May 01

Mets performed as expected in April.

Where did that winning streak go? It was here a moment ago. Instead, it has morphed into a three-game losing skid, which could reach four tonight against Cliff Lee, and keep going when the San Francisco Giants come to town this week.

The Mets closed April at 11-16 and in last place in the NL East, about what most people expected from them. But what most counted on was win two, lose three. Nobody expected the Mets to be as streaky to the extreme as they have been. Losing this way is more frustrating because it preys on your frustrations and fears.

The pitching is going to dictate the Mets’ success this year, and that didn’t disappoint in April, where it was poor for most of the month save a week stretch in which it transformed the Mets into a representative baseball team. The key was Mike Pelfrey, who regressed from last summer. There were occasional bright starts, but for the most part the rotation remains a source of concern, as does the bullpen, which has proven to be highly combustible when overworked.

There’s nobody in the rotation that you feel confident will take you to the seventh. Jon Niese was solid yesterday against Roy Halladay, but who can’t see him bailing after four in his next start.

Pedro Beato and Jason Isringhausen have been dependable. Francisco Rodriguez is still a tight rope act. Bobby Parnell was supposed to be the eighth inning answer, but we don’t know much of his failures are talent or injury related. The remainder of the pen is a hold-your-breath propostion.

Offensively, Daniel Murphy has been solid and Carlos Beltran has performed more, and probably better than expected. Ike Davis has taken a positive step and Jason Bay has played well since coming off the disabled list.

David Wright still strikes out too much for me and is not dependable in the clutch. I still want Jose Reyes to strike out less and walk more.

There are days when the offense can be daunting, yet others when it is puzzling. That pretty much describes the Mets as a whole, which hasn’t been a surprise.

 

Dec 15

No need to panic

Sandy Alderson said Philadelphia’s stunning signing of Cliff Lee will have no great bearing or impact on his plans for putting together the Mets for 2011. Nor should it.

Alderson says the Mets can be competitive, but there’s room for interpretation on what that means. Will the Mets make a run at the wild card or just play tight, close games they’ll more often than not eventually lose? With the way the roster is compiled and limited spending to them, it is probably the latter.

The Mets talked bravely about the Phillies being better on paper, which is undoubtedly true, but they still have to play the games. That’s the way to slip into cliche mode. Adding Chris Young or Jeff Francis isn’t going to make a world of difference for the Mets. Fact is, with the Yankees losing out on Lee I can see them swooping down on Young to bring into camp. The $4 million he wants is chump change to the Yankees.

Alderson can’t write off 2011 entirely because he still has tickets to sell and he needs to change the culture by improving the remaining product on the field. A panic signing now, with all that payroll coming off the books later, does the team no good.

Just get used to it. This will be a rough year, but it is the needed medicine to cure the ills of the previous regime.

Dec 14

Phillies land Lee in stunning turnaround

On a day Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Johan Santana won’t  be available until July at the earliest and Oliver Perez had a chance of going to spring training with a chance to compete for a job, the Philadelphia

LEE: Back in Philly

Phillies stunned the sport by bringing back Cliff Lee.

Ouch.

Lee left money and years on the table to return to Philadelphia, the place where he was most comfortable, now even more cozy because he’s joining  a rotation that includes Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. The Phillies’ team he left is better now than when he was there, and now arguably is the best in baseball.

Never mind that the Yankees were spurned. No tears for them as they’ll sign Andy Pettitte as a stop gap and add somebody at the All-Star break. I feel a little for the Texas Rangers, but they probably made off better in the long run by not being saddled with a huge contract. With Lee, they might have become the Mets in four years.

The Mets and Phillies are close in payroll, but there’s such a disparity in talent. So much so, that adding Lee wouldn’t have put them over the top. Adding Santana didn’t put them over the top, either.

You can try to convince yourself  Halladay and Lee are 32, that Oswalt is showing breakdown signs, that Lee had a bad back, and Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, that Jayson Werth is gone so there is a closing window in Philadelphia. Maybe so, but before it slams shut the Phillies will have played a lot of October baseball games. Maybe even spilled some champagne.

For the past four years the Phillies have been more aggressive and smarter than the Mets, and eclipsed them in the standings despite similar resources. The Mets have spent money since 2006, but not wisely. The Mets, in essence are starting over with a plan to make up for the poor choices of the past. The Phillies’ choices in that span have worked and they continue to feed the monster.

Maybe, when it is done eating, the Mets will be in position to do something. But, it won’t be anytime soon.

Oct 26

Wishful thinking to think Yankees’ fans chased away Cliff Lee

It is wishful thinking to think the reported boorish behavior of Yankees fans toward Cliff Lee’s wife during the ALCS will keep the talented left-hander out of the Bronx.

THE LEE FAMILY: NYC could still be home.

It certainly won’t enhance the Mets’ chances.

There are several factors – some still to happen – that will determine where Lee ends up this winter. The Yankees long appeared to be the frontrunners to land Lee, and that still holds true because they have the ability to write the largest checks.

Lee was traded by Cleveland, Philadelphia and Seattle in large part because those teams weren’t going to re-sign Lee. Now, there’s no guarantee Texas will, either, regardless of what happens in the World Series.

“Lee wants to go through the free agent process,” one agent said. “He may very well stay in Texas, but he’s going to test the market.”

Lee has not been quoted as saying he won’t play in New York, for either the Yankees or Mets, so until he does we can’t eliminate the market. Lee will surely not rip New York over this because it will reduce his leverage in the free-agent market.

Because of the tax situation in New York in comparison to Texas, a New York team would have to blow the Rangers out of the water to land him. Reports have been the package would have to be $20 million to $40 million greater in New York to compensate for the tax issue.

Neither the Mets nor Yankees have established their budgets for 2011, but it is a solid assumption the Yankees’ will be far greater.

Small town Mike Mussina was no great fan of New York when he played with the Orioles, but in the end he left for New York and adapted. As much as Lee might be a country boy, if the Yankees’ offer is far superior to that from Texas or another team, he could still end up with the Yankees.

In comparison to the Mets, the Yankees can offer more money and a better chance to immediately win. That speaks volumes. And, the Yankees can offer a lot of financial love to apologize for their boorish, entitled fans.

And, when it comes to free agency, money usually speaks loudest.

Sep 24

Expect more of the same ….

Unless the Mets discover a sense of pride and their offense this weekend, it is conceivable the Philadelphia Phillies will celebrate winning the NL East in front of their eyes. In 2007 and 2008 the Mets collapsed and were eliminated on the final day of the season. Last year was lost from June on.

This year, from their dugout, the Mets can watch their rivals celebrate success, something they haven’t been able to do since 2006.

And, even if the Phillies don’t bring back slugging outfielder Jayson Werth, the Phillies should remain far superior to the Mets.

They are better at starting pitching and in their bullpen, dwarf the Mets in power, and when it is all on the line, they aren’t afraid to make the big deal. Last year they brought in Cliff Lee; this year it was Roy Oswalt. And, of course, let’s not forget Roy Halladay while the Mets let the pitching market dwindle.

Both teams have had their share of injuries, but the Phillies acted through trade and a deeper minor league system to tread water when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley went down. The Mets forced the issue with Carlos Beltran last year which could conceivably cost them his services for the first half of this season. They also pushed the envelope with Jose Reyes when they should have disabled him around the All-Star break.

The Phillies have more pitching, more power, a front office willing and capable of making the big deal, and an overflowing ballpark that has them printing money to patch whatever holes.

This could be the third straight season the Phillies reach the World Series; the Mets have done it four times in their history.

The Phillies seem to do whatever it takes to improve. The Braves got better this year. The Marlins can’t be dismissed. The Mets? Well, they have $130 million earmarked to bring back the same group of dysfunctional players next year.

The Mets players might not think of that this weekend when then watch the Phillies celebrate. Maybe the Wilpons and management will.