Feb 09

Feb. 9.10: Mets need a full Reyes.

I’ve been looking at the Mets position players with this thought: Whose season might be the most important for them to reach contending status. That is, of course, under the assumption the rotation pitches well.

REYES: Mets need his spark.

REYES: Mets need his spark.


My first thought was David Wright, but I’m inclined to give the benefit of doubt and believe last season was an aberration, that he’ll be closer to normal this year. Then I thought Daniel Murphy, as with Carlos Beltran out at the start that the Mets would need an infusion of power someplace. But, Murphy is what he is, and he’s not – at least in this stage of his career – a power hitter.

Then it became obvious: The keys to the Mets offense has always been Jose Reyes. When he’s running, stealing bases, legging out triples and beating out bunts, and going into the hole for the ball, that’s when the Mets are at their best.

Of all the position players, he’s the one who needs to be at his best if the Mets are to prove last year was an injury-riddled fluke. If Reyes is on his game, the Mets go from being a listless team to a dangerous one.

The reports so far have been positive on his rebab, but he’s not tested them under baseball conditions. When he does, we might gain a greater insight as to where this season will go.

Pitchers and catchers less than two weeks.

Feb 06

Feb. 6.10: Random thoughts.

Just some things that have passed through my mind lately:

* If catcher is a position of mostly back-ups, I’d just as soon see what Josh Thole can do, maybe sooner than later.

* If first base is a platoon between Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis, I’d like to see what Murphy can do against left-handed pitching.

* David Wright ended last season stepping into the bucket after he was beaned. I hope he’s over that. Fear can quickly derail a career.

* I just wonder where Carlos Beltran would be had he had surgery in September.

* I’d like to see them sign John Smoltz for the bullpen, but he still wants to start. He’s worth a shot in either role. Hall of Famers deserve one more shot.

Feb 02

Feb. 2.10: Back in the saddle again.

Good morning folks. First off, I’d like to thank you for your well wishes yesterday. I should get back some of my test results today, but I’m feeling better this morning. So, again, thank you very much for you kindness.

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?


Previously, I’d listed concerns of the Mets heading into spring training. One such concern was whether David Wright would regain his home run stroke. By most standards, Wright had a miserable season in 2009, and it was that way long before he took a fastball to his helmet. Wright hit .307 with a career-low 10 homers and only 72 RBI.

Wright did himself in early when he admitted the dimensions of Citi Field were getting to him. Once that became public, pitchers had their way with him from a power standpoint and gave him absolutely nothing to hit.

Wright tinkered with his swing, but an altered swing stays with a hitter, even on the road and his power numbers paled in comparison to other seasons in production away from home, too. Wright is human, and he began to press, and with injuries mounting up – without Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran – there was little protection in the order.

Wright has been working hard with hitting coach Howard Johnson, who should have done more to persuade his third baseman to not abandon the form that produced these numbers for a 162-game average: .309, 27 homers and 107 RBI.

The problem, Johnson dissected, was in waiting on the pitch, Wright waited too long. The ball would bear down on him and he couldn’t adjust. Say hello to 140 strikeouts. A career high. That Wright hit over .300 despite his high strikeout totals illustrated how unusual Wright’s season actually was.

Their off-season work has been concentrated on Wright attacking the ball more out front, being quick with his hands and driving the ball.

Which Wright will we see in 2010?

I’m willing to bet last season was an aberration and we’ll see numbers closer to his career averages rather than last year’s posting. I’ve seen how hard Wright works and believe he’s too good a hitter, too good an athlete, not to rebound.

Yes, I think Wright will be back in the saddle again.

Jan 31

Jan. 31.10: Loose Threads.

LOOSE THREADS

LOOSE THREADS

I hope this finds everybody doing well today. Quiet on the baseball front, so let’s open it up to what’s on your mind.

I’m still waiting for the Mets to add a pitcher. I hate to say this, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pedro Martinez is brought back. To think the Mets will look at what Martinez did with the Phillies and to think he might duplicate it this summer might be a reach. Afterall, part of his success has to be attributed to playing half a season and being strong down the stretch. More indicative would be his second World Series start.

I saw where the Royals are willing to trade Gil Meche and Brian Bannister. Meche is a lot of money for somebody who is now merely average.

I’ll have something on the remaining FA pitchers on the market this week as well as something on David Wright.

Today, for me, I’ll watch the Celtics and Lakers this afternoon. One of the great sports rivalries. Rooting interest? Celtics.

Enjoy the day.

Jan 24

Jan. 24.10: Let’s big-picture this.

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

In 2006, the Mets finished 97-65, winning the National League East by 12 games. It would be fair to say that is when the window was open at its widest for this core of Mets. And, we’re talking David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. While that core has remained largely productive, the rest of the team, in particular it’s pitching, has not.

The strength of the 2006 team was arguably its bullpen, which picked up the slack for a consistent, but hardly spectacular rotation.

Despite signing Billy Wagner, at the time an All-Star caliber closer, Omar Minaya let two significant keys to that pen, Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford, get away. The Mets have been struggling to get a bullpen chemistry since. An argument can be made the chemistry started to fizzle with the decline of Aaron Heilman, who was so good in 2006 save that pitch to Yadier Molina.

Even so, the team started strong in 2007, taking a 34-18 record into June. Would we all agree that 2006 and the first two months of 2007 was when the Mets’ star burned its brightest?

They finished 54-56 the rest of the way in 2007, including a collapse in which they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. Much of the downward spiral was traced to a bullpen bridge that could not get to Wagner.

Since June 1, 2007, the Mets are 20 games below .500 – including another collapse in 2008 – and the refrain was the same after each season: The pitching is the problem. The 2008 team, by the way, blew 29 save opportunities.

It’s a double-edged sword: The bullpen is overworked and ineffective. But, the reason it is overworked is because the Mets aren’t getting quality innings from their starters.

For those who think I’m being too negative, those are the numbers.

I realize 2009 was a unique season because of injuries, but even under the assumption the core offensive players return to form this season, there remains largely the same pitching staff. Never mind the team’s hot start one-third into the last season, more representative of their performance was the remaining two-thirds.

Getting Johan Santana was a significant gesture of improvement, but he makes 34 starts a year. The pennant is won or lost in the remaining 128 games, and this is where the Mets are weak and have not improved.

Even Santana is a partial question as he’s coming off surgery. The team says he’ll be ready, but said the same thing about John Maine. Maine’s durability, along with his presence, are questions. We don’t know what we’ll get from Oliver Perez inning to inning, much less game to game. And, Mike Pelfrey has regressed. And, well, there is no fifth starter, yet.

Yes, Jason Bay will improve the offense, but in reality aren’t we subbing his numbers for that of a healthy Delgado? And, there’s another hole with the loss of Beltran. So, just how much better is the offense, really? And, what if Wright doesn’t regain his power stroke? Can we say for sure Reyes is back?

Bottom line: We can’t say the core is back to normal or will get that way.

In that case, it falls again on the pitching, which is the same pitching that failed miserably the last two-and-a-half seasons.