Apr 25

It Was Wright Or Reyes

Jose Reyes received cheers last night. He also heard boos from the largely uninspired Citi Field crowd. Reyes didn’t exactly pack them in last night, did he?

REYES: Smiles before the boos.

David Wright wasn’t surprised by the lukewarm ovation, saying some people would never forgive Reyes while others understood why he left.

Reyes simply said the Mets never made him an offer, which he took to mean they didn’t want him. There can be no other explanation.

In retrospect, despite lip service to the contrary, the Mets were never going to be in it for Reyes. This is a player who makes his living with his legs, but missed considerable time the previous two seasons with assorted muscle pulls. The first years of his career were the same.

Reyes is a breakdown waiting to happen. He is a high maintenance sports car frequently in the shop.

What Reyes didn’t say last night, was he was in it for the last dollar and the Mets knew they couldn’t swim in that end of the pool. No, the Mets didn’t go out of their way last year to keep Reyes, but he didn’t exactly go out of his way to say he wanted to stay.

It was an inevitable divorce; two parties seeing the end and doing nothing to stay together. Passive aggressive? Not committing is a statement.

The Mets, not knowing their future finances, did know they couldn’t keep Reyes, then re-sign Wright, and then fill in the rest of the pieces. It just wasn’t going to happen. It couldn’t happen with Johan Santana and Jason Bay on the payroll, and after all that money wasted on Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and others. Even with Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez gone, the Mets couldn’t afford to keep both. Not with what they knew at the time.

The choice was Reyes’ flash and speed against Wright’s power and consistency. While both had sustained injuries, the Mets decided Wright might last longer at the top of his game than Reyes, even with the latter having a stellar year and winning the batting title.

Reyes had injuries the previous two years and had already been on the disabled list twice last summer. When he returned the second time, he turned it off as to not risk hurting himself and his chances in the market. In doing so, they had to wonder if this decline would continue and what he would be like at the end of his contract.

Conversely, Wright hurt his back, but it was in making an aggressive play. These things happen. Wright lost his power stroke hitting 14 homers last year, but after 29 the season before. The Mets’ gamble, enhanced by moving in the fences, was Wright could sustain being a power hitter longer than Reyes could be a speed threat.

Power is more marketable, and so is Wright’s personality and grit. Reyes tweaks a hamstring and is out for two weeks; Wright played a month with a small fracture in his back and this year with a broken pinkie.

Wright plays with passion; Reyes plays with flair. Which would burn out first?

The Mets might have gotten their answer when Reyes took himself out of the season finale after bunting for a hit to preserve his batting title. I can’t imagine Wright pulling himself from a game for such a me-first motive. Reyes turned his back on the fans who supported him and came out to say good bye.

Maybe the Mets and Reyes weren’t loyal to each other, but the fans were loyal to Reyes and he dissed them. Mets fans have, and always will have, an inferiority complex. It comes from being the second team in town. And, in leaving, Reyes reinforced that insecurity and told the public Miami’s millions were more important than the Mets’ millions.

He was saying New York wasn’t good enough. Meanwhile, Wright has been saying New York is all he wants.

It really wasn’t a hard decision after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 02

They should take a risk.

The Mets have made a string of bad signings when it comes to aging, injured, unproductive  or otherwise scarred players. Moises Alou, Julio Franco, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Guillermo Mota. We could spend all day adding to the list.

SIZEMORE: Worth a risk.

It isn’t a great free-agent market, but there’s a name on the list worth rolling the dice with despite his recent injury history. The Cleveland Indians failed to exercise their option on outfielder Grady Sizemore, who, at 29, was once one of the game’s blossoming stars, but only played in 210 games the past three seasons.

A gamble, no question, but a thought keeps running through my head: What if he pans out?

Burdened by knee and abdominal injuries the past three years, Sizemore hit just .234 last summer, but prior to that was a three time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner. That’s a substantial resume; certainly better than any other Mets’ outfielder.

Continue reading

Sep 08

Wouldn’t mind seeing Izzy back.

Jason Isringhausen told ESPN he’d like to pitch next year, and I’m all for giving him a one-year deal. Nothing longer. Isringhausen pitched well enough to warrant attention from teams looking for a veteran presence in the bullpen, but I don’t see anybody, the Mets included, signing him strictly as a closer.

IZZY: A case for bringing him back.

However, he showed the capability of getting the job done when he had to. Isringhausen saved seven games after Francisco Rodriguez was traded, and overall showed his fastball still has some life with 44 strikeouts in 46 innings.

The Mets are hoping Bobby Parnell will win the job, but he’s far from a certainty. There’s nobody else that jumps out, either. I don’t believe Isringhausen has enough left in the tank to be a fulltime closer, but he’s a great influence to have in what figures to be a young, and likely, inexperienced bullpen, next season. Parnell could do a lot worse than having Isringhausen around as his mentor. So could most everybody else in what has arguably been one of the Mets’ signature weaknesses this season.

The Mets exceeded expectations this year and should take another step in 2012. Isringhausen could get some attention from contenders, but his biggest influence still could come in Flushing. I am all for giving young guys a shot, but I’m against cutting loose veterans who still have something to offer. It’s not as if the Mets’ bullpen is loaded with fireballing, young arms with pinpoint control.

The bullpen can be a chatty place, and relief pitching is one position on a team most ripe for a younger player soaking up information regarding pitch selection, location, how to work to various hitters, and to retain one’s composure.

The man must know something with 300 career saves. Conversely, Parnell doesn’t even have 180 career innings pitched.

 

 

 

 

Nov 02

Looking at the make-up of the new Mets’ manager.

Sandy Alderson is back from teaching in California and at Citi Field working on hiring the next manager of the Mets. There should be some interviews scheduled by the end of the day, with some to happen this week.

While Alderson said he’s not adverse to hiring a “fiery,” manager – relief to Wally Backman supporters – his preference is of an analytical and knowledgeable type. Middle management, if you will. Speculation has Bob Melvin and Clint Hurdle emerging as early favorites.

Yes, the manager could be important to sell tickets – in that regard Backman might have it over Melvin – but winning is the most important criteria and if Alderson believes a low-key, almost vanilla personality is better equipped to implement his vision he’ll get the job. If the Mets play a fundamentally sound, aggressive brand of baseball and prove to always be in the game, that will sell the tickets and steady the ship until they start spending after the 2011 season.

In addition to Melvin, Hurdle and Backman, also on Alderson’s list is third-base coach Chip Hale, Triple-A Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell, Minor League field coordinator Terry Collins, Double-A Binghamton manager Tim Teufel, and former Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu.

Not an established genius on the list, then again, neither was Bruce Bochy, whom Alderson had in San Diego.

The new Mets manager must have these traits:

SMARTS/ANALYSIS: It’s a complicated game and a manager must always be thinking two, three innings ahead. Bochy was flawless this October in how he juggled his lineup and bullpen. It’s an oversimplification to blame injuries for an unstable batting order and bullpen, but Jerry Manuel showed he didn’t think things through with his insistence in batting Jose Reyes third and for overworking his bullpen. Those were the most glaring as it showed he didn’t have an understanding of the talent of his players.

Sometimes a manager must act on instincts and guts, but hoping and flying by the seat of 0ne’s pants isn’t the best strategy. Alderson is big on probabilities and that comes in being prepared which puts the odds in your favor.

HAVE A PLAN: The bullpen and batting order were all over the place with Manuel. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a manager to do is assess bullpen roles and keep them in place. The bullpen was solvent and stable in 2006 under Willie Randolph but hasn’t been since even though the Mets spent lavishly on closers Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez.

ABILITY TO CONVINCE THE PLAYERS OF THE BIG PICTURE: The Giants proved it is possible to win without marquee players in the starting lineup. (As long as you have four quality starters, a strong bullpen and dominant closer, then the batting order doesn’t have to mash). Neither Manuel nor Omar Minaya could convince Oliver Perez to do what was right, and they didn’t have the backbone to broach moving Carlos Beltran to right field.

Convincing Beltran to move to another position in his walk year will require a delicate, yet firm touch, as it is likely we won’t see him after 2011. The new manager will have to convince Beltran to do what is best for a team  he won’t  be a part of after this season. Tough task.

The Giants won with serviceable, productive role players who performed in a relatively stable lineup. Their lineup might not be as talented as the Mets’ order, but they all knew their roles and had a disciplined approach at the plate. One thing watching the Giants during the year and in the playoffs is they gave away far less at-bats than the Mets.

The new manager and his hitting coach must overhaul the Mets’ far too often careless and sloppy approach at the plate, and this begins with convincing the stars Reyes to improve his on-base percentage and David Wright and Jason Bay to cut down on their strikeouts.

It was almost a novelty when the Mets worked counts, manufactured runs and hit with runners in scoring position. It should be common place.

One of the most memorable at-bats during the World Series was Aubrey Huff sacrificing late in the game last night to set up Edgar Renteria. Arguably their best power hitter was bunting. Clearly, the Giants bought into what Bochy was selling. We rarely saw that here.

THE ABILITY TO MOTIVATE: It’s hard to believe major league players with the money they make need motivation, but it’s true. This is personified by Reyes, whom Manuel lost by juggling in the order and pushing his return from injuries. Reyes is still the Mets’ offensive key and requires delicate handling at times because he does lose focus.

HAVE PATIENCE WITH THE YOUNG PLAYERS: This team has a young core with Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Ruben Tejada. Angel Pagan, Reyes and Wright are also in the prime of their careers. Part of this is surrounding himself with the proper staff. Hale and Dan Warthen, reportedly, could stay in some capacity and this should ease the transition.

It was Manuel who insisted on Jenrry Mejia opening the season in the bullpen when it was clear he was not suited for that role. A manager must put his players in position where they have a chance to succeed. Not only was Manuel wrong here, so was Minaya for letting him.

KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THE MEDIA: There were many instances Manuel criticized and threw a player under the bus in the press, which showed he didn’t trust them. Conversely, those players returned that lack of trust. Two of the more enduring images of the season was Mike Pelfrey turning his back on Manuel when he took him out and the John Maine incident. Both illustrated the players’ lack of respect and trust in their manager and it filtered down.

Manuel also failed several times when it came to informing players of change. When it came to informing Wright of an off day or Jeff Francoeur of his role with the return of Beltran, Manuel handled it sloppily. If you’re a manager and you’re selling a new system, you must have diplomacy, tact and consideration, knowing you’re going to rely on those players in the future. The new guy needs this trait.

Manuel did a lot of double-speaking when it came to the press and wasn’t believable, and with that neither the Mets were as a contender.

Mar 23

March 23.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Oliver Perez made his fourth start of the spring this afternoon against Atlanta. As usual, he’s run hot and cold. Today he was freezing, turning in his worst outing of the spring, giving up three runs on five hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings.

Perez figures to get two more starts and for his own peace and confidence he needs to make them good. Of course, that sentiment denotes pressure, which isn’t always a good thing for Perez.

In another pitching development, the Mets continue to push the envelope with Jenrry Mejia, working him for the second straight game. Mejia didn’t allow a run in 1 1/3 innings yesterday, and today he retired the side in order in the sixth.

Said Jerry Manuel: “I want to get as much of a feel as possible for him in that particular role.”

Also today:

* Ike Davis was optioned out and there was immediate talk it was done to alleviate pressure on Daniel Murphy, who has had a miserable spring. If Murphy needs something like that to help his confidence then he’s in trouble. In 25 at-bats, Davis is hitting .480 with three homers and 10 RBI. Conversely, Murphy is batting .133 with one extra-base hit over 30 at-bats.

* Jose Reyes was cleared to play and will be in camp tomorrow.