Mar 31

Reviewing the Mets’ issues going into the season.

I hope you’re all doing well, anxious for another season of watching the Mets. While the Yankees faced Detroit this afternoon at the Stadium, the Mets worked out in preparation to play the Marlins tomorrow night.

When the Mets opened spring training six weeks ago, I proposed a list of ten issues surrounding the team that would dictate the course of the season. Spring training only partially answered those questions.

Here’s the top issues surrounding the Mets and the progress made:

Q: WHAT WILL BE THE OWNERSHIP FALLOUT?

A: This is still an on-going issue that won’t be going away any time soon. The Wilpons remain adamant they were played and have no intention of selling the franchise outright. The family is looking for a limited owner, but heavyweights such as Mark Cuban and Donald Trump say they don’t want to pay up to $500 million for what is tantamount to a season ticket with free parking. The Wilpons still want full control and aren’t willing to offer up part of SNY in a deal. The Mets’ inactivity during the winter was emblematic of their financial stress, and although GM Sandy Alderson said the team would have the resources at the trade deadline, nobody is expecting much, especially if they’ll be listening to offers for Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.

Q: HOW WILL TERRY COLLINS IMPLEMENT THE NEW CULTURE?

A: So far, so good. There was no problem in selling right field to Beltran, although that had a lot to do with the outfielder making the choice himself because of his fragile knees. Reports are positive about the Mets’ attitude and concentration on fundamentals. There weren’t any problems with how the releases of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez.were handled. The first impression has been a good one, but we’ll see how responsive the Mets are when the grind starts.

Q: HOW HEALTHY IS CARLOS BELTRAN?

A: Beltran will be in the starting lineup tomorrow, but we didn’t know that until the beginning of the week. Beltran’s health remains a concern and despite the move to right field, nobody knows how his knees will hold up and the production the Mets might receive. The only certainty with Beltran is he won’t be back next season and the Mets would love to work a deal to save some of his $18.5 million contract. An interesting dilemma would be what would the Mets do at the trade deadline with Beltran if they are contending and he’s hitting?

Q: WHAT WILL BECOME OF JOSE REYES?

A: Alderson said the Mets will have the resources to sign Reyes to an extension, but would they be willing to take that chance if he’s not playing well? Reyes didn’t have a bad finish to the end of last season, but realistically he’s been a health question the past two years. Should Reyes get off to a great start his price tag will undoubtedly spike as will the attention he’ll draw from teams wanting to make a deal. This will put the Mets in the stressful situation of risking him leave as a free agent.

Q: WILL MIKE PELFREY TAKE THE NEXT STEP?

A: With Johan Santana out, Pelfrey enters the season as the ace. Pelfrey didn’t have a good spring training stats wise, but then again he didn’t last year, either and had the best season of his career. Friday’s Opening Day starter said his goal this summer is to be more consistent. A miserable July might have prevented Pelfrey from winning 20 games last year, but he said he learned from that stretch, and one of those things was not to abandon his fastball. There were still times last year when Pelfrey lost his focus and ran up his pitch count which cost him the chance to work longer and even finish games.

Q: WILL THE REAL JASON BAY STAND UP?

A.: If he does, it won’t be right away as he’ll open the season on the disabled list with a strained left rib cage muscle. It’s not an easy injury to overcome as it saps your power because it slows the hitter’s bat speed. Prior to the rib cage, Bay was complaining about a sore back, and even before then he wasn’t having a good spring power wise. For the $66 million package they are spending on him, the Mets expect 25 to 30 homers a year, not the six he hit last year. With Beltran not a given and Bay out, there’s the concern David Wright will feel the pressure to carry the team as he has the past two seasons.

Q: WAS R.A. DICKEY A FLUKE?

A: Evidently, the Mets believe Dickey is the real deal, otherwise they wouldn’t have given him a two-year deal. Dickey’s knuckler makes him second in the rotation, but there’s still the matter of him proving he can do it again. Dickey came out of nowhere to keep the Mets competitive in the first half, but there’s no element of surprise this year.

Q: WHAT ABOUT THE BACK END OF THE ROTATION?

A: Jon Niese, at No. 3, got off to a 6-2 start, but finished 9-10. Obviously, there’s more learning that needs to be done. Chris Young and Chris Capuano will attempt to rebound from injuries as the No. 4 and No. 5 starters, respectively. Bottom line on the last two: Despite good springs there is no guarantee the Mets will get 25 starts from each.

Q: WHO’S IN THE BULLPEN?

A: Francisco Rodriguez and Bobby Parnell are the only names you’ll remember from last year, which is just as well considering what the Mets got out of their pen. The overriding issue with the bullpen is whether they’ll allow Rodriguez to complete 55 games that would enable his $17.5 million option to kick in. Parnell gets the set-up role. The rest of the pen includes D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz, Pedro Beato, Tim Byrdak and Blaine Boyer. Jason Isringhausen will stay in Florida for an extended spring training, and the Mets will need him to mentor this inexperienced pen.

Q: WHO PLAYS SECOND?

A: The Mets finally did the right thing and cut ties with Luis Castillo. Then he had the nerve to say he didn’t get a real chance. Huh? Daniel Murphy stuck, but as a left-handed bat off the bench. In the end, Rule 5 draft choice Brad Emaus will start. But, winning the job and holding on to it are two different things.

 

Mar 18

Mets drop Castillo like that pop-up

The inevitable finally occurred..

Luis Castillo, who wasn’t having a bad spring offensively, was finally released today. However, staying with the Mets, unless somebody picks him up, will be the $6 million the club owns him.

CASTILLO: The play that defined his Met career.

The Wilpons frequently have been criticized for refusing to eat bad contracts and there was speculation Castillo might stick. I thought he’d at least last the weekend.

However, in the end, the negativity Castillo brought, his declining defensive ability and the belief he wasn’t much better – if at all than his competition – were the overriding factors in ridding the organization of one of its most scorned players in its history.

Sandy Alderson made the announcement: “After a long evaluation during spring training, after consulting with [manager] Terry [Collins] and the coaching staff, I made a recommendation to ownership in the best interest of the organization and Louie that he be released. Ownership approved.’’

Indeed, the culture has changed.

Collins was never enamored with Castillo, starting for his failure to notify the manager he wouldn’t report early because of a family emergency. A simple phone call could have diffused things.

Twice Castillo reported to spring training out of shape. There were times he didn’t hustle, including this week when he failed to cover first base. His defense and range were in decline. He was injury prone. He had one good season with the bat, hardly enough to justify the four-year, $24 million contract former GM Omar Minaya awarded him.

Continue reading

Mar 15

Mets’ second base job still in the air

With two weeks remaining before Opening Day, Luis Hernandez is gaining ground on the second base job.

However, it is premature to say he’s the guy. Rarely are up-in-the-air roster decisions made with this much time remaining in camp. There’s still Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy, Luis Castillo and Justin Turner.

Turner, because of remaining options will be sent down. That’s logical. Castillo has turned off Terry Collins, but the manager might not have the final decision, especially with a $6 million commitment. Castillo has been playing well offensively, so there’s the outside chance they’ll hold onto him and hope to make an in-season deal. The Mets don’t want to swallow $6 million.

Murphy is having trouble turning the double-play and Emaus is having a slow spring. Still, as a Rule 5 player the Mets do see some potential. What they must decide on is if he fits beyond this season should he stick.

I still think the Murphy-Emaus platoon has a chance, but I’m beginning to wane a little on that stance. What I do know, is Hernandez, despite a solid spring, isn’t running away from things and there’s still time.

Outside of it not being Ruben Tejada, nothing is concrete at second base.

 

Mar 04

Something to like about Collins

One thing that has impressed me so far about manager Terry Collins has been his decisiveness.

I liked how he put a timetable on the Carlos Beltran-Angel Pagan situation, although Beltran diffused it by making the switch on his own before it became a distraction. He’s also done the same thing with second base, saying he’d like to make a decision by the middle of the month. Look for Justin Turner to be one of the first roster cuts because he has remaining options. That will give more at-bats to Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus and Luis Castillo.

Word is Oliver Perez was on his way out, but likely delayed the inevitable with his strong outing the other day. Those scoreless innings bought Perez another appearance or two, although his chances of making the roster are out of the bullpen and not the rotation.

The Mets are a team in transition and didn’t bring a lot of bodies to camp. That Collins wants to define his roster quickly is a good decision. I like his no-nonsense, business-first approach. It is something this team has lacked.