Sep 22

It’s over, finally.

The inevitable became official last night when the Florida Marlins eliminated the Mets from playoff contention for the third time in four years. The Marlins might have administered the killing blow, but last night, as in the other two years, the Mets killed themselves.

Last night was a microcosm of this season in many ways, beginning with an offense that squandered numerous opportunities to eventually waste a strong starting performance, this time from Mike Pelfrey. The Mets’ inability t0 produce, much less in the clutch, has been a critical weakness all summer.

We’ve been over this before, but most of the starting position players will return next season so the Mets don’t figure to add a big bat. They need to hope for healthy players and improvement. Hoping makes for a very bad plan.

For his part, Pelfrey continues to pitch well enough to win most games, but last night was betrayed by his defense and later the bullpen.

After Pedro Feliciano retired the first two batters in the eighth, Jerry Manuel went to Elmer Dessens, who gave up four straight hits, including a mammoth three-run homer to Gaby Sanchez. Why Feliciano wasn’t allowed to continue is beyond me. He’s certainly more reliable than Dessens.

Another poor bullpen decision, but there have been so many I’ve lost track.

It’s easy to blame injuries, and for the Mets they could wonder what might have been had they not lost significant time from Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes and Johan Santana. Still, the Mets’ losses weren’t as severe as those of the Phillies, but they managed to overcome and have won 21 of their last 25, the kind of hot streak Manuel kept waiting for, but never came.

Championship caliber teams must find a way to overcome from injuries and the Mets did not. There were simply too many times this season when they beat themselves, whether it be an error in the field, giving away an at-bat, or throwing a lazy pitch.

You are what your record says you are, and for the Mets they are a losing team for the second straight season, and out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

On an interesting note, Manuel responded to Joe Torre’s comments about being curious about the Mets’ job, and Torre responded by apologizing to Manuel and saying he was closing the door on managing the Mets. Torre should have danced around the question better and apologized for violating an unwritten protocol.

Still, people change their minds so I wouldn’t write off the Mets and Torre talking after the season. It’s not as if Torre backing off now will save Manuel’s job. The Mets have not been shy in the past for going after media outlets for stories they didn’t like, or weren’t correct. The Mets have not told one media outlet to back off on Manuel, nor have they made any comment about his returning.

They have left Manuel alone to twist in the wind because they know he’s not returning. They are studying their options. Speaking of which, they appear to have lost out on Kevin Towers, who appears to be headed for Arizona. He would have been intriguing.

So, it is officially over, but we’ve known for awhile now that it wasn’t going to happen for the Mets. For me, I thought the series just prior to the break when they lost to Atlanta was a determining moment. From there, came the disastrous West Coast slide that coincided with the return of Carlos Beltran.

From there, the rest of the season was a formality.

Sep 20

Where to plug the holes?

I’m looking at the Mets’ payroll for 2011 and see around $130 million is already spent, much of it on players who could make a minimal impact, if at all. Money will be spent on Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez, but what will the return be?

Castillo will get his money, even if he doesn’t play full time at second base. This is one of the few spots where the Mets could upgrade. They also must upgrade their rotation, bullpen and bench.

Every other position, I see, is already accounted for.

I see Ike Davis and Josh Thole as building blocks. Even though they could get something in return, I don’t see them dealing David Wright and Jose Reyes. Jason Bay, assuming he’s healthy, will come back in left field.

Beltran is virutally untradeable with an $18.5 million contract for next year (the Mets would have to pick up most of it in a deal) and having been injured for much of the past two years. He’ll be back and Angel Pagan will move to right, that is, unless the new manager can convince Beltran to switch from center.

The Mets don’t figure to spend heavily, so they’ll hope for a repeat from RA Dickey, and continued development from Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese. They might pick up a middle-tier arm to minimally off-set the projected loss of Johan Santana.

And, if they can’t shed K-Rod’s contract, they’ll hope he’ll be sound following thumb surgery. They’ll try, but might not be able to re-sign Hisanori Takahashi, and they’ll hope Bobby Parnell further develops. They’ll swap out their other bullpen pieces with mediocrity and hope for the best.

They’ll hope from the best from Bay and Beltran, hope Wright and Reyes have better seasons, and that Pagan wasn’t a fluke.

It really doesn’t matter who they bring in here as GM and manager, their hands are tied with their existing contracts and the way the roster is configured.

They don’t figure to be much better, if anything, other than they are today. They will bide their time into they clear some salary off the books for the 2012 season.

Sep 02

Manuel’s status ….

MANUEL: Clock ticking toward the inevitable.

Jerry Manuel told The New York Post the other day he’d love to know his job status for next season. There was a chance of his return, maybe even had the Mets not made the playoffs, if they continued to play as they did in June when they reached a high-water mark of 11 games over .500. Had they made a real run an argument could be made for him.

But, the collapse in July, followed by a month of .500 ball – give or take a game – has done him in. August was especially brutal because the Mets played with disinterest, without passion, without spark. There were extenuating circumstances – there always is – but the general apathy the team has been in the past month greatly reflects on the manager.

He has lost his team.

Several things within Manuel’s control have done him in, headed by his handling of the bullpen. He burns out relievers and isn’t always clear in dealing with the players on their job descriptions. Communication is not his strong point, as evidenced when he said Ike Davis had been spoken to regarding his emotional displays at the plate. When asked about this, Davis had no clue.

David Wright did not know when he’d get a day off. Manuel did not discuss with Jeff Francoeur his status following Carlos Beltran’s return.

Manuel threw John Maine under the bus when he said maybe the best day to pitch him would be on off days. He insisted on three catchers in the National League game which is absurd. Manuel’s handling of Jose Reyes’ oblique strain prior to All-Star break was foolish. He insisted on Jenrry Mejia in the bullpen to start the season when it clearly was not in the best long-term interests of the club.

The list goes on and on.

That there is not one Met saying for publication that the fault is on the players and not Manuel is telling. Nobody is in his corner. More than a few Mets stood up for Willie Randolph, while at the time Manuel was telling the brass he’d be interested in the job.

Add it all up, and the Mets are 190-198 under Manuel in his two-and-a-half  years. For the fourth straight year the Mets will not make the playoffs, for the second straight year September will be about showcasing players for the following season.

This time, the Mets will be showcasing players Manuel will never get to manage.

Sep 01

Mejia to get start

The Mets announced this afternoon Jenrry Mejia will start Saturday’s game at Chicago. Not a surprise.

I hope the Mets give Mejia a lot of rope to see what he is capable of doing. Remember he spent a lot of the season in the bullpen, so his innings aren’t what they could be had he been in a rotation all year. Even so, I’m sure they will watch his pitch count.

By rope, I mean let him work his way out of jams and if he gets mauled early, let ‘s see how he reacts. I don’t want to hear how getting rocked will shake his confidence, because if he’s as good as the Mets think he’ll learn from it.

This is obviously the right thing to do, as the Mets finally have realized his future is as a starter. Five starts won’t be enough for him to develop another pitch, but it is a start. Even after five starts he might need more time in Triple A to develop, but that’s all right.

I thought they pushed the envelope with him in the first half of the season with how they handled him in the bullpen. There were glimpses where you could tell what all the fuss is about, and there were other times when you knew he wasn’t ready.

The season is lost, so it’s time to plan ahead. For every fifth day at least, when Mejia pitches, there will be meaningful games in September. Let him take his lumps and learn from it. Both he and the Mets will be better off.

Aug 24

Can’t see Warthen surviving, either.

The Mets’ starting pitching is decidedly better than it was last year at this time, but I don’t think it will be enough to save Dan Warthen when Jerry Manuel gets the ax, presumably within days after the end of the regular season.

Incoming managers prefer to name their own pitching coach and staff. To have a staff thrust on a new manager is unfair and puts him at a disadvantage. There’s always the underlying thought  if the pitching coach stays he’s really the GM’s guy. The new manager could interview from the old staff as a courtesy, but there are no guarantees.

That coaches’ contracts expire after the season – unlike that of GM Omar Minaya – should make the transition easier. If Manuel goes as expected, it will mean five managers this decade, hardly a bastion of stability. They’ve also had three general managers during that span to further indicate this is franchise without stable direction.

So, they start again with a new manager and pitching coach.

While the rotation has improved, there’s not enough of an imprint by Warthen to make a difference for these reasons:

1) John Maine: Calling one of your pitchers a “habitual liar,” is not good business. Although it turned out Maine was injured, the process of letting him go out there when he didn’t have it to throw five pitches lost the player, and might have damaged Warthen’s ability in the clubhouse. The team had rebound hopes for Maine but he never made any progress and then came the injury.

2) Oliver Perez: While this is probably unfair with the assumption Perez is a lost cause, Warthen did have two years to work with him without positive results.

3) Mike Pelfrey: Kudos for the fast start, some questions for the slide. There was also last year. Pelfrey, despite showing signs of coming out of it, remains an enigma.

4) The Eighth Inning Guy: All season the Mets have had troubles finding somebody for the eighth inning. A lot of guys have pitched there, but nobody has taken hold of the job. While Manuel will get roasted for this, Warthen must share responsibility.

5) Burning out the bullpen: Manuel kept riding the hot horse until he drops. Somewhere, the pitching coach has to do a better job of monitoring the bullpen arms to keep everybody fresh.