any way I can, and I believe in that.’’

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May 26

Jose Reyes back … are the Mets next?

With his legs feeling better, stronger and more flexible, and released from the shackles of hitting third in the batting order where he never felt comfortable, Jose Reyes is back to being Jose Reyes.

Reyes is coming off this best game of the season last night, when he went 3-for-5 – including a triple – two stolen bases and three runs scored in the rout of the Phillies. One of those hits was off a bunt.

“I can’t wait to get on base two or three times a game,’’ Reyes said. “My legs feel so good now.’’

After undergoing surgery to replace a torn hamstring tendon, and missing most of spring training with a thyroid issue, Reyes as struggled for much of the season. His legs missed that strong push-off step and he looked lost batting third and developed a noticeable uppercut in his swing.

The result was a .275 on-base percentage.

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