Jan 31

Mets Matters: Five Intriguing Prospects; Ojeda Out; Minaya’s New Job

ESPN ranked the Mets’ farm system as the fourth best in baseball, and with it raised the possibility of which prospects we might see this summer at Citi Field.

This much seems clear, with the Mets vigilantly guarding their minor leaguers’ Super Two status, and barring an injury, the probability is we won’t be seeing these guys prior to June.

Here are five of the more intriguing prospects:

NOAH SYNDERGAARD: He’s the franchises’ top prospect, and with Matt Harvey on an innings watch, we will undoubtedly see him this year, perhaps prior to the All-Star break. Syndergaard averaged just under ten strikeouts per nine innings, but was an unimpressive 9-7.

KEVIN PLAWECKI: The catcher will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, but how long he stays there will be dependent on Travis d’Arnaud’s offensive production and if Plawecki can increase his power.

STEVEN MATZ: He split time last season between Single and Double-A, and will likely open the year at Triple-A, meaning Citi Field is possible in September. Being left-handed enhances his chances, especially if the Mets can move Jon Niese.

DILSON HERRERA: He made a positive impression last season and we will see him this year. How soon could depend on how well the Mets do, with a poor first half increasing the possibility of them moving second baseman Daniel Murphy.

BRANDON NIMMO: Because the Mets added Michael Cuddyer this offseason, there’s no rush to elevate Nimmo, their No. 1 pick in 2011. The Mets hoped to have him up by now, and his stock could plummet if he doesn’t show something this season. He hit a combined ten homers last year between St. Lucie and Binghamton, and similar production won’t cut it.

OJEDA OUT AT SNY: Say what you will about the Mets not having enough talent on the field, but they’ve always had top-drawer play-by-play announcers and analysts, both on radio and television. This year they will be short by one with the announcement studio analyst Bobby Ojeda will not return to SNY.

Reportedly, the network is in negotiations with former major league pitcher Nelson Figueroa.

MINAYA TO WORK FOR MLBPA: Former Mets general manager Omar Minaya left his position as a vice president of the San Diego Padres to become a special adviser with the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Minaya’s focus will be on international affairs and game development in the United States.


Jan 10

Mets’ Fan Takes On Ownership

Gary Palumbo hears the critics, but doesn’t care.

“But, you’re just a fan,’’ they say. “Fans can’t do anything against the owners that would matter.’’

Maybe not, but their voices can be heard.

“That’s one of the most infuriating comments,’’ said the long-time Mets’ fan, now a 39-year-old software implementation specialist, who grew up in Fairfield, Ct., and now lives in New Hampshire.

“I can’t see myself sitting on my hands and doing nothing. I would choose anytime to do something and fail rather than do nothing.’’

Palumbo is the driving force behind the billboard Mets’ fans, frustrated at the club’s ownership, will see beginning April 6 for a month outside Citi Field on Roosevelt Avenue. There will be two billboards, including one greeting those riders coming off the Seven Line subway.

The billboard will come off as a help-wanted ad, seeking: “Ownership committed to winning. Apply at Citi Field.’’

Speaking in a phone interview this afternoon, Palumbo said his intent isn’t to get the Wilpons to sell the team – although he indicated that would be ideal – but for them to realize Mets’ fans aren’t happy with the job they’ve done and are angry for promises not kept.

“Right now, the time is right,’’ said Palumbo. “They asked us to wait for five years so they could get their house in order and once the kids were ready to go. They didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain. They just want to build their shopping mall and condos.’’

That’s long been a popular rap against Mets’ ownership; that they are more interested in building up the area now populated by chop shops than putting together a winning team.

Ironically, the driving force for Palumbo to get the funding to come up with the $4,500 needed to pay for the billboard were the words of former Met Pedro Martinez, who was voted into the Hall the Fame this week.

Speaking in a conference call Tuesday, Martinez said Yankees’ fans are more demanding and Mets’ fans are “willing to settle.’’

That morning Palumbo was $1,362 shy, but easily passed that by midnight. Palumbo has more than $6,000 in pledges and donations and is contemplating increasing how long the billboard will be posted and even paying for a billboard in Port St. Lucie.

None of this might have happened had he not seen a game in 1985 with his cousin. The next, on Old Timers Day at Shea Stadium, he saw Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry hit back-to-back homers, “and was sucked in.’’

But, he won’t be suckered.

“I know A couple of pissed off fans aren’t going to make a couple of billionaires sell the team,’’ Palumbo said. “I’m tired of them pretending they are the Kansas City Royals. My main goal is to elevate the conversation that we are not satisfied with direction of how ownership is operating this team.’’

Jan 04

Citi Field Expensive; Mets Must Groom Future Fans

Eventually, the shine comes off newest houses, which is something the Mets are learning about Citi Field, which has never been the home the franchise had hoped.

Citi Field hasn’t given the Mets a home-field advantage both on the field and in the stands, with attendance gradually declining since it opened in 2009 at 38,941 per game.

Last season, the Mets drew 26,528, as they learned what the Blue Jays, White Sox and Orioles – teams that made up the first wave of the new stadium construction – found out. They’ll come if you build it, but they won’t come again if you don’t win.

They also learned that in Texas, Houston and Cleveland.

Fans are willing to pay for the novelty of a new stadium, but the real attraction is the product on the field, and in that regard the Mets have been a disappointment.

I started thinking of this after reading a report from sports marketing publisher Team Marketing Report, which noted the Fan Cost Index increased 2.3 percent last year to $212.46, with Citi Field the seventh most expensive at $229.68.

The index measures the cost of this odd shopping list: four average-priced tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four (regular-sized) hot dogs, parking for one car, two programs and the two least expensive hats.

Baseball used to call itself “a bargain in comparison to other professional sports,’’ and it used to be true. Nothing is inexpensive anymore, including going to the movies.

Of course, a stadium in New York figures to be expensive (the Yankees are second at $337.20 and Fenway Park is an astronomical $350.78), and you can knock that price down by going on bargain nights, skipping the programs and hats.

However, the Mets don’t make it easy for the fan. For example, it would be nice if the Mets allowed you to bring your own food into the ballpark, but I don’t know of any team that allows it.

I understand the economics of it – the same principles explain player contracts – but the costs of the going to a baseball game is something the keepers of the sport should be more aware of in developing its future fan base.

Attendance has been up in recent years, but much of this can be attributed to new stadium construction, built for the large part with taxpayer funding.

However, the gravy train can’t last forever and the Mets must be aware of grooming the next generation of fans – and ticket buyers.

Dec 26

David Wright Gets It

It was a simple gesture, but further proof David Wright gets it.

The son of a policeman, Wright knew what Jaden and Justin Ramos – the sons of slain NYPD police officer Rafael Ramos – would be feeling Christmas Eve. So, he called to invite them to spring training and to hang with the Mets this summer at Citi Field.

A police source told The Daily News: “You should have seen them — what a reaction. They were really smiling. It gave them a few minutes to smile and be excited.’’

Wright declined to talk to the newspaper about the phone call, which is also fitting.

There are hundreds of athletes in all sports who understand what they mean to people and just always know what to do. It is what makes them so special.

In no small part, this is why the Mets gave Wright that contract and named him captain. He is not only the face of the franchise, but arguably the most important position player in their history.

He’s always been one of the good guys.

Dec 20

One More Time: Tulowitzki Not Happening

OK, one more time: Troy Tulowitzki is not coming to the Mets.

Yes, yes, yes … there have been reports this week the Mets and Rockies are talking. I am sure they’ve spoken since the Winter Meetings. They could be exchanging holiday greetings, or talking about the weather, or trading fantasy football players, but serious dialogue about Tulowitzki isn’t one of the topics.

TULOWITZKI: Keep on dreaming.

TULOWITZKI: Keep on dreaming.

To understand why it won’t happen one must first ask:  Why do the Rockies want to deal him?

It begins with health, and here there aren’t any guarantees. A healthy Tulowitzki would be great to have, but he’s coming off hip surgery that puts his power potential in question. The Mets don’t have to look any further than across town at Alex Rodriguez to understand how a bum hip makes even great players, well, bums.

Couple his questionable health with the $118 million he is owed over the next six years, and you begin to comprehend why the Rockies want to start over. Sure, they’ll have to assume some of his contract to get another team to take him off their hands, but not nearly enough to make the Mets bite.

Having played at least 140 games only once in the past five years makes him a high-risk gamble. Sandy Alderson has spent his tenure as the Mets’ general manager paring down payroll. That’s why he was brought here.

Say what you want about the Wilpons and their budget, but understand that’s not going to change. It just won’t, and it especially won’t with a high-risk gamble with the cost of one or two of their young stud pitchers, even if one of them isn’t Matt Harvey.

The Rockies are concerned about his injury history, salary and want a talented bunch of prospects in return. Given that, those are the same reasons the Mets should run away.

But you say, look at his numbers at Citi Field. OK, I will. Let’s see, five homers, 11 RBI, a .438 batting average and 1.368 OPS in 58 plate appearances over 14 games. Hmm, well, that is impressive, but it’s not the ballpark as much as it is the Mets’ pitching he’s faced over the years.

Understand, he won’t be facing that pitching if he comes here. If you’re hung up on seeing Tulowitzki play at Citi Field, the Rockies will be in for the start of a four-game series, Aug. 10.

Plenty of tickets are available.