Nov 06

New York Mets notebook

A lot of things happening with the Mets right now, beginning with the managerial interviews:

1) BACKMAN INTERVIEWS TODAY: Sandy Alderson will interview Wally Backman in California today and it is not a courtesy interview as the general manager doesn’t have time to waste. I’ve been hearing the Wilpons have some apprehensions concerning Backman, but nothing specific other than his lack of major league experience has come to light.

I’m still wary about Backman because of the experience factor, believing there are others that bring more immediately to the table.

2) COLLINS THE FRONTRUNNER: I don’t see how anybody can come to the conclusion Terry Collins is the frontrunner without all the interviews being conducted. The Mets do like Collins in his current role working with the minor leagues and could prefer him to stay in that role. Don’t forget, if Collins is reassigned then the Mets will need somebody else for the minor league job.

3) TAKAHASHI GONE: The Mets did not bring back reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The difference in gap  isn’t $1 million as people have suggested, but closer to $10 million if what has been reported is close. At 36, three years is a long time to give to a reliever with only one year in the major leagues.

4) CHARLIE SAMUELS: What was he thinking? The gifts Samuels received from the players is irrelevant. It’s the position he had and the betrayal factor. How much he bet on baseball, or if he bet on the Mets, is uncertain. The argument if he bet on baseball it would be OK if he wagered on the Mets doesn’t make it because of the message it sends if he didn’t bet on the Mets. Why?

I’ve always liked Charlie, but investigations like this don’t happen if there isn’t some degree of truth to the claims.

Too bad.

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 14

New Chat Room; Dickey goes after 11.

Game #145 vs. Pirates

With the season dwindling away, there are fewer and fewer things worth watching. R.A. Dickey is one of them.

Dickey (10-6, 2.91 ERA) with career highs in wins and ERA after being thrust in a stop-gap role this season has been one of the bright spots in this gray summer. When he starts tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he’ll also be continuing his audition for the 2011 rotation.

Dickey, 35, is 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA in eight starts at Citi Field.

“I’ve just really tried to be consistent,” Dickey said. “The better I bounce back after tough outings, the more I show that I can be trustworthy.”

To access the New Chat Room, click onto the icon to your left.

Aug 04

Francoeur: Has anything changed?

The Mets do have a pulse after last night, and it’s that way because of R.A. Dickey and Jeff Francoeur.

FRANCOEUR: Finally delivers

As far as Francoeur is concerned, last night might change his mood and get him going, but I’ve said that before with him. He’s an extremely streaky hitter, but unfortunately for him he’s had too many on the downside this summer. A hot one now could lift the Mets back into contention.

When Carlos Beltran returned, somebody had to sit, but Jerry Manuel force-feeding him into the lineup seems to have backfired. If nothing else, the Mets’ record since the All-Star break should mean something. Manuel had no choice but to cut Francoeur’s time, but his methods weren’t right.

A meeting would have been the proper thing to do. And, to equate his situation to a pitcher going to the bullpen was callous.

Manuel shut the door on Francoeur as a Met, and last night’s heroics aside, it doesn’t change anything. The Mets might be a game closer, but it’s a huge gap. And, Francoeur could go on a tear, but he’s gone after this year.

He wants to play everyday and young enough to do so. It’s too early in his career to assume the role player mentality.

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Aug 03

Mets Chat Room; Dickey to keep pulse going.

Game #107 vs. Braves

RA Dickey remains one of the few positives in a season that has turned negative.  In a little less than a month the Mets have gone from two games behind Atlanta to 7 ½ games, plus eight back in the wild card race.

A 6-16 slide will do that to a team.

The Mets have already lost their first must-win game of this series and will give the ball to Dickey tonight and hopes he can keep their slim hopes alive.

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