Oct 09

Count Upton, Cabrera Off Mets’ Radar

There’s plenty of intriguing possibilities, only if the Mets were willing to take a financial gamble, which Sandy Alderson said they are not inclined to do.

As I posted yesterday, the Mets have $79.5 million of their earmarked $100 million to spend on six players: Johan Santana, RA Dickey, David Wright, Jason Bay, Jon Niese and Frank Francisco.

B.J. Upton would be terrific in Citi Field, supplying defense to aid the pitching staff and offense. At 28, he’s just the kind of player you could sign to a multi-year deal and build around. Trouble is he comes with some attitude baggage and the Mets would be wary of surrounding their young talent around him. That’s one of the reasons they were willing to eat the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

Upton would be much better on a veteran laden team – like the Yankees – that has the leadership to keep him in line. When the Mets sputtered in the second half and Terry Collins suggested they were quitting, that’s the scenario where Upton might pack it in.

The guy I am especially intrigued about is Melky Cabrera, who would cost less than Upton because of his own baggage.

On the plus side, Cabrera could cover left field and adds a lot offensively. This year, and last season with Kansas City, he proved he can hit. But, he was making $6 million this year and even with a pay cut that’s too rich for the Mets’ blood.

Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for using a performance enhancing drug. His team, the Giants, wouldn’t let him go on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues as he is allowed and kept him off the postseason roster. What does that tell you about there desire to bring him back?

On top of the suspension, he and his idiot agent cooked up a crazy cover story that included the design of a website. That might have been worse than the drug use itself.

Cabrera, who led the National League in hitting this year and it a damage control move asked that he not be awarded the title, would likely get a short term deal because he’s a risk. Who wants to sink time and money for a player that could get nailed again? You don’t have to pay during a suspension, but you do have to fill the spot if he’s suspended.

Excluding the drug use there’s another question about him and that’s the number of teams he’s played for at a young age. In a seven-year span Cabrera has played for the Giants, Royals, Yankees and Braves, or just under two years a team.

There’s something wrong with that picture.

 

Oct 01

Looking At Mets’ Coaching Staff

Terry Collins will be back next season, but how many of his coaching. Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson are traveling with the team on the final roadtrip, and discussing the coaching staff will be one of the topics on the table.

Published reports have pitching coach Dan Warthen returning, and considering the success of the rotation for the better part of the season, that’s not surprising. However, Warthen is in charge of all the pitchers, which includes a horrid bullpen.

Also on the downside are his mixed results with Mike Pelfrey and zero results with Oliver Perez. It is premature to credit him with any of Matt Harvey’s initial success. He should get some credit for Jon Niese making a step forward this season, and as a knuckleballer, I don’t know how much credit he gets for R.A. Dickey’s season.

The bullpen is arguably the Mets’ weakest pitching link. He’s had one year to work with Frank Francisco, who has been spotty at times, and Jon Rauch, who hasn’t pitched well. He’s had several seasons to work with Bobby Parnell, who remains an enigma.

Warthen has had three starts to evaluate Jenrry Mejia and had him during spring training. After yesterday’s loss, Mejia remains uncertain in the Mets’ pitching plans, although the plan is to send him to the Arizona Fall League to work as a starter. Warthen said a few weeks ago he could still see Mejia as a reliever, so it remains to be seen whether there is a conflict between him and upper management on what to do with the prospect.

Ricky Bones, mostly a starter during his career, is the bullpen coach. His job is primarily to make sure the relievers are ready, to get them warmed up properly, to monitor their pitch counts after getting up, plus some limited work on mechanics.

If Warthen is spared, Bones might take the hit.

Also feeling heat could be hitting coach Dave Hudgens. During the first half Hudgens received raves for how his hitters worked the count and their ability to produce with two outs. Neither of those were strong suits when the offense sputtered and became a liability in the second half, especially at home, where they had a stretch of 15 straight games of scoring three runs or less.

Nobody can blame Hudgens for Jason Bay’s failures for a third straight year, plus the mostly non-season from Andres Torres. However, he’s been exposed to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, both of whom need to drastically reduce their strikeouts and increase their on-base percentages.

Davis had a miserable first half, but hit with power in the second half. He’s still mechanically flawed and gives away too many at-bats by consistently over swinging and trying to pull too much and striking out way too much. The same could be said for Duda, who had to be sent to the minor leagues during the season to work on his mechanics and approach.

Both Bones and Hudgens might be the fall guys for another losing season, although that mostly has to fall on the players. Unless the Mets are looking for scapegoats, there’s no real reason to dismiss bench coach Bob Geren, third base coach Tim Teufel and first base coach Tom Goodwin.

 

Sep 20

Mets Bullpen Again An Issue

It was a horrible pitch and Josh Edgin is the first to admit it. He called the fastball Ryan Howard crushed last night “a meatball,’’ and it cost Matt Harvey a victory.

Even so, Edgin has been one of the few encouraging notes out of an otherwise negative bullpen this summer and had a streak of 16 straight scoreless appearances snapped last night. One stinker and 16 good games is a good ratio.

Discouraging about Edgin’s performance is the one thing he’s counted on to do, he didn’t, and that’s get out left-handed hitters. He walked Chase Utley and Howard went deep.

“If Josh Edgin is going to pitch in this league, he’s got to get one of those two guys out,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Actually, both would have been better.

Overall, Edgin has been good against lefties, limiting them to a .148 average. All hitters are batting .196 against him. His 30-10 strikeouts to walks ratio is good. That’s a lot to like.

On the not-so-positive side, four of the 18 hits he’s given up have gone for homers.

A lot has gone wrong for the Mets this season, including GM Sandy Alderson’s inability to build a bullpen. The Mets overused lefty Tim Byrdak to the point where he blew out his arm, thereby giving Edgin and fellow lefty Robert Carson an opportunity.

Carson hasn’t been as effective, but had his moments, such as escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam with no inherited runners scoring recently against Washington. He has a dynamite fastball. That and being left-handed will earn him a shot next spring.

This isn’t to say the Mets’ bullpen is fixed – far from it – but they have two lefties to build around for next season. That’s more than they had last spring.

Toronto imports Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco had their moments, mostly in the first half when the Mets were 46-40, but also showed why the Blue Jays didn’t keep them. Francisco has injury problems and another year on his contract.

There’s nothing certain about the rest of the bullpen. Ramon Ramirez can’t find the plate half the time; Manny Acosta has averaged giving up over a hit and close to a run an inning; and Bobby Parnell has been inconsistent and unable to grasp the closer or set-up roles when given the opportunity.

Edgin’s blown save gave the Mets a 59-2 record when leading after eight innings, which is more than fine. However, they have 18 blown saves on the season meaning the problem has been more during the bridge innings.

Building a bullpen is a crapshoot, but essential for a team to compete. Overall, Baltimore has given up more runs than it scores but has been dominant in one-run and extra-innings games, indicative of a strong bullpen. The Pirates are fading, but kept in contention in large part because of their bullpen.

Edgin has promise, but the Mets have a lot of work to do in building their pen if they are to become competitive again. A lot.

Sep 14

Should Be Calm Weekend in Brew Town; Keep Duda In Left

My guess is there won’t be any retaliatory fireworks this weekend when the Mets are in Milwaukee this weekend.

When DJ Carrasco plunked Ryan Braun this spring, Terry Collins pulled David Wright from the game to protect his All-Star – over Wright’s objections – yanked Carrasco and cut him the next day. Collins then made sure of talking with Braun at the All-Star Game to smooth over any lingering animosity.

Odds are that conversation, plus bouncing Carrasco, was proof enough for the Brewers that stuff wouldn’t be tolerated by the Mets. Also, tempering the emotions this weekend is that Milwaukee is suddenly in the wild-card race.

With the games growing increasingly important, and scarce, why would the Brewers risk riling up the Mets and possibly exposing Braun to another beaning? That would be the height of stupidity.

This should be an interesting series even without the dramatics.

The Mets will start Jenrry Mejia tomorrow in his first start of the season.

After all this time, unbelievably there are some in the organization split on what his role should be. He’s had some degree of success at both in the minor leagues, but also a measure of frustration on the major league level.

They’ve stretched him out already and with Matt Harvey shut down after one more start, that would open up an opportunity for Mejia to get three starts in the final month. That should be enough for the Mets to get a clue as where they should put in during spring training.

With Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming off injuries, Harvey in his first full season, and the uncertainty of Zach Wheeler, there will be starting opportunities next year, and with the Mets not likely to spend in the off-season, having Mejia in place in a must.

Another reason Mejia should be in the rotation is that starters are harder to come by than relievers. It seems every winter there is a closer available. The caveat with closers is they can be hit or miss, and Mets fans don’t have to go back far to recall Frank Francisco and Frankie Rodriguez. Both saved more than they blew, but both also provided anxious moments. Come to think of it, so did Billy Wagner.

One thing I’m not getting lately, unless the Mets’ intent is to showcase him in a trade, is the sudden need to see Lucas Duda again at first base. We saw plenty of him last year, and what the Mets need to find out is if he can play left field because he plays right as if it were a minefield. Duda is in left and Ike Davis back at first tonight.

The Mets like Duda’s power potential, and unless they move him, he seems destined to platoon with Jason Bay in left field. If both Duda and Bay are on the team next season, I’d rather see Bay in right field.

 

Jul 19

Mets Can’t Wait Any Longer

The losing streak is now six and the Mets clearly are in a freefall now. You know things are getting desperate when the manager calls a meeting to try to pump up his team’s confidence.

The Mets need something to jumpstart their belief October is still possible, and I don’t think two ninth-inning homers is the alarm they are looking for.

No, the bullpen didn’t cost the Mets the game last night, although it did put it out of reach. The bullpen, far and away, is the tourniquet the Mets need most and they can’t wait the 12 days until the deadline. Hell, Frank Francisco won’t even be back by then.

The Mets need to do something now. Whether it be Huston Street or Jonathan Broxton, or Frankie Rodriguez or Grant Balfour, the need an immediate lift. The season could be lost in two weeks; it could already be lost.

GM Sandy Alderson failed miserably in patching up the bullpen during the winter, but he always said the Mets had the resources to make an addition if they were in the race. They’ve been in the race all season, so let’s see something.

The last thing I want to hear is come the deadline and Alderson intimating the team didn’t think it could win. If management doesn’t do it immediately it is sending that very message to the players and the fan base it teased in the first half.

Do it now!