Oct 11

Former Mets Shining In Playoffs; Beltran, Pagan and O’Day Playing Well

The Mets’ fear in releasing Jason Bay is he would suddenly find it somewhere else. They had the same trepidation with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

Watching these playoffs, it is easy to see their thinking, but that doesn’t mean it is justified.

Outfielders Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, and reliever Darren O’Day all distinguished themselves yesterday, and wouldn’t you know it, those are all holes for the Mets.

Angel Pagan had a huge day in the leadoff slot – another Mets’ hole – with two hits, two walks, two runs and two RBI in three at-bats. The homer was to lead off the game to get the Giants rolling so could live another day.

I don’t know what the Giants’ plans are for Pagan, but he certainly played better for them than Andres Torres did for the Mets. Pagan was an inconsistent player here and often let his concentration wander on the bases and on defense. Maybe he wasn’t ready, but he was definitely old enough where he shouldn’t have been making rookie mistakes. Perhaps the Mets weren’t patient with him.

I hoped it would work out when the Mets moved him to center and shifted Beltran to right, but Pagan never took the way he did the preceding year when he played when Beltran was injured.

Beltran, who homered twice in Game 2, had two more hits yesterday as the Cardinals took a 2-1 games lead over Washington. Beltran, who shines in the postseason, is hitting .417 in the series. And this, is after coming off a superb season.

Belran was injured at the end of his stay with the Mets, but when healthy produced. He moved without a hitch to right field and he played hurt. What else could the Mets want from him? Oh yeah, they wanted him to do it for half the price.

The Mets paved the way for Beltran’s exit with the flap over his knee surgery. After that, there was no way he was staying. Especially considering their financial situation.

O’Day appeared in four games for the 2009 Mets, but was released when they couldn’t find a spot for him on the roster. Mike Pelfrey was ailing at the time, but balked at going on the disabled list. He couldn’t make a start and the Mets had to bring somebody up to replace him  for a turn. That meant somebody had to go and it was O’Day.

Rather than exerting his authority and judgment, Omar Minaya gave in to Pelfrey and it cost the Mets. O’Day was quickly signed by Texas and became a bullpen stalwart that season and he was terrific for the Orioles this season with a 7-1 record, 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Plus, he only made $1.35 million this year.

O’Day put the Yankees down in order last night.

Wouldn’t you know it? The game was decided by Raul Ibanez’s two homers. Ibanez was a player the Mets wouldn’t consider after he left Philadelphia. An outfield plug and power bat off the bench? Nah, that wouldn’t fit in Citi Field.

There are plenty of others with ties to the Mets this October, including Endy Chavez – did I mention the Mets need outfield help? – and coach Chip Hale and manager Bob Melvin in Oakland, and, of course, Davey Johnson in Washington.

There’s always an explanation for why somebody doesn’t work out for a team, and Beltran, Pagan and O’Day all left for different reasons.

But, were they good reasons?







Sep 13

Liking Matt Harvey More And More

Matt Harvey was not in a good mood when he was pulled last night with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth. In what might have been the best outing from a Mets’ reliever all season, Robert Carson bailed him out by getting two infield pop-ups and a fly ball.

Harvey gave up a run in five-plus innings – enough to win most games – but was clearly steamed in the dugout. He wasn’t much into handshakes and back pats, but his anger wasn’t directed at the Mets’ listless offense – 13 straight home games now scoring three or less runs and the tenth time they’ve been shutout – but at himself.

You see, Harvey is a perfectionist and last night he wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t impressed with striking out ten hitters. He would rather pitch to contact to reduce his pitch count and work longer into games.

“The biggest thing is going deeper into games and figuring it out a lot sooner, and not pressing to go for the strikeout all the time,” said Harvey. “I have to get early contact, like I’ve said before. That’s the biggest thing I’m going to work on.”

Harvey has a dominating fastball, but said his best pitch last night was his change-up. He wasn’t happy with his curveball and claimed his slider had little bite. Those are the pitches that will generate weak or awkward swings and get groundballs and pop-ups. That’s what will limit his pitch count. And, hopefully this year will be the last where he’s on an innings limit.

Manager Terry Collins said Harvey will get one more start and marveled at his maturation level at an early age.

“He’s been so impressive,” Collins said. “We’ve got something special. We’ve got something really special.”

If the Mets are inclined to keep Harvey on an innings count again next season, I hope they are paying attention to how poorly Washington handled the same issue with Stephen Strasburg. To announce it early was counterproductive. Davey Johnson, who doesn’t agree with the limit, said Strasburg’s heart wasn’t in his last start, knowing that would be it for him.

Strasburg hates it too, saying he feels he’s abandoning his teammates. You figure Harvey feels the same way.

If the Mets are going to limit Harvey’s innings next season, there’s a gradual way to achieve that goal. They can skip the occasional start or back it up to where he makes one less start a month. Over the course of the season, that’s six starts. And, they can be juggled around off-days as to give him more rest.

The only problem with that theory, is that Johan Santana is again coming off an injury and the Mets should be inclined to give him more rest.


Sep 06

Can The Mets Be Next Year’s Orioles?

The Mets are off today giving us other things to think about, such as the Giants’ secondary and inability to put together a running game. Also a chance to lament about another September of non-meaningful games for the Mets.

The Mets are mired in fourth place, thinking about how a hot run could have them chasing .500, which would be a successful season. Personally, I’d rather have the collapses of 2007 and 2008 than what they are today. At least they were in a pennant race, and if you’re a baseball fan, that’s all you can ask for from your team.

Since 1997, when Orioles manager Davey Johnson was named manager of the year and fired the same day by Peter Angelos, the franchise that long symbolized baseball excellence had hit the skids.

The Orioles showed some improvement last year, but were still projected to finish last in the AL East. But the Orioles have some power, their bullpen has pitched well and they took an impressive 24-7 record in one-run games. That record, despite a negative run differential, is the probably the single most significant stat to explain why the Orioles are in a pennant race.

Conversely, the Mets are 17-18 in one-run games, symbolic of a team with sporadic power and an inconsistent bullpen.

Can the Mets improve enough from within to be a contender like the Orioles?

Baltimore has more power, where the Mets’ anticipated power from David Wright – he’s fallen way for of expectations in that area- Jason Bay and Lucas Duda hasn’t been there. Maybe Wright and Duda will produce next year to bring the Mets’ power numbers up.

Building a bullpen is a tricky proposition and should Sandy Alderson accomplish that objective, perhaps Citi Field will be alive as Camden Yards will be tonight. It could be if the Mets split their losses in one-run games. Add nine wins and subtract nine losses and the Mets are right there in wild-card contention.

Split those losses in one-run games and the Mets are playing meaningful baseball in September.




Aug 24

Astros, Mets Kindred Spirits?

They were born the same year, 1962, as expansion teams, and in the Houston Astros’ final National League appearance against the Mets in New York, both teams are playing like expansion teams.

Although linked by their entry, the Mets and Astros never developed an substantive rivalry in these 50 years. Playing in different divisions dulled the potential of a rivalry.  Both had long stretches of mediocrity, or worse, and there were few times they were good at the same time.

Then there was 1986.

The Mets rolled through the regular season. They dominated as manager Davey Johnson boasted at the start of the season. But, the Astros wouldn’t cave and made it a memorable series.

The Mets prevailed, 4-2, but needed 16 innings to oust the Astros in Game 6. They were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning but rallied for three runs to force extra innings. The teams traded runs in the 14th inning. The Mets scored three in the top of the 16th, but the Astros’ rally fell a run short.

With the win, the Mets avoided facing Astros ace Mike Scott in a Game 7. The Mets could not touch Scott and to this day Keith Hernandez admits he was in their heads. The Mets were convinced Scott was scuffing the ball, but never caught him.

The series that begins tonight is the last time time the Astros will play here as a National League team as they will move to the American League in 2013.

I don’t like the idea of the Astros leaving the league. It will be odd not playing them, but then again things have been odd since interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. It’s just not the same race for every team.

As bad as the Mets have been since the break, going 11-28 and having just been swept by Colorado, the Astros have been a horrid 6-33. Part of it is playing poorly and going with young, inexperienced players, but a lot of that has to do with gutting their team in a July fire sale.

While the Mets have played some incredibly horrid baseball in August, the month did produce a bright spot in the emergence of Matt Harvey and yesterday’s stunning debut by Collin McHugh.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll look back at this month as the time when the Mets found the core of a new pitching rotation.

Nov 07

Good for Backman

I like that Wally Backman was finally offered the Mets’ Triple-A managerial job. It appeared Backman would take a bench coach job with Washington, which I said he should take because at the time the Mets didn’t offer him the Triple-A position.

Well, the Mets did offer that job and it is good he stays in the organization.

Backman could learn a lot by working with Davey Johnson, but he would learn significantly more by making his own decisions. Backman would stand to better his future position by managing in Buffalo rather than interning under Johnson.

Of course, we don’t know who will be on the managerial market when Terry Collins leaves, but should Backman steadily progress and he’s still in the organization, it stands to reason he’ll have the inside track for the Mets’ job.

Yes, Backman is showing loyalty to the Mets, and the organization is doing the same for him. But, this is also a business decision for Backman, who realizes his fastest road to the majors goes through Buffalo.