Oct 05

How Mets Answered Preseason Questions

Like all teams, the Mets had questions entering spring training. The Mets, of course, had more than most. At that time I listed the top ten questions facing the 2012 Mets. Let’s take a look back at how the season answered those questions. Some were in the positive, others not.

1) QUESTION: To what degree will the Wilpon’s financial problems impact the Mets?  

ANSWER: Did you see any new faces of consequence added at the trade deadline? Nope, I didn’t think so. Despite a strong first half, the Mets had issues – notably the bullpen – which they did not address at the end of July. Failing to improve the team, the Mets spiraled down in the second half. While the Mets received a favorable verdict in the Madoff case – they have two more years before they have to pay off – it will not induce GM Sandy Alderson to significantly enter the free agent market. The Mets spent $100 million this year on player salaries and don’t expect them to pay much more than that in 2013.

2) QUESTION: What will we get from Johan Santana?

ANSWER: Actually more than anticipated, including the first no-hitter in franchise history. There remains speculation throwing 134 pitches in that game might have derailed him. Even though there were no arm issues, Santana did lose his command and struggled in the second half before being shut down with an injury. The Mets are on the hook for $31 million more to Santana next year, including a buyout.

3) QUESTION: How long will David Wright remain a Met?

ANSWER: Well, he’s still here and Alderson said retaining him will be an offseason priority. Because of a good first half Wright’s name didn’t come up at the trade deadline as Jose Reyes’ did the year before. Wright proved to the Mets his durability this season and had a good season, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. How much better could it have been had he not slumped trying to carry the team in the second half?

4) QUESTION: Which Mike Pelfrey will we see?

ANSWER: He was good while he lasted, but was shutdown early with an injury and underwent surgery to his elbow. Pelfrey might not be ready until May or June, making it highly unlikely for the Mets to tender him a contract despite Terry Collins’ urging. After a seemingly breakthrough 2010 season, Pelfrey regressed dramatically last year. Overall, Pelfrey has not lived up to expectations. The only way I see him staying with the Mets if he were to re-sign with them at a discount, but with Scott Boras his agent, don’t count on it.

5) QUESTION: What is the configuration of the bullpen?

ANSWER: That was supposed to be Alderson’s priority last winter, but it wasn’t to be as the pen factored greatly in the second-half swoon. Frank Francisco was the primary closer, but finished the season with tendinitis. Bobby Parnell pitched considerably better later in the season and will likely enter spring training in a set-up role if Francisco is healthy. The Mets received promising production from lefties Josh Edgin and Robert Carson. Look for Jon Rauch to be a part of the housecleaning.

6) QUESTION: Is Ruben Tejada the answer as Jose Reyes’ replacement?

ANSWER: That’s still up in the air over the long haul, but for now Tejada is the right fit. Tejada has a great glove, and his .289 average was better than one could have expected. With other pressing needs, Tejada showed enough to where the Mets don’t have to shop for a shortstop this winter.

7) QUESTION: Can Daniel Murphy make it at second base?

I don’t think we’ll see the second coming of Wally Backman, let alone Ryne Sandberg or Roberto Alomar. Murphy’s range could be better, but he showed promise this summer that the position isn’t a lost cause for him. He was less awkward around the bag and made most of the plays. His footwork on the double-play needs to get better. Overall, he showed enough to where the Mets don’t need to sign a second baseman in the offseason.

8) QUESTION: How healthy is Ike Davis?

ANSWER: There was speculation the virus was a contributor to a poor first half, but he refutes that notion. Not wanting to shatter his confidence, and probably moreso that there weren’t other alternatives, the Mets didn’t send him down when he hovered under .200. Davis responded with a strong second half and finished with over 30 homers.

9) QUESTION: What’s the make up of the rotation?

ANSWER: It changed considerably, beginning with Pelfrey’s injury. Dillon Gee and Santana also went down. Chris Young was brought in and gave them over 100 innings. The positive developments were Jon Niese taking another step and the emergence of Matt Harvey. Most positive of all was R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games to become a Cy Young Award candidate. Dickey has gone from journeyman to an offseason priority to be re-signed. 

10) QUESTION: Will it ever happen for Jason Bay with the Mets?

ANSWER: The newest theory is Bsy’s concussion last year caused him to be sluggish at the plate. It’s only speculation. A greater speculation is it won’t happen for Bay, who has given the Mets nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay him. Not even moving in the fences helped Bay. The Mets are just counting the days until he’s off the books.

Oct 02

Mets Matters: Last Look At Dickey As A Met Tonight?

We will get our last look at the best part of this season tonight when R.A. Dickey goes for his 21st victory to make his final Cy Young audition against the Miami Marlins.

It might even be Dickey’s last appearance as a Met if the team deems him to expensive to re-sign and opts to trade him this winter.

The Mets say bringing back David Wright and Dickey are priorities, but if Wright signs first and it is decided they can’t afford Dickey they might not have any other choice.

Whatever happens this winter, it has been a thrill watching Dickey pitch this summer. Every five days he gave the Mets a chance to win, and he did it on the mound with guile and grit, and off the mound with class and humility.

It would be a shame to see him go. There are so few like Dickey these days.

In other Mets Matters:

* CEO Jeff Wilpon and GM Sandy Alderson are with the team in Miami. The Mets say they are optimistic about retaining Wright, but have not announced an off-season timetable or give an indication how much it would cost. For that matter, they haven’t done likewise with Dickey.

Wright indicated he’d like to return, but also left open the possibility of leaving. That’s smart because he doesn’t want to bid against himself.

Wright’s decision to return will not only be money – he said he’s not interested in every last nickel – but what steps the team is willing to take to improve. As of now, all signs point to limited spending.

Wright said he would not negotiate in season in 2013.

 

* Thanks to Joe DeCaro for posting this morning about Terry Collins wanting Mike Pelfrey back. Considering the holes in their staff and potential concerns in the rotation, it could be a smart move. However, Pelfrey will open the season on the disabled list and I don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

* The Mets will make everybody available this off-season in a possible trade. Reportedly, Boston is scouting the Mets in regards to Ike Davis.

It has been reported the Mets could trade Davis, but it comes with the presumption Lucas Duda fill his power void. Since there’s no assurances Duda will develop as the Mets hope, they would need to receive power in return. If that’s the case, why bother? Especially since Davis’ contract is reasonable.

Sep 25

What If David Wright Doesn’t Want To Stay?

I keep hearing, “Will the Mets re-sign David Wright?” and “What will it take to keep David Wright?” and “How can the Mets not afford to bring back David Wright?”

All very good, pointed and legitimate questions. Here’s some more: “What if David Wright wants to leave?” and “What’s keeping David Wright tied to the Mets?”

Unquestionably, Wright is the face of this franchise, he’s the most popular, he’s their best player. And, he’s still young enough where the team can build around him. But, what if Wright doesn’t want them to build around him anymore?

Seriously. Mull that over for a moment.

Jose Reyes is gone and so is Carlos Beltran, the latter whom is having a great season. Those were the position-player building blocks the team had around Wright. They are gone and if published reports are to be believed, might Ike Davis be next? Afterall, outside of their young pitching Davis figures to bring back the most in return.

Sandy Alderson has already said not to expect a winter spending spree, so realistically, the 2013 Mets will be vastly similar to this year’s second-half collapse model, with the hope being improvement from within, notably a strong first full season from Matt Harvey. Even so, the Mets are probably two or three years away from serious playoff contention.

Wright will be 33 in three years and perhaps nine years removed from his last playoff appearance (2006). Don’t you think he might be tired of being pitched around, losing and making public relations appearances for a team not going anywhere?

By that time, if not traded or having left as free agents, what will the 2015 Mets look like?

Just last week Wright said there are no moral victories and it is all about making the playoffs. At the same time, R.A. Dickey said “you’re kidding yourself if you think we’re more than one piece away.”

Wright said he wants to remain a Met, but hasn’t said he can’t say he’ll stay a Met regardless. He’d be crazy to say such a thing because it would limit his bargaining power. As it is, Wright won’t come close to hitting 30 homers, a milestone he’s reached several times, most recently in 2008. It has been part injuries, part Citi Field, part being pitched around and part bad habits that have led to Wright’s drop in power.

Wright has an option for next season which the team will undoubtedly pick us as to not risk heading into the ticket-selling offseason without their key player. If the Mets fail to sign him to an extension and then aren’t able to trade him as they didn’t Reyes, Wright will be a free agent and his phone will ring.

And, if the Mets don’t add some pieces around him soon, he’ll listen. He’d be a fool not to.

 

 

Sep 21

Terry Collins Throws Mets Under Bus; Himself, Too.

Terry Collins wouldn’t come out and say it, but his clipped answers to pointed questions strongly suggest he believes his team has quit.

As he said several times during the Mets’ second-half collapse, “it’s all about perception.’’

After being blown out 16-1 by the Phillies before published estimates of around 1,000 fans at Citi Field, an exasperated and visibly upset Collins gave short, terse answers to the questions everybody who bothered to watch were asking: Do you think your team has quit?

There’s no more biting question to ask a major league manager.

Collins gave his team the benefit of doubt after more than a few dismal performances this summer. Not last night. Last night, with his words and their tone, Collins threw his team under the bus, and deservedly so.

Asked if the Mets quit, Collins said: “You’ll have to ask them. I have my own opinion. I’m not going to express it publicly.’’

He might as well have screamed “YES.’’

In addition to the score, Collins said, “I saw some things tonight that were unacceptable.’’

When asked to specify, Collins refused, and when pressed if he thought his players were embarrassed, he abruptly said: “You have to ask them. I’m not inside their heads.’’

Normally, when a coach or manager says such a thing, the first reaction is how can he not know what his team is thinking? Doesn’t he have the pulse of this team?

Collins does, but didn’t want to attach his name to the actual quotes. Maybe he thinks by doing so he won’t be able to work with them next year. At least, with those who will be left.

Or, maybe he wouldn’t say they quit because by doing so would be a reflection on him. After all, when a team quits, it means the manager lost the clubhouse. That’s the perception Collins wants to mask.

The Mets have gone 16 straight games having scored three or fewer runs at home. One would think they’d score four by accident. If they didn’t quit, then they are playing uninspired, listless baseball. Collins said letdowns are to be expected, but this is more than a letdown.

“We’ve had a huge letdown in the second half,’’ Collins said. “People paid money to see us tonight. Our fans, not that we wouldn’t have lost 16-1, but not the way we lost. This is the big leagues.

“It’s all about perception. And the perception is tonight after we’re down 8-0 the game was over. No disrespect to Tyler Cloyd. None whatsoever. But three hits? Please. We’re better than that.’’

Well, not lately.

David Wright and Ike Davis refuted the notion the players quit. Both spoke in cliché, saying this is their job and the players work hard in preparation.

Neither was convincing. The only thing convincing about last night were all the empty seats.

Sep 19

What Can The Mets Do When They Have So Little To Trade?

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets were more likely to build via the trade route than by making a big splash in the free-agent market. Amidst the Ike Davis flap, one must wonder what pieces the Mets have to trade.

When you read between the lines from what Alderson has said, everybody is fair game outside of Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler. There might be more arms down below the Mets would find untouchable, and Jenrry Mejia probably isn’t one of them any more.

Let’s examine several of the higher profile Mets as to their trade worthiness:

DAVID WRIGHT: He’s the one that always comes up first, but it appears the Mets will make a play to keep him. He’s their biggest position-player talent, but his contractual situation would make it difficult to move him. Most teams wouldn’t want to pay Wright’s 2013 salary as a rental without having the opportunity to sign him to an extension first. Trading him in the offseason is highly doubtful, but a team with a lot of resources could do something next year at the trade deadline. Signing Wright to the long-term deal he deserves would be pricey and those are difficult to unload. The situation with the Dodgers was a stroke of luck for the Red Sox.

R.A. DICKEY: Dickey is one reason I’m still watching the season and haven’t moved on to football season entirely and Kevin’s NFL picks. Outside of the young prospects, he’s their most valuable pitching chip. He has a movable contract, and even a contract extension would probably be palatable to another team. Even if Dickey wins the Cy Young Award – now appearing doubtful – there’s the specter of the knuckleball and finding a catcher who can handle the devilish pitch. Despite Dickey’s success, too many people in baseball would shy away at such a pitcher. You don’t have to look any further than Tony La Russa’s decision at the All-Star Game to realize there’s prejudice against the pitch.

JOHAN SANTANA: The Mets’ best hope here is if he makes a full recovery and pitches lights out in the first half. Then you might find a taker for the remaining $12 million or so remaining. Even that’s a lot and there’s always the fear of him breaking down again. The Mets got all they could from Santana before he broke down and would be foolish to think they could get anything more in a trade. His value to the team is to come back strong as he did this year in the first half and pitch them into contention for a wild card.

JON NIESE: He’s young, left-handed with a strong arm and affordable. What’s not to like? He’s the type of pitching talent teams are built around. Yes, he would bring something in return, but the Mets covet him and would be crazy to trade him.

JASON BAY: He’s been injured, non-productive and has a ridiculous contract. He’s not going anywhere.

All this makes Davis the most tradable.