Aug 17

Today in Mets’ History: When things looked brighter.

This was when the window was wide open for the Mets. They didn’t have extraordinary starting pitching, but a deep bullpen was deep and the lineup was powerful.

MAINE: It never happened for him.

There was a lot to like about the 2006 Mets, managed by Willie Randolph, who on this date ripped the Phillies in Philadelphia, 7-2, behind two homers from Carlos Delgado, one from Carlos Beltran and a workmanlike effort from John Maine.

Maine was acquired from Baltimore in the Kris Benson deal and showed glimpses of being a solid starter. Maine appeared on the verge of stardom the following year when he led the National League in wins at the break – but was an All-Star snub – and gave up one hit in a late September game against Florida that kept the Mets in the race.

However, arm problems and a tendency to more a thrower than a pitcher, derailed his career. Maine eventually clashed with manager Jerry Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen, and his Mets career was pulled after a five-pitch outing in Washington in his ninth start of the 2010 season.

Maine worked into the seventh this afternoon, before Randolph turned the game over to the bullpen.

First, the effective Chad Bradford, whom the Mets did not bring back in the offseason, then Pedro Feliciano, followed by Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner.

The Mets’ inability to keep their bullpen intact manifested itself in the dramatic late-season collapse the following year.

The bullpen has been an issue ever since.

BOX SCORE

 

Dec 03

Letting Carter go explains a lot.

The decision to let Chris Carter go explains a lot about both the past and present regimes of the Mets.

Just to save a few dollars, the Mets traded Billy Wagner to Boston for Carter late in the 2009 season. The option would have been to pay out the balance of the contract, offer him arbitration and collect the compensatory draft choices when he declined.

Those draft picks would look good now for a team with a myriad of holes.

Then GM Omar Minaya didn’t want to take that gamble because of the fear Wagner might accept and saddle the Mets with a bad contract, albeit for one season. That fear was instilled in large part from pressure from the Wilpons to save money.

What Minaya didn’t realize, and therefore couldn’t relay to the Wilpons, was Wagner understood the Mets were a sinking ship and wouldn’t have wanted to come back anyway. In hindsight, the prudent decision would have been to pay out Wagner for 2009 and gamble on arbitration.

Tbat brings us to Sandy Alderson and the decision to cut ties with Carter.

There’s still pressure to save money where ever possible as the 2011 contract for Carter would be at least $200,000 (60 percent of last year’s contract) plus the minor league contract. Alderson can bring Carter back at a reduced rate in a new split contract.

The pressure is on Carter to accept because with Fernando Martinez (assuming he’s healthy) and Lucas Duda, the Mets already have left-handed bats off the bench.

Carter was productive as a pinch-hitter, but he’s strictly a one-dimensional player in that his defense and throwing are weak.

Alderson knows Carter doesn’t bring much to the table, at least not more than Martinez or Duda, so why pay the extra money that’s needed for a franchise that wants to pinch pennies?

Mar 06

March 6.10: What about Kunz?

Mike Pelfrey is pitching this afternoon for the Mets, but I’m more interested today in Eddie Kunz, the guy who was supposed to be the Mets closer after Billy Wagner.

With the bullpen in shambles in 2008, Kunz got a look-see and disappointed. Kunz, 24 next month, also pitched poorly early this week against the Braves, walking three and retiring only one of the six batters he faced. He gave up four runs, and while one outing won’t determine his fate, it has been awhile since we’ve seen something positive from Kunz other than the scouting reports.

“He’s got great stuff,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “His ball moves. It’s powerful sink.’’

Yes, the scouting report reads the same as it did when he came out of Oregon State, but the results haven’t been there, and the Mets, a team in need of a bullpen, are moving on without him.

Names are bandied about, and Jenrry Mejia is the flavor of the month, but nobody talks about Kunz anymore.

Spring training is for new beginnings, and for Kunz it could be about last chances.

Jan 24

Jan. 24.10: Let’s big-picture this.

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

In 2006, the Mets finished 97-65, winning the National League East by 12 games. It would be fair to say that is when the window was open at its widest for this core of Mets. And, we’re talking David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. While that core has remained largely productive, the rest of the team, in particular it’s pitching, has not.

The strength of the 2006 team was arguably its bullpen, which picked up the slack for a consistent, but hardly spectacular rotation.

Despite signing Billy Wagner, at the time an All-Star caliber closer, Omar Minaya let two significant keys to that pen, Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford, get away. The Mets have been struggling to get a bullpen chemistry since. An argument can be made the chemistry started to fizzle with the decline of Aaron Heilman, who was so good in 2006 save that pitch to Yadier Molina.

Even so, the team started strong in 2007, taking a 34-18 record into June. Would we all agree that 2006 and the first two months of 2007 was when the Mets’ star burned its brightest?

They finished 54-56 the rest of the way in 2007, including a collapse in which they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. Much of the downward spiral was traced to a bullpen bridge that could not get to Wagner.

Since June 1, 2007, the Mets are 20 games below .500 – including another collapse in 2008 – and the refrain was the same after each season: The pitching is the problem. The 2008 team, by the way, blew 29 save opportunities.

It’s a double-edged sword: The bullpen is overworked and ineffective. But, the reason it is overworked is because the Mets aren’t getting quality innings from their starters.

For those who think I’m being too negative, those are the numbers.

I realize 2009 was a unique season because of injuries, but even under the assumption the core offensive players return to form this season, there remains largely the same pitching staff. Never mind the team’s hot start one-third into the last season, more representative of their performance was the remaining two-thirds.

Getting Johan Santana was a significant gesture of improvement, but he makes 34 starts a year. The pennant is won or lost in the remaining 128 games, and this is where the Mets are weak and have not improved.

Even Santana is a partial question as he’s coming off surgery. The team says he’ll be ready, but said the same thing about John Maine. Maine’s durability, along with his presence, are questions. We don’t know what we’ll get from Oliver Perez inning to inning, much less game to game. And, Mike Pelfrey has regressed. And, well, there is no fifth starter, yet.

Yes, Jason Bay will improve the offense, but in reality aren’t we subbing his numbers for that of a healthy Delgado? And, there’s another hole with the loss of Beltran. So, just how much better is the offense, really? And, what if Wright doesn’t regain his power stroke? Can we say for sure Reyes is back?

Bottom line: We can’t say the core is back to normal or will get that way.

In that case, it falls again on the pitching, which is the same pitching that failed miserably the last two-and-a-half seasons.

Nov 19

Changes in attitude ….

There were some interesting comments late last night on the Manager of the Year post. I was asked whether I saw young guys seemingly not care after a loss.

I sure did. Saw it during the games, too. And, yes, Tom Glavine and Billy Wagner spoke out about it. I wrote it several times. Some guys, Lastings Milledge for one, and Jose Reyes was another, who came across as not caring at times.

GLAVINE: Quote misunderstood.

GLAVINE: Quote misunderstood.


Although Carlos Beltran is quiet, I never got that impression from him. Carlos Delgado? Well, let’s just say he never wore a loss on his face.

As far as Glavine being a fraud? I don’t buy it. Never have and never will. Yes, he got shelled, and yes he answered a question by saying “this is not devastating.” Glavine’s problem was he was too literal in his use of the word. The rest of the quote, and I’m paraphrasing, “is losing a child or a loved one is devastating not losing a baseball game.”

In that context he’s right. Believe me, he was embarrassed and angry at his performance. He just wasn’t devastated.