Oct 07

Mets never had chance at Halladay

Watching Roy Halladay make history yesterday made me wonder if he could have made it for the Mets.

HALLADAY: Never would have been a Met

Reportedly, the Mets rejected a trade proposal from Toronto that would have had them sending Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Ruben Tejada and Fernando Martinez to the Blue Jays.

It would be great to have Halladay, especially in light of Johan Santana’s injury, but it never was going to happen.

Why?

Because it wasn’t true, said then Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

It was absolutely wrong,” Ricciardi told USA Today. “We didn’t exchange names with the Mets. I felt so bad for [Mets GM] Omar [Minaya] because there was no truth to it. None. Now, he’s the one who has to answer why they didn’t get Halladay.’’

Trade talks never got to the name-exchanging stage for several reasons, beginning with Halladay having a no-trade clause in his contract with the Blue Jays and there was no hint of him wanting to come to New York.

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Sep 28

Reflections of Willie

With the Milwaukee Brewers in town, and Jerry Manuel presumably in his last week as Mets manager, it is not surprising the attention being placed on Willie Randolph and the inevitable comparisons to his successor.

RANDOLPH: Looking back.

I covered Randolph in 2006 until 2008 when he was unceremoniously fired, and found him to be knowledgeable but sometimes too thin skinned. I won’t use the word paranoid because I’m not a psychiatrist and believe that’s too harsh and unfair an assessment.

I attributed Randolph’s demeanor to it being his first job and his inability to let go of being passed by for other opportunities.

And, to be fair, Randolph had reason to be cautious as the Mets presented him with several untenable obstacles. Willie spoke highly of Omar Minaya the other day, but part of that was being a gentleman. Fact is, there was an uneasy tension between Randolph and the front office caused in large part by the constant undermining presence of Tony Bernazard, who literally was a management spy and who fed information to players that caused a gap in the clubhouse.

Minaya was at fault for letting that situation develop and not pulling in the reigns on Bernazard. Eventually, Bernazard did himself in and his reputation has kept him from landing another baseball job.

That Carlos Delgado sabotaged Randolph’s relationship with the Latin players, and it was allowed to happen by the front office, was distasteful and really despicable. Delgado’s presence undoubtedly hampered Randolph’s relationship with Jose Reyes to name one. It was information fed by Bernazard to Delgado that damaged whatever relationship the player could have with his manager.

The Mets came within one hit of reaching the World Series in 2006, then collapsed in 2007. The collapse that summer was historic, but traceable to the front office not addressing the needs of starting pitching and not bringing back the bullpen that was a strength of the 2006 team. The collapse would have happened sooner, and perhaps not been as dramatic, if not for the strong start that spring.

The bullpen was again a problem in 2008, but the Mets hung around until the final weekend. There was another collapse that year, but not as dramatic. The team hung around long enough for the interim tag to be removed from Manuel.

The Mets have addressed needs piecemeal, from Johan Santana to Francisco Rodriguez to Jason Bay, but never gave Randolph a full deck after 2006. The feeling was that they came close and to take the next step with essentially the same team. Hoping for improvement is not the same as adding the proper pieces to improve.

Gradually, by sticking with Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez too long, by not rebuilding the bullpen after Duaner Sanchez’s injury described in his EMR (electronic medical record) as a  fractured coracoid bone in the shoulder, by misjudging the progress made by Oliver Perez and John Maine after 2007, by hamstringing the bench with the likes of Julio Franco, poor contracts given Perez, Franco and Moises Alou, and numerous injuries, the window has slammed shut on the Mets and it doesn?t matter who is manager.

Had Randolph stayed, he couldn’t navigate through this mess, and Manuel has proven to be less capable. Let’s face it, today’s Mets are a house of cards. Their record will be better this year, but in some respects the team overachieved because of RA Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi, and Mike Pelfrey’s step forward.

With the payroll as it is, the injury to Santana and questions in the pitching staff, and the health issues of Carlos Beltran and Bay, this team could go south again next year.

Randolph deserves another chance to manage in the major leagues, but bringing him back isn’t the best idea. Been there, done that. Just like with Bobby Valentine.

Randolph has his faults as does Manuel, but the fact is this front office will be going on its fifth manager in ten years next season, a sure sign that the instability that comes from up top.

Sep 20

Where to plug the holes?

I’m looking at the Mets’ payroll for 2011 and see around $130 million is already spent, much of it on players who could make a minimal impact, if at all. Money will be spent on Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez, but what will the return be?

Castillo will get his money, even if he doesn’t play full time at second base. This is one of the few spots where the Mets could upgrade. They also must upgrade their rotation, bullpen and bench.

Every other position, I see, is already accounted for.

I see Ike Davis and Josh Thole as building blocks. Even though they could get something in return, I don’t see them dealing David Wright and Jose Reyes. Jason Bay, assuming he’s healthy, will come back in left field.

Beltran is virutally untradeable with an $18.5 million contract for next year (the Mets would have to pick up most of it in a deal) and having been injured for much of the past two years. He’ll be back and Angel Pagan will move to right, that is, unless the new manager can convince Beltran to switch from center.

The Mets don’t figure to spend heavily, so they’ll hope for a repeat from RA Dickey, and continued development from Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese. They might pick up a middle-tier arm to minimally off-set the projected loss of Johan Santana.

And, if they can’t shed K-Rod’s contract, they’ll hope he’ll be sound following thumb surgery. They’ll try, but might not be able to re-sign Hisanori Takahashi, and they’ll hope Bobby Parnell further develops. They’ll swap out their other bullpen pieces with mediocrity and hope for the best.

They’ll hope from the best from Bay and Beltran, hope Wright and Reyes have better seasons, and that Pagan wasn’t a fluke.

It really doesn’t matter who they bring in here as GM and manager, their hands are tied with their existing contracts and the way the roster is configured.

They don’t figure to be much better, if anything, other than they are today. They will bide their time into they clear some salary off the books for the 2012 season.

Aug 25

When does a gesture become more than a gesture?

It’s a noble gesture, but one that will have little sting or impact.

Tonight, fans are to meet for the “Citi Field Sit Out,’’ in which the organizers got their message across on the Internet to meet at the ballpark to express their displeasure at the Mets organization by boycotting the game.

The gesture is symbolic and won’t create change simply because management has shown no inclination it wants to change. Management will laugh off the boycott because it already has their money.

As the Mets become more irrelevant heading into September, it should be realized there is little to be done to energize an alienated fan base for the remainder of the season. There is only one gesture symbolic enough for the fans to appreciate there could be a real change and it’s not the firing of Jerry Manuel or Omar Minaya, which could be soon enough. The only gesture the Wilpons can make to the fans that will be symbolic enough to bring about a genuine hope for change would be cutting Oliver Perez.

It will say things will be different.

Manuel and Minaya could be gone, but if the same group of underachieving players is around, what good will it do?

And, all indications are things will be the same because without spending a dime on new players to get better, the Mets have $130 million committed to salaries for next year, with roughly $50 million earmarked for Perez, Luis Castillo – the poster boys for the Minaya regime – Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez.

The Mets are notorious to not wanting to throw money away, which is why they’re still paying Perez and going with a 24-man roster. The message sent to the clubhouse in keeping Perez at a time when the season was still salvageable was that of surrender.

With a trade almost impossible, next year will likely be as frustrating as this season. Any enthusiasm the team can muster for the 2011 season will be tempered by Perez’s presence, as it will signify nothing has changed for the better no matter how they dress up a new manager or youth movement.

Perez leaving might create a large enough buzz among those thinking of going to Citi Field in September, and even more importantly those on the fence about renewing season tickets, to believe there is sincerity in wanting to change.

Perez is going to get $12 million from the Mets next year either way, so it might as well be in the form of a public relations gesture.

Because without real change, the season ticket base will continue to erode, spending will be further cut, and there will be more symbolic boycotts _ and losing.

There will be more of the same.

Aug 18

Mets Chat Room; union files grievance.

Jerry Manuel said today he hopes the Mets can get on a run and sneak back into contention. He really doesn’t have much more than hope because the Mets are becoming more and more irrelevant for this season.

Game #120 at Astros

They started sputtering before the All-Star break, but were within serious striking distance when Carlos Beltran was activated at the break.

They’ve been 11-20 since to deepen their hole by seven games to 11 behind Atlanta.

I posted a few things to look forward to down the stretch, but another one is the fallout from the Francisco Rodriguez incident.

The Major League Baseball Players Association, not surprisingly, has already filed a grievance against the Mets on behalf of Rodriguez for placing him on the disqualified list and attempt to convert his contract to a non-guaranteed deal.

Remember, the union’s concern isn’t about right or wrong – as evidenced by its head-in-the-sand stance on steroids – but simply getting every last nickel for the players.