Feb 02

Feb. 2.10: Back in the saddle again.

Good morning folks. First off, I’d like to thank you for your well wishes yesterday. I should get back some of my test results today, but I’m feeling better this morning. So, again, thank you very much for you kindness.

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?


Previously, I’d listed concerns of the Mets heading into spring training. One such concern was whether David Wright would regain his home run stroke. By most standards, Wright had a miserable season in 2009, and it was that way long before he took a fastball to his helmet. Wright hit .307 with a career-low 10 homers and only 72 RBI.

Wright did himself in early when he admitted the dimensions of Citi Field were getting to him. Once that became public, pitchers had their way with him from a power standpoint and gave him absolutely nothing to hit.

Wright tinkered with his swing, but an altered swing stays with a hitter, even on the road and his power numbers paled in comparison to other seasons in production away from home, too. Wright is human, and he began to press, and with injuries mounting up – without Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran – there was little protection in the order.

Wright has been working hard with hitting coach Howard Johnson, who should have done more to persuade his third baseman to not abandon the form that produced these numbers for a 162-game average: .309, 27 homers and 107 RBI.

The problem, Johnson dissected, was in waiting on the pitch, Wright waited too long. The ball would bear down on him and he couldn’t adjust. Say hello to 140 strikeouts. A career high. That Wright hit over .300 despite his high strikeout totals illustrated how unusual Wright’s season actually was.

Their off-season work has been concentrated on Wright attacking the ball more out front, being quick with his hands and driving the ball.

Which Wright will we see in 2010?

I’m willing to bet last season was an aberration and we’ll see numbers closer to his career averages rather than last year’s posting. I’ve seen how hard Wright works and believe he’s too good a hitter, too good an athlete, not to rebound.

Yes, I think Wright will be back in the saddle again.

Jan 25

Jan. 25.10: Who’s on first …. besides Murphy.

One scout said Carlos Delgado is acutally limping at first base and showing no range. “I can’t see it,” the scout told reporters when asked about Delgado playing first base for the Mets. Delgado, physically, is resembling a broken down DH. You know, DHs even need to run.

So, who’s it going to be as Murphy’s back-up at first base? Should they bring back Fernando Tatis or sign Ryan Garko. Or, do you have anybody else in mind?

Tatis has the edges in familiarity and versatility. The Mets know he can play both infield and outfield corners and second in a pinch. Garko is strictly a fist baseman, but he does have the power advantage.

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.

Jan 23

Jan. 23.10: Liking Garko over Tatis at first.

GARKO: Would help at first.

GARKO: Would help at first.

While the Mets are waiting to improve their pitching, it wouldn’t hurt to take a diversion and continue to add to their bench. There’s still a matter of the Daniel Murphy platoon at first base.

With Carlos Delgado not showing in winter ball he’s capable of the defensive end of it, why not go with Ryan Garko at first over Fernando Tatis?

Garko hit a combined .268 with 13 homers and 51 RBI last season for Cleveland and San Francisco. Tatis, who has been serviceable the last two seasons with the Mets, doesn’t have that power. Instead, he’ll be remembered for grounding into 13 double plays last year.

Garko won’t come at a high price, has some pop and plays first base by trade. I’d go with him over Tatis.

Jan 22

Jan. 22.10: Mets still looking for pitching.

Published reports have the Met serious about pitching, and have contacted Ben Sheets. They also have interest in former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang, who is coming off shoulder surgery and won’t be available until May 1. The team is also reported to be interested in John Smoltz and Jon Garland.

The word is very encouraging about Wang, who has been throwing pain free for seven weeks. Because of the abundance of off-days in April, the Mets can afford to wait until Wang is ready.

Sheets, who missed all of last season following surgery, is also throwing without difficulty. Reports are he could go for $8 million for one year.

I like the idea of Smoltz for the bullpen and buying time for Wang.

Register your top choice in a new poll.

Elsewhere, the Mets are considering adding the often-injured Chad Tracy as well as bringing back Fernando Tatis. The Mets are also looking at bringing back Carlos Delgado, who has played winter ball mostly as a DH, which doesn’t answer the basic question about his durability.