Feb 28

Feb. 28.10: Play to win now?

The exhibition schedule begins this week and with it the questions of the importance of winning these games. Pennants aren’t won in March, but sometimes the mentality needed to win can be developed.

While going 20-10 during spring training guarantees nothing, I can’t help but think going 10-20 isn’t a good thing. The Mets need to develop the attitude that playing well is important and they just can’t assume things will be better.

The Mets are a team with flaws, but also a team that played reckless with the fundamentals and more than a few times mailed in their effort. Playing aggressive and crisp baseball now is important because bad habits can develop by playing otherwise.

It is a long summer, but considering last season and how the two previous years ended I believe it is imperative to get off to a good start and get into good habits right away. The Mets’ psyche is delicate after the last three seasons, and despite the bold talk from David Wright and Johan Santana about the World Series and winning, this is a team that hasn’t always played with confidence.

The Mets need to develop a positive mentality and that begins with these games.

Feb 24

Feb. 24.10: Wrapping up the day.

The following is an accumulation of news and notes from spring training today:

* Rod Barajas reported to camp and will wear Carlos Delgado’s No. 21.

* Japanese pitchers Ryota Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi threw live batting practice.

* Sean Green is working on a submarine delivery. In theory it should produce a sharper sinker conducive for getting the double-play grounder.

* Pedro Feliciano is working on a cutter. The more pitches the better.

* Jerry Manuel said Fernando Nieve is versatile enough to work as a long-man, eighth-inning set-up man or starter. That’s another way of saying he has no idea on how to use him. If Jon Niese steps up, Nieve would likely be the long man.

* Good reports so far on Angel Pagan’s confidence. Pagan has no doubt he can hold center field until Carlos Beltran’s return in mid-May.

Feb 08

Feb. 8.10: Let’s not get carried away.

The Mets got some positive news when 21–year-old outfield prospect Fernando Martinez was named MVP of the Caribbean Series. They should, however, resist the temptation to say he’s ready because it was a 23-at-bat sampling in which he hit .348 with two home runs. The Mets have rushed prospects before and I don’t want to see them toy with Martinez’s confidence.

Assuming the best on Carlos Beltran, I’m sure center field will be safe with Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr., in the interim, which should be a couple of months. Martinez wouldn’t get regular at-bats and would only be sent down once Beltran is ready.

I’m still thinking the prudent decision would be for him to get regular playing time in Triple-A and then make an evaluation around the All-Star break whether he should be promoted for the second half.

Feb 04

Feb. 4.10: What swagger?

I’ve read in several places where the Mets need a swagger. Sounds nice. Would be a good thing. Where do you get it?

It’s not like there’s a market that sells the stuff. All players have confidence, otherwise they can’t be a professional athlete. But, only a few have that bubbling cockiness, that swagger, that Darryl Strawberry and Ray Knight and Keith Hernandez had with the 86 Mets.

These Mets don’t have an abundance of players with that quality. And, what brings that quality to the surface collectively is winning.

We know the Mets, as a team, don’t have a swagger, and they won’t until they win. It’s great to hear Strawberry talking about the Mets needing a swagger, but it’s all moot until they win.

Jan 15

Jan. 15.10: The bottom line.

Let’s forget about who is right or wrong in the Carlos Beltran fiasco. The bottom line is the Mets are without their best player, who has a degenerative condition, and with no guarantee of how he’ll perform if and when he returns.

All prognosis have to be met with skepticism.

The Mets aren’t equipped to replace Beltran, and as it has been pointed out, this adds the need to consider Carlos Delgado to offset the loss of power.

But, who plays center field?

If the Mets had no confidence with Angel Pagan in left field, they certainly don’t have confidence in him in center.

There’s not a lot out there left on the free agent market, but as I wrote several weeks ago, Rick Ankiel is available. He strikes out a ton, but he does hit for power and is very good defensively. If I’m Ankiel’s agent, I’m calling the Mets.