Dec 03

K-Rod pleads guilty; what of his Mets’ future?

Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez pleaded guilty this morning of assault, a move that spared him jail time but will bring him an additional 52 weeks of anger management classes.

RODRIGUEZ: Pleads guilty; at least one more year

His plea also bought him an additional season with the Mets for $11.5 million. It was the best case scenario for the closer who not only lost his temper but is losing his fastball.

For one more year at least, the Mets will have a closer. He Rodriguez finishes 55 games in 2011, he could stand to make an additional $17.5 million for 2012.

If Rodriguez does not finish 55 games and he fails a physical after the 2011 season, the Mets will have a $3.5 million buyout.

That, along with the books cleared of Oliver Perez and Carlos Beltran, would open up the Mets’ wallet to be big players in the 2011 free-agent market.

Rodriguez is young enough at 28 where he could regain his form, but there are concerns that with his motion and delivery the downhill slide might not be reversible.

All this is very interesting. Will the Mets limit his appearances to stay away from the option kicking in? If they have a competitive team all summer I doubt it, especially if Bobby Parnell doesn’t perform and show he’s capable of assuming the closer role.

Of course, if the Mets don’t shore up their rotation and the bridge to Rodriguez, he won’t have that many save opportunities to begin with.

Nov 30

Updating the mess that is Perez

News Oliver Perez has thrown 10 scoreless innings in the Mexican Leagues is best greeted with a who-cares yawn. Afterall, we’ve heard news of such prowess during spring training and rehab assignments before only to watch him unravel when facing major league hitters.

Word his fastball barely touches 90 isn’t encouraging news. Low-velocity pitchers can be successful, but only if their control is impeccable and they know how to set up and work hitters. That has never been the case with Perez.

When Perez was having problems several years ago, I wondered how he might do in situational relief because he still had his fastball. But, that’s gone and he must rely on guile and smarts, both of which he has in short supply.

Even so, Perez will probably get a chance to earn a role in spring training because the Mets don’t have many options and it doesn’t appear as if they’ll be signing anything significant this winter.

They’d love to trade him, but that’s not going to happen. Nobody wants to pay $12 million for all that baggage. Even if the Mets eat a large portion of his contract, Perez isn’t attractive based on what has happened.

Cutting him loose is something we all think about, but Sandy Alderson isn’t likely to do that because the Mets don’t want to pay for nothing. Solution? They will role the dice in the hope Perez finds something that will make him viable. With Hisanori Takahashi gone and Pedro Feliciano declining arbitration today, Perez will get an opportunity by default.

Even when he was Coin Flip there was a chance of him throwing a good game. Now, there is none.

If Perez doesn’t have it in the spring and refuses a minor league assignment again, then I can see the Mets ditching him. Alderson is here to change the culture and I don’t see him putting up with another year of carrying Perez on the major league roster and not using him.

Perez’s attitude and performance last year was poisonous and no good can come with duplicating last year.

Aug 16

Looking for a silver thread ….

The Mets are 10 games behind Atlanta and below .500. They have an upcoming schedule at Houston – which is playing better since the Roy Oswalt trade – and Pittsburgh – which always plays them tough. This is their last chance to make up some ground and bring interest into September.

Frankly, while I doubt they’ll make a real run, there could be some interesting ball ahead.

Their pitching, supposedly the weak link entering the season, has been surprisingly good, and if not for Mike Pelfrey’s July slide it would be good enough to have them in contention. What has been dismal, and has since the beginning of the season has been the offense. Also weak has been the bullpen.

As the season slowly fades into disappointment and winter, let’s take a moment to look at some of the positives through 117 games:

1) The record. Seriously. Last year on this date they were 55-62 and sinking fast. David Wright had just been plunked and would be rendered useless for the rest of the season. They have made improvement and with a full season from Carlos Beltran and a productive year from Jason Bay, they’d be over .500 and within spitting distance even with their bullpen woes. Hey, you take your positives when you can.

2) Johan Santana. We’re looking at 15 victories easily with a little run support. There was a brief four-game stretch when we were wondering about his fastball and whether he was still an ace. Well, he is. There are times when I wonder if he regrets coming here, but he’s the ultimate professional and will never show it. The Mets are lucky to have him, and hopefully the younger pitchers in the rotation are learning from him. Eventually, there will be a decline, but not now.

3) Angel Pagan. He began the season behind Gary Matthews, but has evolved into the Mets’ most reliable offensive performer. He’s the best they have with RISP, has some pop, can steal a base, and has surpassed Beltran as the team’s best center fielder. What Pagan showed last year was no fluke. This is a player the Mets can build around.

4) Ike Davis. He wasn’t supposed to be here until late in the season, perhaps September, but has become one of the NL’s premier’s rookies. He hits for power and should finish with over 20 homers and plays a sparkling first base. Davis has made Daniel Murphy a footnote. First base will be his for years to come.

5) Josh Thole. Another young player who arrived ahead of schedule. The pitchers like throwing to him and he’s not an easy out at the plate. Rod Barajas is coming back, but the position is Thole’s to keep. The time he’s getting now will only help him in the future.

6) Jon Niese. The question as the fifth starter going in, Niese has become a dependable starter, perhaps the No. 2 with Pelfrey being erratic. He’s not afraid to challenge hitters and works quickly and efficiently and with remarkable poise. He’s getting more adept at making adjustments within the game. He was in demand at the trade deadline, but the Mets were wise to say no.

7) R. A. Dickey. The other shoe has yet to drop for Dickey. He’s been impressive from the outset, but none more so than rebounding against the Phillies after the same team hammered him the previous week. That’s hard to do. The way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if he led the team in victories before it is all over. The Mets still need to add a starter in the offseason, but not to replace Dickey.

8) Hisanori Takahashi. The numbers are night and day between Takahashi the starter and the reliever. Forced into the starter’s role, he performed admirably before being exposed. He’s great one time through the order and that should be his role. Hopefully, Pat Misch will step in and allow Takahashi to do what he does best.

9) Bobby Parnell. Still a work in progress, but he’s made strides since last season when he was yanked around between roles. I believe Parnell has what it takes to develop into a solid set-up man. The experience he’s getting now can only bring hope.

10) Mike Pelfrey. I mean the pre-July Pelfrey. For two months he was better than one could have imagined, working with confidence and command of all of his pitches. Then came July, but has last two starts have been much better, an indication he might have learned from his slide. Of all the things I’m anxious to see during the final six weeks the most is whether Pelfrey can rebound completely. It would say a lot about his maturation process if he can take something out of his adversity.

11) Ruben Tejada. There’s no questioning his defense, and although he’s not hitting now he showed some glimpses early. The Mets played with energy when he was in the lineup replacing Luis Castillo when the latter was on the disabled list. I think the Mets will be in good hands when he finally takes over for Castillo.

12) Jose Reyes. If nothing else, the Mets finally learned Reyes is a leadoff hitter and nothing else. He’s lost focus at times this season, but he’s overcome his injury problems and the team still thinks highly enough to want to sign him to an extension. Perhaps the focus will always be a problem, but when he’s on his game he’s still a dynamic presence at the top of the order.

13) David Wright. Despite a horrible pace for 176 strikeouts, which must come down, he’s also on pace to hit 24 homers and drive in 107 runs, showing an improvement over last season’s power outage. Wright has been streaky all season, but he’s still the best this franchise has to offer.

Aug 10

Mets Chat Room; Pelfrey’s slide continues.

It was June, not that long ago when the Mets were surging – 11 games over .500 – and Mike Pelfrey and Ubaldo Jimenez were mentioned in the same sentence as budding pitching stars.

Game #112 vs. Rockies

Jimenez (17-2, 2.61) has been hit briefly, but still has electrifying numbers. Pelfrey, meanwhile, has gone from 9-1 to 10-6 with a 4.16 ERA. Pelfrey’s ERA has spiked nearly two runs a game, and it was eight starts ago that he pitched six complete innings.

Tired arm, tipping his pitches, poor mechanics, losing control of this splitter and sinker and a psychological step backward are just some of the partial explanations for his slide.

There’s not just one answer, but all of the above have contributed to Pelfrey’s slide to where he’s one again a reliability question.

The Mets have been waiting for Pelfrey to take that next step bit of five seasons now. At 200 innings and a 13-11 record in 2008 was a positive. Pelfrey won his first four decisions the following year to give the believe things might have sunk in, but he went 6-12 the rest of the way and the same of problems resurfaced.

Pelfrey seemed to put it together through most of June. He pitched quickly and efficiently; he had command of his secondary, breaking pitching; and he had confidence in his fastball.

All that’s gone now, and based on performance both Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey are ahead.

The slide didn’t happen overnight and neither will the recovery. The Mets falling out of contention coincided with Pelfrey’s fall.

Now, it’s in the remaining two months where Pelfrey needs to right himself and remove his name from being an off-season question.

Jul 24

Mets Chat Room; Pelfrey tries to halt his slide.

Game #98 at Dodgers

NOTE: Sorry about last night. I had some computer issues and watched helplessly as the Mets finally won.

The Mets stopped one slide last night, can they halt another this afternoon?

The Mets’ dismal road trip – now 2-7 after Johan Santana’s sparkler last night – continues today in Los Angeles with Mike Pelfrey attempt to end a three-game losing streak in which he has failed to make it out of the fifth inning in each.

“I’m just going through one of the worst stretches of my life,’’ said Pelfrey, who has a 15.30 ERA during that span.

In the worst start of his career Monday in Arizona, Pelfrey gave up six runs on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel said Pelfrey has a mental block when it comes to his fastball; he doesn’t trust it anymore and is relying too much on his secondary pitches.

“He’s not a finesse pitcher, he’s not a trick guy,’’ Manuel said.  “He’s a power, sinker guy, and that’s what he’s got to get back to.’’