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.

Jan 18

Jan. 18.10: Spring training questions.

Questions, questions ....

Questions, questions ....

With a month before the start of spring training, let’s take a look at the ten top issues surrounding the Mets when the arrive at Port St. Lucie:

1) Who are the fifth starter candidates?
A: Jon Niese is from the organization. It could also be Oliver Perez or John Maine if the Mets should add another arm. Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland are still out there, but they are also linked to other teams. There’s no guarantee the Mets will bring in somebody else.

2) Where is Johan Santana?
A: Santana is coming off surgery. The Mets are saying he’ll be ready, but they said the same thing about John Maine last spring.

3) What is Jose Reyes status?
A: Reyes says he feels good, but he hasn’t tested that hamstring in game-type conditions. And, how much speed has he lost?

4) Did David Wright find his home run stroke over the winter?
A: Maybe it was Citi Field, maybe not. But, Wright did not hit with power last season. That has to change if the Mets are to do anything.

5) Carlos Beltran is how many weeks away?
A: Originally, they said 12 weeks. He won’t be ready by spring training to do baseball activities, but maybe they’ll have a better timetable by then.

6) What’s the catching situation look like?
A: The Mets have plenty of reserve catchers, but not a No. 1. They hope it will be Bengie Molina. They really don’t want to rush Josh Thole to the majors.

7) Who is the real Mike Pelfrey?
A: Pelfrey appeared on the verge of breaking out in 2008, but regressed last season. It’s about time he gets to the next level.

8) Where does the coin land?
A: Will Coinflip Perez show consistency beyond being inconsistent? He’s also coming off surgery. The reports are he’s working hard, but he’s worked hard before with no results.

9) What are the bullpen roles?
A: They could change if they sign John Smoltz. I’d rather have him in a set-up role than Kelvim Escobar. That way I could also drop Bobby Parnell down to a lower pressure slot.

10) What kind of camp will Jerry Manuel run?
A: Lax or clamp down? There were injuries last season, but the team also played fundamentally poor baseball and that’s his responsibility.

Jan 06

Jan. 6.10: Your confidence level in the Mets is ….

Spring training is still six weeks away and the Mets have done nothing to remedy the holes in their rotation. However, they quenched their thirst for right-handed power with the acquisitions of Jason Bay over the holidays and Jeff Francoeur. The team is still optimistic David Wright will regain his power stroke.

However, the Mets, save Carlos Beltran, are void of any significant power from the left side, which is why there’s this interest in bringing back Carlos Delgado.

Let’s assume Delgado signs. There’s still questions in the rotation. Would signing Jon Garland or Joel Pineiro boost your confidence level in this team?

Jan 05

Jan. 5.10: You asked for it, you got it.

Both Harry and Ray in a recent thread expressed interest in reading about Omar Minaya’s best deals. There have been more than a few. Some of his bad ones were actually good in the beginning, such as Oliver Perez and Guillermo Mota.

There were also decisions on Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, Alex Cora and signing David Wright and Jose Reyes to long term extensions. The John Maine trade was good. Nobody could have thought he would be injured. Getting Xavier Nady was a good deal.

We must remember, that in all fairness, the Mets came within an inning of the World Series in 2006. Minaya put that team together.

Julio Franco, Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez all had moments, but the negative reviews came with the subsequent contract extensions.

So, let’s have some fun with this today and talk about Omar Minaya’s Greatest Hits.

Jan 02

Jan. 2.10: Your Mets batting order.

Last night was one of those when I couldn’t fall asleep. Tossed and turned. The mind races at 2:30 in the morning, and for awhile last night it stopped at the Mets’ batting order.

What should it be?

Here’s what I came up with for now:

SS Jose Reyes: I’ve heard people say he should bat third, but I don’t see it now as nothing more than a waste of his speed.

2B Luis Castillo: He’s at his best taking pitches and advancing the runners.

3B: David Wright: He’ll hit for an average and hopefully regain his power stroke.

CF Carlos Beltran: He could bat third, too, but I wanted a lefty to separate him and Jason Bay.

LF: Jason Bay: Offers protection for Beltran.

RF Jeff Francoeur: Tempted to drop him down and flip with Murphy to go right-left-right-left, but opted to put two power guys back-to-back. Unfortunately, I have two strikeout guys in a row.

1B Daniel Murphy: With three guys ahead of him who’ll get on base he should have some RBI opportunities.

C: Santos/Blanco platoon: Somebody has to hit eighth and I don’t want it to be Castillo.

P: Pitcher’s slot.

Of course, this changes if they get Bengie Molina or somehow find a taker for Castillo.

Your thoughts?