Aug 05

Today in Mets’ History: A reason to watch.

The Atlanta Braves are in town and not too long ago that was a big deal. As the Yankees and Red Sox go at it in Fenway Park for first place – it’s a worn story, but it’s real baseball – the Mets are clinging to what is left of their season.

After two disheartening losses to Florida, the Mets are 16.5 games behind first-place Philadelphia – noting for the record – and eight games behind wild-card leader Atlanta. They are also 2.5 games out of last place.

At 55-55, the Mets have exceeded most expectations to the point where the losses to the Marlins were anguishing. There was a moment this week when I actually looked at the scoreboard for the Braves score and did some quick wondering math.

The math is quite simple this weekend: Win or go home. Nothing short of a sweep will do.

For those who can’t dream of the impossible, remember on this date in Mets history they were in last place in the National League East by 11.5 games with a 48-60 record.

The Mets have the same record today as they did last season after 110 games, but even with their financial problems, there isn’t the same train wreck scenario.

Last year at this time we wondered about the job stability of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, and there was the lingering stagnating cloud that was Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

All that negativity is gone, and with Sandy Alderson there is the hope of a rebuilding process heading in the right direction. And, considering what he was dealt, how can you not be impressed with what Terry Collins has brought to the party?

Carlos Beltran is gone, but we knew all along that would happen. We also knew this would be a season without Johan Santana. We aren’t surprised Jason Bay isn’t hitting. We can’t also be surprised by a fall off from R.A. Dickey and the bullpen lapses.

But, we didn’t expect to be without David Wright for two months and not have Ike Davis, and we thought Mike Pelfrey would take another step.

And, quite honestly, when Beltran was here, few expected him to play as well as he did.

There are still a myriad of questions and issues surrounding this team, not the least of which is its financial structure and what will become of Jose Reyes.

All that and there’s still reason to watch.

For the most part the Mets are playing hard, aggressive and interesting baseball. Not always spotless, but there is a grit about them that is appealing. Last year, mostly because of its leadership and the Perez mess, the Mets were an easy team to dislike.

However, there is a likeable quality about this group. They play with an integrity that for one more weekend at least, there is reason to watch them and wonder what if.

 

Jul 31

Analyzing where the Mets stand today.

If the Mets were truly in a fire sale mode there was more they could have done prior to the 4:00 p.m., trade deadline. As a competitive team that to many overachieved through July, the Mets had plenty of chips they could have played to bolster their depth.

Chris Capuano and Jason Isringhausen both could help a contender, but are the types of players the Mets would need to plug in next season Capuano has been effective and warrants a chance to pitch for a spot in the rotation next spring.

Like all teams, the Mets need a closer, and unless Bobby Parnell makes progress the remaining two months – and during spring training – who is to say Isringhausen won’t get that chance for one more season? His potential to contribute in that forum likely exceeds whom he might have brought it. Isringhausen becomes even more important to the Mets when one watches Parnell struggle as he did this afternoon in Washington.

The one Met I thought might go was outfielder Scott Hairston, who homered twice this afternoon at Washington. He would have been perfect as a spot starter or pinch hitter, which is why Atlanta made a late run at him. But, with Beltran gone and questions persist surrounding the Mets’ outfield, there’s nothing wrong with having him around another year.

There’s something different about the make-up of this Mets’ team that was missing in previous seasons when the playoffs were not an option with two months remained in the summer. Then, there was nothing to play for. Now, they are playing to build a foundation.

Manager Terry Collins has impressed to his team these Mets are being seriously evaluated for 2012. When he said the Mets are trying to win as many games as possible, while the wild-card remains a long shot creating a winning chemistry is not out of the realm of possibility.

With today’s loss, the Mets are 7.5 games behind Atlanta for the wild-card with three teams they must leapfrog.

The Mets probably had a better chance to make a late wild-card run had they kept Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, but with October a distance away, they made the right trade decisions to prepare themselves for the future in that they freed salary and acquired a power arm to develop.

In the interim, this team has played shorthanded, but with a grit and intensity is worth building around. Hopefully, their offensive deficiencies created by losing Beltran could be offset with David Wright’s return from the disabled list. Then again, we’re always waiting for Jason Bay to hit.

So far, Isringhausen and others have offset losing Rodriguez in the bullpen.

When teams talk fire sales usually there are more bodies leaving than just Rodriguez and Beltran.  What remains intact is something for the Mets to build on, as what we have now is not the sign of desperation we envisioned coming out of spring training.

 

Jul 28

An appreciation of Carlos Beltran

The inevitable happened and Carlos Beltran is now a member of the San Francisco Giants, where he has an opportunity to atone for taking strike three against Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

One thing for certain is he wasn’t going to get it from the Mets, even had he stayed.

BELTRAN: Should be remembered positively.

After two injury riddled seasons and the Mets’ financial empire crumbling, we knew Beltran wouldn’t finish out the year. Saddled with a contract that didn’t allow compensatory draft picks, the Mets had to get something before he walked this winter.

General manager Sandy Alderson did as well as could be expected in getting one of the Giants’ top pitching prospects in Zachary Wheeler. He did so because San Francisco has a young and loaded rotation. F0r the Giants to repeat, they need a bat and Beltran was the best on the market.

In theory, the trade could help the Giants win this year and the rebuilding Mets in the future.

Unquestionably, Beltran’s agent, Scott Boras, played a persuasive role, as he made the impression to his client that with several salaries coming off the books next year, the Giants could have the resources to make an extension.

In dealing Beltran, the Mets gave up arguably the franchise’s most complete position player, even over Darryl Strawberry, David Wright and Jose Reyes. Beltran has all the tools and the Mets were lucky to have him. Unfortunately, too many Mets’ fans have a block on Beltran, and he hasn’t received the appreciation warranted a multiple All-Star.

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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.