Oct 09

Count Upton, Cabrera Off Mets’ Radar

There’s plenty of intriguing possibilities, only if the Mets were willing to take a financial gamble, which Sandy Alderson said they are not inclined to do.

As I posted yesterday, the Mets have $79.5 million of their earmarked $100 million to spend on six players: Johan Santana, RA Dickey, David Wright, Jason Bay, Jon Niese and Frank Francisco.

B.J. Upton would be terrific in Citi Field, supplying defense to aid the pitching staff and offense. At 28, he’s just the kind of player you could sign to a multi-year deal and build around. Trouble is he comes with some attitude baggage and the Mets would be wary of surrounding their young talent around him. That’s one of the reasons they were willing to eat the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

Upton would be much better on a veteran laden team – like the Yankees – that has the leadership to keep him in line. When the Mets sputtered in the second half and Terry Collins suggested they were quitting, that’s the scenario where Upton might pack it in.

The guy I am especially intrigued about is Melky Cabrera, who would cost less than Upton because of his own baggage.

On the plus side, Cabrera could cover left field and adds a lot offensively. This year, and last season with Kansas City, he proved he can hit. But, he was making $6 million this year and even with a pay cut that’s too rich for the Mets’ blood.

Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for using a performance enhancing drug. His team, the Giants, wouldn’t let him go on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues as he is allowed and kept him off the postseason roster. What does that tell you about there desire to bring him back?

On top of the suspension, he and his idiot agent cooked up a crazy cover story that included the design of a website. That might have been worse than the drug use itself.

Cabrera, who led the National League in hitting this year and it a damage control move asked that he not be awarded the title, would likely get a short term deal because he’s a risk. Who wants to sink time and money for a player that could get nailed again? You don’t have to pay during a suspension, but you do have to fill the spot if he’s suspended.

Excluding the drug use there’s another question about him and that’s the number of teams he’s played for at a young age. In a seven-year span Cabrera has played for the Giants, Royals, Yankees and Braves, or just under two years a team.

There’s something wrong with that picture.


Sep 28

Mets Matters: Last Time Facing Chipper Jones

The Mets are in Atlanta tonight to start a three-game series against the Braves and long-time nemesis Chipper Jones.

Jones has taken his farewell tour among National League parks and has been given numerous gifts ranging from a pop-art painting of Shea Stadium from the Mets, a surfboard from the Padres, and maybe the best of all, an autographed Stan Musial jersey from the Cardinals.

The Braves will honor him prior to tonight’s game and he’ll have three more shots at tormenting the Mets.

Jones will go down as one of the top four switch hitters in history, along with Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray (both over 500 homers) and Pete Rose (the career hits leader).

He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Niese starts for Mets: Jonathan Niese will make his final start of the season. The pre-season goal was 15 victories, but Niese stands at 12-9 with a very respectable 3.49 ERA, and an improved 1.18 WHIP (from his career of 1.36).

He has a very good 152-46 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, but needs to cut down on homers allowed (21).

Perhaps most importantly, Niese will end the season injury free with 30 starts.

Gee goes home: Dillon Gee is at his off-season Fort Worth, Texas, home today, having been sent home by the club after the Citi Field 2012 finale.

Gee threw a bullpen session Monday, his first time on the mound since July 13, when he had surgery to repair an artery in his pitching shoulder that caused numbness in his arm.

Gee said he had never thrown off a mound this soon after an extended down period and came away pleased.

“All I wanted to do was see how much I could build up before the end of the season,” Gee said. “And, to be honest with you, normally I’m not on the mound this early. So to be up on the mound this early and feel pretty good is encouraging. That was a goal.’’

It was important for the Mets to see Gee throw before winter, even if it was only 25 pitches so they could get a feel of his physical status.

Gee said he’ll start working out immediately after the season and begin throwing in December, as he does every year. That there are no restrictions on him is very encouraging.

Citi Field, 2012, numbers: The Mets finished 36-45 at home, a number that must at least be reversed if they are to become regarded as a contender. They scored 287 runs, their fewest at home since 1994, when they scored 235 runs. They did homer 67 times, their most at home since opening the park, but were outhomered by five.

Sep 28

Dickey Relates To Fans The Way Few Have

It is in part because of his tell-all book that revealed both his flaws and his character. It is in part because of the road he has traveled – full of potholes – to get to 20 wins. It is in part because of his exuberance. It is in part because of his honesty.

Maybe, above hall it was the way he hustled down the line after hitting that dribbler down the line – against his manager’s orders. That’s the competitor in R.A. Dickey and why he’s related this year to Mets fans the way few have.

As he came to the plate that final time, the crowd responded by chanting his name. Dickey heard it and it moved him.

“I would hear this kind of growing surge,” he said. “And it was really neat. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced that before, and maybe I never will again.”

Neat? Who but a kid at heart would say that? That relates to us on so many levels, greatest of all is the thrill of playing the game we’ve all played in our youth and dreamed of playing at the highest level and hearing in our imagination the chants Dickey heard.

It was why he swung.

“How can you not be motivated to go out there and give the fans and your teammates and yourself all that you have?” Dickey asked.

Dickey said he was gassed after six innings, but at Collins urging – who told him ride with the moment – that he kept going.

“I wanted to give them that gift,” Dickey said of the fans and why he staying in the game.

He wanted to give us a gift? What athlete has said that lately?

The Mets asked him and David Wright to record thank-you messages to the fans. They represent the heart and soul of the Mets and relate to us in a special way.

It is fitting Wright reached the club’s career hit milestone and Dickey won 20 games in this final homestand before the coldness of winter and the snows bury Citi Field and another poor season.

I wrote yesterday how it would have been good theatre for the Mets to announce extensions for them both prior to the finale. It would have generated an incredible buzz and sense of optimism for the future.

After this homestand, and seeing how the fans related to Wright Wednesday and Dickey yesterday, it is now imperative the Mets find a way to sign them both this winter and not drag this out into next season the way they did Jose Reyes.

Don’t play with the heart and soul of your team.


Sep 25

What If David Wright Doesn’t Want To Stay?

I keep hearing, “Will the Mets re-sign David Wright?” and “What will it take to keep David Wright?” and “How can the Mets not afford to bring back David Wright?”

All very good, pointed and legitimate questions. Here’s some more: “What if David Wright wants to leave?” and “What’s keeping David Wright tied to the Mets?”

Unquestionably, Wright is the face of this franchise, he’s the most popular, he’s their best player. And, he’s still young enough where the team can build around him. But, what if Wright doesn’t want them to build around him anymore?

Seriously. Mull that over for a moment.

Jose Reyes is gone and so is Carlos Beltran, the latter whom is having a great season. Those were the position-player building blocks the team had around Wright. They are gone and if published reports are to be believed, might Ike Davis be next? Afterall, outside of their young pitching Davis figures to bring back the most in return.

Sandy Alderson has already said not to expect a winter spending spree, so realistically, the 2013 Mets will be vastly similar to this year’s second-half collapse model, with the hope being improvement from within, notably a strong first full season from Matt Harvey. Even so, the Mets are probably two or three years away from serious playoff contention.

Wright will be 33 in three years and perhaps nine years removed from his last playoff appearance (2006). Don’t you think he might be tired of being pitched around, losing and making public relations appearances for a team not going anywhere?

By that time, if not traded or having left as free agents, what will the 2015 Mets look like?

Just last week Wright said there are no moral victories and it is all about making the playoffs. At the same time, R.A. Dickey said “you’re kidding yourself if you think we’re more than one piece away.”

Wright said he wants to remain a Met, but hasn’t said he can’t say he’ll stay a Met regardless. He’d be crazy to say such a thing because it would limit his bargaining power. As it is, Wright won’t come close to hitting 30 homers, a milestone he’s reached several times, most recently in 2008. It has been part injuries, part Citi Field, part being pitched around and part bad habits that have led to Wright’s drop in power.

Wright has an option for next season which the team will undoubtedly pick us as to not risk heading into the ticket-selling offseason without their key player. If the Mets fail to sign him to an extension and then aren’t able to trade him as they didn’t Reyes, Wright will be a free agent and his phone will ring.

And, if the Mets don’t add some pieces around him soon, he’ll listen. He’d be a fool not to.



Sep 23

Mets Matters: Dickey Closing In On 20

I root for good story lines and people, and that’s R.A. Dickey. I was hoping Terry Collins would let him finish but he was gassed. Winning 20 games has become almost obsolete these days, but Dickey has a chance.
Winning 20 indicates perseverance, talent and a little bit of luck, too. To accomplish it on a team that could almost finish 20 games below .500 makes it even more remarkable.
Switching his turn this weekend will give him a chance to do it at home Thursday in the Citi Field finale. If he does it, that’s a positive send off for the winter.
More Mets Matters:
* Lucas Duda was pulled for not hustling on a pop-up in Friday night’s game, less than 24 hours after Collins intimated the Mets had quit. It was apparent Duda didn’t get the message, so good for Collins to put his foot down.
These guys, even the young ones such as Duda get paid a lot of money to play a game. There’s never any excuse for not hustling. I don’t know how many times a Met failed to hustle this season. Duda certainly wasn’t the first. Ruben Tejada has done it several times, I know. But, for the remainder of this season and next year, Collins must have a kick ass attitude when it comes to not hustling and botching fundamentals.
That’s the only way the culture will change.
* Closer Frank Francisco has elbow tendinitis but is available. Why not shut him down for the rest of the season and do some experimenting the final week? It’s not as if Francisco is going to show us something we don’t already know.
* Jason Bay homered yesterday. Collins said his power and bat speed are still there and they’ll continue to search for answers. It’s been three years and the Mets have gotten nothing from Bay for the $66 million they are paying him. If the Mets are to start fresh next season, releasing him if he has a poor spring training is the best way to go. I like Bay’s hustle and defense, but he’s got to hit.