Apr 04

Good move in long-term deal with Niese

With Opening Day hours away, the Mets began the 2012 season on a positive note by agreeing to a contract with left-hander Jon Niese.

NIESE: Locked up for five years.

In agreeing to the five-year, $25.5 million deal – pending a physical – the Mets will avoid the arbitration and free-agent processes and locked up one of their most important young players.

With the Mets resolving their most stressing financial problem is reaching a settlement in the Madoff scandal, their next most important step is to achieve as much economic certainty as possible. That would be in reaching long-term obligations with their young talent.

They did it with David Wright and Jose Reyes several years ago. The next wave would be Niese, Ike Davis, and possibly Wright again.

Niese won a career-high 11game last year before it was cut short with a side injury. There’s no guarantee Niese will become the next Jerry Koosman, but his career is off to a good start and he’s caught the attention of others. Several teams have inquired into Niese and for good reason; he’s immensely talented and poised. And, hard throwing left-handers are a premium.

The Mets have taken deserved heat for their questionable decisions. They should also get credit for their good moves, and this is one.

Mar 31

Injuries to the forefront as Opening Day nears

Much of how the Mets perform this year will be contingent on their starting rotation and core players getting significant playing time because the depth is weak. GM Sandy Alderson said as such earlier this week.

SANTANA: Might not be ready.

The biggest name is Johan Santana, who is earmarked to make the Opening Day start, but despite not having a setback – at least not one the organization will admit to – nobody has etched his start in stone.

After nearly two years, what’s the rush now? Especially if the weather is cold and rainy Thursday, why push the envelope? Even Santana is as healthy as the Mets are claiming, then there’s no reason not to push him back a start or two for him to further build his arm strength. What could it hurt?

Meanwhile, David Wright, who has missed nearly all of spring training isn’t in baseball shape. His legs aren’t there. Neither is his stamina. Yes, he could play and gut it out, but why take the gamble?

Andres Torres does not look good in center field. The word is awkward. He’s over in the minor league camp now. He might get enough at-bats by Thursday, but he’s not running fluidly.

None of the three are 100 percent. There are times throughout the season when a player will play with aches and pains. That’s part of the job. But, these three are trying to recover from injuries which sapped a considerable amount of time from them. They clearly could use more time. With how the Mets have handled injuries in the past, they should opt for caution.

It’s a long season, so don’t make it any longer by risking a significant injury.

 


Mar 20

Wilpon needs to take Wright stance

Yesterday was a good day for the Mets. Not only did they receive a favorable settlement in the Madoff case, but completed the sale of 12 minority ownership shares at $20 million a shot for a total of $240 million.

WRIGHT: This has been a frustrating time for Wright.

The Mets claim to have lost $70 million last season, and the new money will pay off loans to Major League Baseball ($25 million) and Bank of American ($40 million). They should be able to sustain their operating expenses for this season.

The Mets have a three-year break before they required to pay any of the $162 million from the settlement, so there is some sense of relief in clarity as they attempt to budget until that time.

What then?

Continue reading

Mar 19

Settlement favors Mets. Will it change things?

Whenever a mediator – in this case New York Gov. Mario Cuomo – brokers a settlement between two warring parties, despite the agreement and presumption of peace, there is a winner.

Cuomo said, “nobody gets everything they want in a settlement,’’ but the Wilpons got what they needed in Irving Picard’s “Battle for the Mets.’’

Sure, Fred Wilpon wanted to come away unscathed, but in the end the settlement was kind to him and the Mets. Wilpon gets to keep his team and could be on the hook for just $162 million, far more palatable than the initial $1 billion lawsuit, and later the $380 million ceiling ruled by Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

Picard saw earlier decisions going toward Wilpon; the Mets saw a long and costly trial.

“The closer you get to trial the closer you get to the reality of trial,’’ Cuomo said.

The reality of it is Wilpon could owe less than $162 because the settlement allows him to go after the $178 million they claim to have lost in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scandal.

Of the $178 million, Picard has already recovered $10 million. So, in essence Wilpon and Picard have formed an odd partnership.

On top of a shrinking settlement, the Mets don’t have to pay anything for three years. While this settlement eases the financial burden on the Mets and possibly offers more a sense of economic clarity, it doesn’t assure the Mets a climate of  “normalcy,’’ as suggested by Cuomo.

Since Carlos Beltran took that curveball from Adam Wainwright to end the 2006 NLCS, normalcy for the Mets has been blown division leads in 2007 and 2008, a shoddy bullpen, a string of injuries, a line of incomprehensible and suffocating contracts, two managerial changes, a front office overhaul and a slashed payroll of $50 million.

The Mets’ austerity forced the trading of Beltran and closer Francisco Rodriguez, and free-agent departure of Jose Reyes. It could also lead to trading David Wright.

What happened Monday was a victory for Wilpon, but it doesn’t immediately change the state of his team of the field. The Mets are projected to finish last in the National League East in their fourth straight losing season.

That is what normalcy has been recently for the Mets and that isn’t about to change. The three-year relief from making payments is likely to be the same window before the team becomes baseball relevant again.

This was a stressful and expensive ordeal for Wilpon, who saw the very real possibility of losing his team. This settlement gives him a second chance. Hopefully, he’ll make the most of it.

 

Mar 18

Some things to mull over

The Mets are off tomorrow, which is a good thing, and gives us some time to look at what is going on for the Mets so far this spring.

Most encouraging has been Johan Santana’s progress through three starts. He’s been healthy and his velocity is gradually increasing.

Jon Niese has been solid and showing all signs he’s on the mend. If Santana isn’t ready for spring training, then Niese is the No. 1 as Mike Pelfrey hasn’t shown he’s capable in that role.

Pelfrey is still an enigma and has shown nothing to prove he’ll go into the season on a role. There’s still something missing in the Mets’ biggest question.

Health questions Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy seem as if they sound, but the latter still has his shaky moments at second base.

Andres Torres had a fast start in center field, but there’s not a reliable backup.

David Wright remains a health question, as does lefty reliever Tim Byrdak. With a hole in the bullpen, the Mets have four candidates vying for the role, with Garrett Olson seemingly having the inside track.

Ruben Tejada has a hamstring problem which was a temporary setback, but those types of injuries have a long recovery period.