Oct 25

Time To Let Things Pass For Carlos Beltran

If you thought for a minute Carlos Beltran’s bruised ribs would have kept him out of Game 2, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Beltran bruised his ribs robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam homer in Game 1, and while being treated in a Boston hospital that night began to doubt he’d be back in Fenway Park for Thursday’s game. Constant treatment helped him return, and with nearly two full days of treatment since, he will be in the lineup for Game 3 Saturday in St. Louis.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

That’s because Beltran, as quiet as he is, is extremely tough. It would take a lot more than bruised ribs to keep him out of the World Series he’s waited 16 years to play in.

“I wanted to be in the lineup,’’ Beltran said. “I worked so hard to get to this point. Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to get out of the lineup.’’

Don’t forget, Beltran refused to sit after suffering facial fractures in an outfield collision with Mark Cameron in 2005, his first season with the Mets. Beltran played with several injuries during his Mets’ tenure, but unfortunately there’s a sizable segment of their fan base that prefers to remember him for taking Adam Wainwright’s nasty curveball that froze him to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, their last time they played in October.

The Mets collapsed at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and this summer was their fifth five straight losing year. Unfairly, Beltran became a symbol of their long fall because of that pitch.

I heard on talk-radio today one caller say he hopes the Cardinals and Beltran will lose based on that pitch. That’s beyond ignorant.

Just get over it, will you?

Nobody could have hit that pitch. Odds are had he swung he would have missed or hit a weak popup because he was greatly overmatched.

Beltran is arguably one of the most talented players in Mets’ history and for him to be castigated years later is blatantly unfair and ignorant.

New York sports fans like to believe they are the most sophisticated in the country. If that is so, then prove it and leave Beltran alone and join us in 2013.

It doesn’t matter who you favor in the World Series. Everybody has their reasons why they root for or against a team. But, to root against the Cardinals because of that pitch Beltran took years ago makes no sense.

To blame one player for the ills of the past seven years is beyond stupid.

 

Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.

Dec 08

Would Mets really gain by dealing Beltran to Sox?

There are a myriad of issues surrounding Carlos Beltran that make him logically impossible to deal, but there reports out of Boston the Mets and Red Sox are talking.

BELTRAN: Would deal to Sox help Mets?

Undoubtedly, it is Boston’s cobra-mongoose struggle with the Yankees that has the Red Sox thinking about adding Beltran.

The Red Sox have a hole in the outfield and the designated hitter to slot in on an occasional basis (don’t forget David Ortiz will get most of those at-bats after the trade for Adrian Gonzalez).

Clearly, the Red Sox would be gambling to catch lightning in a bottle with Beltran in his walk year as worth taking the risk on the outfielder’s balky knees and $18.5 million salary.

Reportedly, the Red Sox are willing to part with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will make $10 million in each of the next years. So essentially, the Mets would be trading a bad one-year contract for a bad two-year contract.

And, if the Mets have to eat about $8.5 million of Beltran’s contract to make the trade work, then what’s the benefit? They wouldn’t open up any payroll room because they’d still be on the hook for Beltran’s balance and Matsuzaka’s salary plus the latter’s salary for 2012.

The Mets would be trading the hope of Beltran bouncing back to hoping Matsuzaka will rebound. Yes, the Mets need pitching, but would Matsuzaka really help them?

That Boston is so eager to get rid of Matsuzaka should tell you something about what the Red Sox think of his ability to turn it around.

The one thing certain about the Mets and Beltran is this will be their last season together. Clearly, the Mets want to clear the books and think ahead to 2012. Beltran is not enamored with the organization for how it handled his knee problems and is seeking one more payday.

The Mets would like to trade Beltran, but their best hope for a good return will be if he gets off to a good start and stays healthy and they are able to swing something at the deadline.

Hope. That’s the best word to describe the Mets’ immediate prospects for 2011.

Apr 23

April 23.10: Chat Room, Game #17 vs. Braves: Reyes hitting third.

I am not a second guesser and won’t start tonight. So let me go on record now – and again – before the game to denounce the move of Jose Reyes to the third spot in the order.

It will be the first time since 2005 Reyes will bat anywhere other than leadoff.

I don’t care if Reyes gets on four times tonight, I believe in the long term this move will inevitably backfire because eventually it will force the speedy shortstop outside his game.

Reyes, arguably the game’s premier leadoff hitter, is being asked to take his skills to the third slot under the guise of getting more fastballs for the struggling Jason Bay.

You see, explains Manuel, Bay’s problems stem from not getting enough fastballs, and putting a base stealer ahead of him theoretically will get those fastballs. Just out of curiosity, who was the great base stealer ahead of him in Boston? Was it David Ortiz?

For years, the Mets have been telling anybody who would listen Reyes is their offensive catalyst, that him at the top of the order is what gets the team going. So, naturally, when Reyes is just starting to feel comfortable they move him to a position with the high potential of inducing bad plate habits.

However, Reyes insists he’s not going to do all the things when one plays outside himself after being moved to a run-producing slot in the order. There will be no poor pitch selection, no trying to loft the ball and pull, no trying to hit home runs.

Throughout his career Reyes has fallen into these habits after hitting a home run or two. Willie Randolph used to cringe whenever Reyes homered.

“I’m going to be me,’’ Reyes insists. “I’m going to take it like I’m going to be leadoff. He explained it to me. I said, `I don’t have a problem Jerry.’ ’’

Easier said than done. When thrust into an unfamiliar role it is human nature to want to live up to the dynamics of that role. The No. 3 hitter is supposed to be your best hitter, one with the combination of average and power. It is not a speed position.

For the Mets, that player is a healthy Carlos Beltran, and in his absence, David Wright.

But we’re going to get Reyes, who even under ideal circumstances sometimes swings too long.

It will be very easy to fall into bad habits in this role.

A less dramatic solution would be to move Bay out of the clean-up slot, perhaps to No. 2, or maybe temporarily sixth. Instead of moving the player with the problem, the Mets’ solution is to juggle the entire line-up. Not only will Reyes move, but also Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan.

There are other options, but none would fill the leadoff slot as well as Reyes. So, in essence the Mets are weakening two slots in the batting order with this gamble.

The Mets’ offense hasn’t been doing well, but the team had won three of its last four games. Most of the Mets’ problems when they lose have been pitching related.

If John Maine spits the bit tonight, it probably won’t matter what Reyes and Bay do.

Nobody with the Mets – not just Bay – failed to hit against the Cardinals. So, why didn’t Manuel do this then? Oh yeah, because Reyes said he was uncomfortable in that role.

Here’s tonight’s line-up for the Mets:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
John Maine, RP

Jan 27

Resisting Manny ….

RAMIREZ: The image that scares them off.

RAMIREZ: The image that scares them off.

Manny Ramirez is still floating out there, his thundering right-handed bat a temptation 29 teams have managed to resist. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have an offer on the table, and Ramirez’s refusal of $45 million over two years seems stunningly arrogant considering the line

Nobody knows which.

Last week, Jeff Wilpon told Bloomberg News the Mets weren’t interested, but he wasn’t speaking for manager Jerry Manuel, who, during a TV interview, said he’d love to have Ramirez on his team.

“To have a shot at managing him would be exciting for me,” Manuel said. “I’d love to have the opportunity to watch Manny hit every day.’’

Manuel called Ramirez “one of the best right-handed hitters in our generation,’’ and broached the topic of his reputation with the confidence of a snake charmer.

Manuel is convinced he would avoid this serpent’s tooth.

“I don’t have a problem with people that produce in the form and fashion that Manny Ramirez produces,” Manuel said. “We don’t spend, shouldn’t spend that much time in the locker room, anyway.’’

You don’t?

Players start drifting into the clubhouse five hours before game time, far longer than the time of game. But, if not concerned about the clubhouse, how about the field?

If Ramirez’s stars aren’t all aligned he’s been known to dog it on the bases and give up at-bats. Even though they won two World Series with him, Ramirez had no allies in the Red Sox clubhouse late last summer, including David Ortiz.

Jose Reyes has enough problems maintaining his attention as it is. Do you really want him looking up to Ramirez? And, for the money Ramirez is asking, they can sign a pitcher and a bat such as Adam Dunn.

They’ve resisted temptation so far. Hope they keep that strength.