Nov 05

Will there ever be a new culture?

We heard a lot about the Mets’ culture changing when Sandy Alderson was hired as GM and Terry Collins as manager. The atmosphere changed t0 a degree, but the Mets’ talent level remained roughly the same with once again, the pitching faltered and took the team down with it.

Looking back on the season there were three significant story lines outside of the newness of the front office and manager. The first half when the Mets found themselves over .500, the swirling question was whether, or when, they would deal Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez.

When the pitching went south it was about the thinness of the rotation and weak bullpen, highlighted by not having a closer, who was in Milwaukee because the team feared Rodriguez’s option.

The season was played against the backdrop of the Mets not being able to re-sign Jose Reyes because they wouldn’t want to – or don’t have – the resources to retain the All-Star shortstop.

All three were about money and the Wilpon’s legal and financial troubles because of the Madoff Ponzi scandal. The Wilpons received positive news in the courts that would reduce the damages, but those damages would still be significant. And, it doesn’t help that the team has a $25 million debt to Major League Baseball.

You can change the manager, general manager and upper management and that could change the culture somewhat, but real change begins with ownership and that hasn’t changed. With the budget always an overriding issue, we can never expect things to really change and Mets being an elite franchise.

Oct 06

Warthen survives coaching staff purge.

Since you can’t change all the players, you might as well change the coaching staff.

WARTHEN: The answer?

 

The Mets made a big deal of saying this year they’ve changed the culture of the franchise, but shouldn’t some of that credit go to the coaching staff?

If things were so improved, then how come only two coaches are staying on?

Only pitching coach Dan Warthen and hitting coach Dave Hudgens will remain in their current roles for 2012. Rising star Chip Hale, bench coach Ken Oberkfell, first base coach Mookie Wilson and bullpen coach Jon Debus are gone.

Stunning actually, considering how this team’s attitude had supposedly changed. Then again, did it really after watching Jose Reyes take his bow and leave?

Triple-A manager Tim Tueful is now the third base coach and his pitching coach at Buffalo, Ricky Bones, takes over as bullpen coach.

They’ll fill the bench coach and first base coach positions in the next few weeks. Wally Backman is not being considered for a major league job, but instead will take over for Teuful at Buffalo.

The Mets raved about Hale, so it makes you wonder why he didn’t get the bench job. Or, why he felt the need to leave.

The speculated answer as to the departures was a chemistry issue with Terry Collins. Hale was invited to stay in another capacity, but bolted for the bench job in Oakland. He obviously didn’t see a future here, or a co-existence with Collins.

Oberkfell, who managed on the Triple-A level for six years with the Mets, was not invited to stay. Sandy Alderson gave a song-and-dance about doing a nice job but needing somebody with a “different set of experiences,’’ clearly GM speak for a clash in personalities.

The only surprise is Warthen, who presided over one of the worst staffs and rotations in the majors. Perhaps he got a pass because of the injuries to Johan Santana and Jon Niese, and helped make Chris Capuano a positive reclamation project, but pitching is clearly an issue with this team.

Mike Pelfrey regressed tremendously and the Mets used 16 different relievers in the pen, few of them consistently effective. Bobby Parnell, whom the club envisions as its closer, has definite shortcomings. There isn’t a starter without a significant question next to his name.

Only one starter, Dillon Gee, had a winning record, and only R.A. Dickey had a sub-4.00 ERA among the starters. The staff walked 514 hitters this year, down from 545 the previous season. The Mets ranked ninth worst this season as opposed to seventh in 201o, so we’re not talking that great of an improvement.

Without question, pitching is the Mets’ main priority, and I wonder, with no influx of talent expected from the trade and free-agent markets, what makes Alderson think Warthen has the answers now after not having them since taking over for Rick Peterson in 2008?


Dec 03

Letting Carter go explains a lot.

The decision to let Chris Carter go explains a lot about both the past and present regimes of the Mets.

Just to save a few dollars, the Mets traded Billy Wagner to Boston for Carter late in the 2009 season. The option would have been to pay out the balance of the contract, offer him arbitration and collect the compensatory draft choices when he declined.

Those draft picks would look good now for a team with a myriad of holes.

Then GM Omar Minaya didn’t want to take that gamble because of the fear Wagner might accept and saddle the Mets with a bad contract, albeit for one season. That fear was instilled in large part from pressure from the Wilpons to save money.

What Minaya didn’t realize, and therefore couldn’t relay to the Wilpons, was Wagner understood the Mets were a sinking ship and wouldn’t have wanted to come back anyway. In hindsight, the prudent decision would have been to pay out Wagner for 2009 and gamble on arbitration.

Tbat brings us to Sandy Alderson and the decision to cut ties with Carter.

There’s still pressure to save money where ever possible as the 2011 contract for Carter would be at least $200,000 (60 percent of last year’s contract) plus the minor league contract. Alderson can bring Carter back at a reduced rate in a new split contract.

The pressure is on Carter to accept because with Fernando Martinez (assuming he’s healthy) and Lucas Duda, the Mets already have left-handed bats off the bench.

Carter was productive as a pinch-hitter, but he’s strictly a one-dimensional player in that his defense and throwing are weak.

Alderson knows Carter doesn’t bring much to the table, at least not more than Martinez or Duda, so why pay the extra money that’s needed for a franchise that wants to pinch pennies?

Oct 27

Mets to name Alderson

He was the favorite from the moment he announced his interest in the job, and a formality after being endorsed by commissioner Bud Selig. Although the Mets have not officially done so, the announcement of Sandy Alderson for the organization’s GM position is forthcoming – Friday during the World Series travel day.

ALDERSON: It's a new day.

Alderson beat out Josh Byrnes for the job, so it was a win-win for the Mets regardless. The Mets ran a thorough search, interviewing a long list of qualified candidates. It’s hard to think any of the choices would have been bad, but Alderson is off the charts.

Alderson has a sterling reputation in the sport having brought winning to Oakland and San Diego, and with his work in MLB and in Latin America. Alderson brings credibility to an organization that has long needed it; he brings decisiveness and toughness which has long been lacking.

Perhaps, above all, he brings with him the tools for change and the knowledge it won’t come overnight. Rebuilding the Mets will be a long process as several bulky contracts will weigh the team down for any immediate influx of talent in 2011.

Alderson is 62, but that’s a number. He’s a progressive thinker who has done it. His reputation is such that he’ll bring in quality people and implement a system that works.

I really like this move because it is no a quick fix. He isn’t the flavor-of-the-month the way Omar Minaya was when he took over.

The Mets are immediately better today because they sent the message they are serious and the rest of baseball believes them.

Oct 26

Changing the culture should be new GM’s first step.

PEREZ: New GM must cut ties right away.

The Mets could name Sandy Alderson as their new general manager, with the announcement coming as soon as Friday, the first travel day during the World Series. That’s the likely day as MLB requires teams from withholding such announcements as not to disrupt the World Series.

Alderson is having his second interview today.

Assuming it is Alderson, the most important thing he can initially do is change the culture of the Mets and that won’t be with the announcement of the new manager. The single most critical action stop the new general manager can do to signify change to the Mets’ players and their disgruntled fan base would be to convince ownership Oliver Perez has to go.

Perez personifies the mistakes of the Omar Minaya regime and sucks the life and energy out of the team. The Mets played with 24 players for much of the season because of Perez’s refusal to help himself. It was an intolerable situation, one that can’t repeat itself.

Getting rid of Perez will not change the fact the Mets still must pay him $12 million for 2011, but having him gone rids the organization of a disruptive, non-productive and selfish player. Such a move immediately screams the culture is changing. It says the Mets “are as mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.”

The new general manager will have a myriad of decisions to make, but nothing that would change the perception of the organization, both inside and out, as significantly at first as getting rid of Perez.

Such a move would tell Mets’ fans the organization is willing to break with its past reputation of not eating bad contracts. It acknowledges the team made a disastrous mistake and is willing to move on.

Above all, it is a proactive move. There is no more hoping or wishing for Perez to turn it around. Wishing is not a strategy. Wishing prohibits doing and the new general manager must be about doing.

And that message must come right away.