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.

Feb 19

Feb. 19.10: Manuel likes Reyes third.

Manager Jerry Manuel, in talking to the press for the first time this spring, said he likes the idea of batting Jose Reyes third. I don’t understand why you’d want to take arguably the best leadoff hitter in the game and tinker with him.

REYES: Leave him alone.

REYES: Leave him alone.


Reyes, if he works on his game – bunting, hitting the ball on the ground, drawing more walks – could become one of the game’s all-time leadoff hitters. A modern day Rickey Henderson, perhaps.

The numbers suggest leaving him where he is. Over the past three seasons, Reyes is batting .293 leading off an inning and .295 with nobody on base. Conversely, he is batting .267 with RISP, .230 with RISP and two outs, and .205 with the bases loaded.

The offensive criticism of Reyes is he sometimes plays outside his game, and once he hits a home run or two starts swinging for the fences, which is away from his strength. Why put him into a slot in the order where he could become prone to bad habits?

The reasons I can fathom moving Reyes to third are two-fold, 1) the Mets don’t expect Carlos Beltran back soon, and 2) the Mets are more worried about Reyes’ running and speed than they are willing to admit.

For years, we’ve been told Reyes was the ignition to the offense, that as he goes so do the Mets. But, that was predicated on him batting leadoff. I have been critical of Reyes at times, but that’s when he takes plays off. However, the Mets’ inability to win since 2006 have nothing to do with him.

Another way to look at this are to examine the other options. There’s nobody comparable to Reyes as a leadoff hitter, but David Wright is capable of hitting third, followed by Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur. It’s not Philly, but it is a good 3-4-5.

There’s plenty of issues with this team, tinkering with Reyes shouldn’t be one of them.

Sep 18

About that vote of confidence ….

Supposedly, manager Jerry Manuel has been given a vote of confidence by management/ownership, but is that melting away?

For the longest time I thought Manuel would get a pass on this season because of the injuries that crippled this roster. I still think it might play out that way, but now I’m wondering if that’s the best way to go.

MANUEL: Is the inspiration there?

MANUEL: Is the inspiration there?


The Mets have responded with only four victories in September, which for the third straight season, has become a lost month. And, if you look back on it, September 2006 wasn’t so red hot, either.

Injuries are part of the game which must be overcome, but sometimes they understandably can’t be because no team – not even the Yankees – have the depth to withstand what happened to the Mets this season. However, is that any excuse for such shoddy play?

For all the talk of how the Mets were going to be a fundamentally sound team this season, and for all the work done in spring training, this team is horrible in that area. For example:

1) The baserunning has been terrible (21 nailed at the plate).
2) Too many at-bats are wasted.
3) The situational hitting is often not there, and their high average with RISP is a misnomer because they aren’t scoring the runs.
4) Defensively, too often the outfielders overthrow the cutoff man.
5) Way too many errors for a team that doesn’t have the power to overcome them.
6) The staff has walked well over 500 opposing batters and might push 600 for the season.

All that is a reflection on the manager and coaching staff. In addition, the team has no life right now, and their record is not an excuse for the lack of spark. Conversely, the lack of spark is a contributor to the record.

All this comes back to Manuel and the staff. If the Mets were playing smart, aggressive baseball, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Injuries are beyond a manager’s control, but the attitude and fundamental base of the team isn’t.