Feb 16

Jenrry Mejia’s Role Is Set

Once he arrives in camp – which might take another week – it appears Jenrry Mejia’s spring is already laid out for him.

Barring an injury to somebody rated ahead of him, Mejia will be used as a starting pitcher and expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. This decision has nothing to do with his visa problems in leaving the Dominican Republic.

Not that they don’t need bullpen help, but this is the best course for the Mets, both in the short and long terms.

The Mets have several rotation questions, and if history is an indicator they will have a need for another starter or two this season. It is that way every summer.

And, for next year and beyond, the Mets will need another starter, as there are no plans to bring back Johan Santana.

The Mets’ projected rotation includes Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee. Mejia and Zack Wheeler are next in line.

Santana and Gee are coming off injuries; Niese’s career-high is 13 victories; Harvey has ten career starts; and Marcum was a late FA pick-up. Now, you tell me that is a position of strength.

Clearly, the Mets need more starting pitching depth.

Mejia has been bounced around between the rotation and the pen, and I still maintain Jerry Manuel’s insistence of using him as an untested reliever set back his career. Through it all, Mejia’s greatest success has been as a starter, and it is the team’s obligation to put him in a position where he’s best able to succeed.

After coming off Tommy John surgery last year – and who says there’s not a connection with how he’s been handled? – Mejia’s numbers were far superior as a starter.

Mejia posted a 2.75 ERA and .245 opponents batting average as a starter compared to a 5.48 ERA and .303 opponents batting average out of the bullpen.

While it isn’t the largest sampling, it is enough to determine his comfort zone and the best place to start.

Starting pitching is expensive, and despite Fred Wilpon’s proclamation his finances are in order and the Mets will spend in the future, that’s no guarantee. What is assured, however, is the Mets don’t have the chips to deal for a starter and anybody of substance in the free-agent market will be costly. That’s another reason why grooming Mejia in this role is the prudent option because of his reasonable salary.

Mejia needs this year to fully come back from his injury and build up the strength to pitch seven plus innings every fifth day. This is the best course for both Mejia and the Mets.

Meanwhile, Mejia is working out at the Mets’ complex in the Dominican Republic and manager Terry Collins thinks it could be another week before he gets to Florida.

Dec 30

Ignore Pavano Rumors To Mets

One of the most ridiculous things I’ve read over the past few days was the idea of the Mets being interested in signing FA pitcher and Alyssa Milano reject Carl Pavano as their fifth starter. Let’s be realistic about this, the penny-pinching Mets have no chance of signing Pavano, even if they wanted him.

Pavano made $8.5 million last year with Minnesota, and although he could take a pay cut, even that will be too pricey for Sandy Alderson. If anything, of all the veteran FA starters on the market, the one they have the best chance of signing would be to bring back Chris Young.

The Mets are also searching for relief help, and Francisco Rodriguez – been there, done that – Matt Capps and Jose Valverde are also too rich for the Mets’ blood.

 

Dec 21

Looking At Some Of Sandy Alderson’s Good Mets’ Moves

When Sandy Alderson was named Mets’ GM, it was to be a financial caretaker of the floundering franchise.

I was critical of the R.A. Dickey trade because I believe their words of wanting to sign him were hollow and the possibility of receiving damaged goods. I still think that, but in fairness, recognize Alderson was not dealing from a position of strength or leverage.

There was a lot of criticism of Alderson the past two weeks, but again, in fairness, one has to look at some of the moves that have panned out for the better:

CARLOS BELTRAN: Sure, Beltran’s power numbers would have looked good in the Mets’ outfield, but in the end they would have spent an additional $18.5 million to still finish fourth. Nobody knows if Zack Wheeler will make it, but there is a chance of the Mets obtaining a quality starter, while there was no chance of retaining Beltran. After the surgery flap, Beltran was out the door. They would not have received draft picks so getting Wheeler was the best they could do.

OLIVER PEREZ and LUIS CASTILLO: Both were disgruntled clubhouse cancers not producing and only taking roster spots. Perez was especially pricey for his nothing performance. When Perez refused to go to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics, the Mets should have cut him and eaten his contract on the spot. It was Alderson who convinced the Wilpons to cut ties with them, something Omar Minaya never attempted. The culture couldn’t have changed had they stayed.

JOSE REYES: Because of his injury history and salary demands, I was not in favor of keeping Reyes. If you think the Mets are on the financial skids now, imagine how bad they’d be if they had Reyes’ $100-million contract as an anchor.

JASON BAY: Let’s face it, the Mets were never going to get anything from Bay. Arguably one of the worst FA signings ever could not be salvaged. Sure, the Mets still have to pay his contract, but they won’t have the distraction of answering questions this spring about Bay taking a roster spot. As with Perez, the Mets could only move forward by getting rid of Bay.

DAVID WRIGHT: The face of the franchise needed to be a part of any rebuilding effort. Perhaps the Mets will regret the end of his contract, but for the immediate health of their franchise they needed Wright as he represents a commitment to the future.

JON NIESE: Niese also represents the future and signing him to a long-term contract will keep the Mets out of arbitration with him. Young hard-throwing lefties with potential are at a premium, especially those who are cost effect. Alderson also has eschewed any thought of trading him.

No GM ever bats 1.000 and I wasn’t expecting it of Alderson, despite his high-profile track record. On the flip side, no GM goes hitless, either, and in fairness Alderson has done some good by the Mets.

Dec 14

Mets’ Alderson: Expectations Higher Than Realized

Sandy Alderson said there’s not much in the FA market, but the truth is the Mets vastly underestimated the value of that market.

Ryan Ludwick, who would look good in the Citi Field outfield void of any substantial talent, signed a two-year, $15-million extension with Cincinnati, the going rate for an outfielder with a limited resume.

ALDERSON: No more twiddling thumbs.

The Mets thought two years at half was too much.

Now, there’s the case of the mediocre Manny Acosta, who logged innings out of the Mets’ bullpen last year, but not productive ones. He’ll make $1.65 million next year in Japan with the potential of another $500,000 in bonuses.

I’m not bemoaning the loss of Acosta, but if he can get that, imagine what a decent reliever will bring. Undoubtedly, a lot more.

Fact is, Alderson’s expertise is buying cheap and building from the ground up. He was brought here to get things under financial control and for the most part has done his job.

Alderson previously won, but never in a city with the expectations and payroll in New York. Alderson was hired by Oakland in 1981 as the team’s general counsel and named GM in 1983, a position he held until 1997.

Those Athletics teams, under a difference economic system, produced three consecutive Rookies of the Year in Jose Canseco (1986), Mark McGwire (1987) and Walt Weiss (1988). Alderson’s tenure also included Dave Stewart, Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley and manager Tony La Russa, he of the juggling bullpen.

Under his helm, Oakland won four division titles, three AL titles and the 1989 World Series.

Clearly, Alderson’s Oakland teams had talent, a sound scouting system and different economic system. Things were also different than in New York when Alderson’s Padres won division titles in 2005 and 2006.

However, Alderson never encountered the financial distress and expectations he inherited in New York. Those expectations included wrestling the Yankees for the city’s back pages.

By all accounts, Alderson is a sharp guy, so I don’t buy he was naïve to the pressures and expectations of New York. I even believe, working in the commissioner’s office, he had a handle on the Mets’ financial problems, but perhaps not to the degree after the Madoff scandal.

I expected a gradual turnaround under Alderson, but he’s had two years so now I’m expecting more aggressiveness in putting a competitive team on the field. Then again, it must be realized Alderson doesn’t have complete control as he must answer to the Wilpons.

He grossly underestimated things at the trade deadline last year. The Mets were over eight games at one point prior to the break, but he gambled and lost they’d continue to play well.

After Johan Santana and Dillon Gee went down, there was further stress on the bullpen. By the time Ike Davis started to hit, David Wright stopped. And, of course, Jason Bay – not acquired on Alderson’s watch – never started.

I’m expecting more of Alderson in his third year. I’m expecting comes the realization losing is not an option in New York. If traditional low-spending revenue teams such as Washington and Cincinnati can be more aggressive, and a team with little offense in San Francisco can win two World Series in three years, then more is expected from the Mets.

Maybe we don’t know how bad things are behind the scenes, but we do know how bad things are on the field.

And, it has to stop.

Dec 12

Infuriating Alderson Dumps On Mets Fans

The words seared into my consciousness.

I previously defended Sandy Alderson, thinking as a hired gun his job was to pare payroll and ease the Mets’ financial strain, which he did.

ALDERSON: Playing Scrooge.

However, there is no defending what he said yesterday at the Mets’ Annual Christmas party, one where they asked R.A. Dickey to dress as an elf.

I usually applaud honesty, but this time it would have been better had Alderson kept his mouth shut. If you’re surrendering the season before Christmas, don’t come out and say it, not with good will in the air.

“I would expect the roster would look similar to what it did at the end of last season – with some exceptions,” Alderson said.

Ouch … that hurt, but deep down we expected that to be the case all along.

Yeah, and those exceptions will put the Mets over the top. Yeah, and I still believe Santa Claus and the M & M talking candies do exist.

Alderson doesn’t think much of the FA market and the Mets have precious little to trade. If he thinks that cupboard is bare, what does he think he has on his roster?

Even less.

Gone from last year’s train wreck will be Tim Byrdak, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, along with Jon Rauch, Mike Pelfrey, Ramon Ramirez, Kelly Shoppach, Andres Torres and Manny Acosta. Some could be missed, but all their roles still need to be filled.

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