Jun 15

Johan Santana Makes Appearance; Reminder Of Deal Lost

Johan Santana made an appearance, perhaps for the last time, to the New York Mets’ clubhouse Friday. Maybe it was to say good-bye to teammates or pick up a few things. Perhaps it was to get a Matt Harvey autograph. Maybe the Mets needed him to sign a few papers before he gets the last of the $31 million owed him.

No one can ever doubt Santana’s work ethic or determination on the mound, but when all the numbers are added, one can’t say the Mets got their $137.5-million’s worth. Or, should I say $143-million’s worth when the 2014 buyout is considered?

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

Yes, they did get the franchise’s only no-hitter last season, but a tainted one because it was the product of a blown call. But, that night also cost the Mets the rest of Santana’s career because Terry Collins wrongly kept him in to throw 134 pitches.

There were a few more good starts after, but Santana hit a wall and lost his last five decisions before he was shut down because of injury for the third time in his four seasons with the Mets. And, that  DOESN’T include 2011 and this year, in which he didn’t pitch at all because of a shoulder injury.

To be technical, you can also throw in 2014, when the Mets will pay him to go away and rehab on their dime while he attempts a comeback.

For all that money, Santana only had one season in which he made all his starts, and that was his first, in 2008, when he was 16-7 and worked 234.1 innings. It wasn’t a sign of things to come.

That was the year the Mets faded in the stretch to lose the division on the final day to the Philadelphia Phillies. The previous season, the Mets lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play because their pitching collapsed. They also lost on the final day in a loss always known as the Tom Glavine Not Devastated Game.

Santana was supposed to prevent a reoccurrence. He did not, but to be fair, Santana threw a masterpiece in Game 161 on an injured knee to give the Mets a chance in the season finale.

Santana’s effort was never in question as it was with Oliver Perez, nor did he fail to produce when healthy, as was the case with Jason BayStill, his contract falls in the grave disappointment if not bust category. What can be called into question was Santana’s judgment when he forced the issue in spring training out of pride by throwing unauthorized mound session in a snit in response to Sandy Alderson’s comments about him not being in shape.

Even at the time of the deal an argument can be made the Mets overpaid in terms of prospects given up and salary because they misjudged the market and bid against themselves.

At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Santana, but Minnesota kept jacking up the prospect price to the point where both opted out. The Mets, who weren’t on the Twins’ radar, suddenly were in the game, but as the only players.

The Mets surrendered prospects Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey. Gomez had moments of production, but not stardom. If nothing else, he would be playing in today’s Mets outfield. As for Humber, he pitched a perfect game not tainted by an umpire’s call.

After the deal was agreed to, there was the matter of working out a contract and the Mets went high, six-years, on a pitcher with a previous shoulder injury and a mountain of innings. Even had they gone less in terms of years and money, Santana had to accept if he wanted out of Minnesota because he had nowhere else to go as the Twins wouldn’t have come close.

The Mets had to know it wouldn’t end well, but gambled Santana might give them an October before breaking down. It was a gamble they would lose.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 15

Mets’ Collins, Marcum Not Believable In Rotation Issue

It is difficult to believe either Terry Collins or Shaun Marcum regarding the New York Mets’ upcoming rotation decision to accommodate Zack Wheeler.

Whether he’s ready or not – and even he said he didn’t pitch his best at Triple-A Las Vegas – Wheeler is on his way to start the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets already bought the plane ticket; he’s coming.

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

For now, Collins said the Mets will fly with a six-man rotation, but that’s probably once or twice through. Matt Harvey isn’t cool to the idea, so guess where this will go?

If based strictly on merit, the veteran Marcum, who fell to 0-8 Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, should be the odd-man out. But, he’s making $4 million this year, which amazingly, is the fifth-highest salary in the Mets’ payroll behind Johan Santana, David Wright, John Buck and Frank Francisco. And, this  does not include the deferred money owed Jason Bay, which could drop Marcum to sixth.

Collins, operating under the belief people are idiots, downplayed the salary angle.

“When it comes down to the time to make the decision, certainly I’m not sure salary is going to have anything to do with it,’’ Collins said Friday night. “I think we’re going to take the five guys that we need to make sure are the best five to go out there.’’

Of course, salary will have something to do with it as it always does with the Mets. And, it likely won’t be Collins’ call, either.

Salary is why they kept running Bay out there every day when it was clear he had nothing. Salary is why they hung onto Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo longer than needed. Salary is why they traded Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, and one can’t yet say the Mets won that deal. Salary might be why they resisted sending down Ike Davis to the minors, a decision that might have come too late.

Salary and cutting payroll has been the essence of everything the Mets have done in the Sandy Alderson era. You’d like to believe Collins in the decision will be based on merit, but Alderson’s track record indicates otherwise.

Marcum, who has had several good moments, notably his relief appearance in last week’s 20-inning loss to the Miami Marlins, has shown a propensity of working out of the bullpen, which makes it reasonable to figure he can do that job. However, Marcum’s dwindling trade value is as a starter and taking him out of that role could make that option difficult.

Marcum said, “I really haven’t thought about it,’’ which on second thought might be the truth because he knows he’ll get his money regardless.

ON DECK:  Johan Santana visits; a reminder of a lost deal.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 13

The Need To Extend Terry Collins’ Contract

If Terry Collins and his staff aren’t the problem as GM Sandy Alderson suggested, then why not extend their contracts through 2015, or at least, 2014? If they aren’t the issue and considered part of the solution, it would seem a prudent action if for no other reason but send a message to the players the organization has a plan.

The Mets do have a plan, don’t they?

Few things are more fragmenting to a team than a managerial search. It would be great to go into the offseason not having to worry about the manager. And, if the Mets had to search for a new manager, that would set things back.

My first choice is if the Mets believe they are headed in the right direction would be to extend Collins for two basic reasons: 1) the players have not quit on him, which is the classic sign, and 2) management has not given him enough quality players.

One can’t make a fair assessment on Collins based on the talent given him.

If you’re buying into Alderson’s opening hire comments about changing the culture and patience being needed, then Collins can’t go the first time there’s an appearance of having money to spend.

Collins was Alderson’s pick and he’s done everything asked of him. He’s even had the Mets competitive until the lack of talent wore thin.

If Collins isn’t the right guy, then neither is Alderson, who is the architect. The Mets say they are building with young pitching, and in Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there’s potential. They are even getting good pitching from unexpected sources, such as Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner.

They rotation overcame the losses of Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and the early hole in the back end to have pitched well. They would have more to show for their efforts if there was a bullpen and hitting. Supposedly, that’s where the freed-up money will be spent next winter, and Collins should get the chance to benefit from that spending.

If the Mets aren’t happy with the job Collins has done, then by extension they can’t be satisfied with Alderson.

There are things I don’t like about what Alderson has done, but admit part of that comes from not knowing all he knows about what’s going on behind closed doors and being impatient about wanting results.

Alderson’s draft picks haven’t produced, but how many picks are playing after three years? That must get better.

It will be interesting to see how Alderson spends this winter because his patch-quilt approach the past three years haven’t gotten it done. I understand why they went in that direction, but if what you’re telling me is true, you should have more to spend.

And, remember it not about the willingness to spend, as the Wilpons have written checks before. It is about writing them wisely. Jason Bay, Frank Francisco, Frankie Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and the list goes on, were bad baseball decisions.

Alderson’s reputation is about making smart decisions. Now, let’s see it.

So, if the Mets believe they have the right plan in place, then Alderson needs to extend Collins. And, if not, can we assume they starting over again?

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 02

David Wright Acknowledges Futility Of Mets’ Offense; Everybody Looks Like Jason Bay

Matt Harvey is pitching this afternoon against the Miami Marlins, so for one day at least the Mets will resemble a major league team – at least on the mound.

The offense? Well, that’s another story. Actually, it’s a familiar one. It seems like most of the Mets’ hitters are looking like Jason Bay.

BAY: Almost everybody resembles Jason Bay these days.

BAY: Almost everybody resembles Jason Bay these days.

Just five hits and only three runners reached scoring position. Nine more strikeouts and five of their starters with batting averages less than .240. A sixth, Omar Quintanilla, has been here three days. The Mets’ offense has all the bite of a spring training travel squad.

Personally, I’m beyond talking about Ike Davis’ feeble numbers. It’s obvious the Mets don’t care enough about their attack to get him right in the minor leagues.

As he usually does, David Wright said it best, neatly and compactly, the way his swing used to be several weeks ago.

“This is what we have to work with, so we are going to have to figure it out,’’ Wright said after Saturday’s blowout loss. “There is no magic potion, there’s no offensive savior that is going to come and get us out of this thing. It’s up to us to work our way out of it.’’

Translation: The Mets aren’t getting any help, and whatever glimpse of optimism was gained in beating the Yankees four straight is no enough to prompt management from adding on. The illusion of the Mets adding at the trade deadline is merely that, and it probably doesn’t bode well for next winter, either.

Wright’s analysis included a discouraging self-scouting report. In previous slumps, Wright would get outside himself and attempt to do too much. That would be not being patient and abandoning the principle of using the whole field. In other words, he would revert into the same bad habits that have paralyzed Davis this season.

“It’s up to me,’’ Wright said, revealing another bad habit of trying to do it himself. “I got to go up there and start being better and maybe taking some walks. I am swinging at some pitches I normally wouldn’t swing at and getting myself out a little bit.

“I keep preaching that the offense is kind of run on getting on base and taking your walks and I am not doing that right now.’’

That’s the offense Dave Hudgens hoped to teach this spring, but that approach was criticized because he didn’t have the hitters capable of recognizing and turning on their pitch.

So, once again it wil be up to Harvey to limit the opposition to nothing so his hitters can squeeze out a run or two.

May 23

Where’s The Accountability With The Mets?

Matt Harvey has it. So does David Wright. Ike Davis tried to show it Wednesday, but only had warning track power.

It is accountability, which is the backbone to admit screwing up. We certainly didn’t see any the past few days from the Knicks, so let’s turn to the Mets. After losing Thursday to the Reds, Harvey was front-and-center about his performance and threw high-heat at himself.

ALDERSON: Who is to blame?

ALDERSON: Who is to blame?

“It was a tough day – whether it was the changeup I couldn’t necessarily throw for a strike when I wanted to – and everything just crept over the middle,’’ Harvey told reporters at Citi Field. “It was one of those days. I didn’t execute. I didn’t do a good job. I’ve got to be a lot better than that. Nine hits is unacceptable for me. Obviously I wasn’t happy giving up any runs. We needed a big win, and I wasn’t able to do that.’’

What a reporter wants is for a player to be stand-up, to answer questions when the heat is on. Davis tried, although sometimes it seemed as if the listener would get frequent miles for following along with the answer.

I’ve never been enamored with Davis’ approach to hitting and explanations of his approach and thought process. This time, I didn’t care for his defensive explanation, although I appreciated the effort.

With runners on the corners in the ninth inning, Brandon Phillips dribbled a ball down the first base line. Davis, who misplayed a similar ball in the seventh that allowed a run to score, seemed confused on how to play the ball.

“I couldn’t get the guy at home,’’ Davis said. “[Shin-Soo] Choo runs really fast. And it was really slow to my backhand side. I was trying to get off the bag to get in the hole because it was a right-handed hitter.

“They usually don’t hit it down the line like that. The second bounce … I thought it bounced foul. In my head, I can’t turn two. I can’t catch it, touch the bag and then throw it to second and get the guy out, because then it’s a tag play and the guy [Choo] scores anyway.

“So, in my head, when I thought I saw it bounce foul, I pulled my glove back, because then we’d be 0-2 on Phillips [if it were foul] and the run wouldn’t score. That was my thought process on that. I still can’t tell if it was foul or fair on replays. But I definitely did think it bounced foul right before I got it. He made the call fair.’’

With no interpreters in the Mets’ clubhouse, let me attempt to boil it down: Davis said he couldn’t get the runner at home or get the 3-6-3 double-play, so he thought his best play was for the ball to go foul.

Only, Davis couldn’t tell if it was fair or foul. Given that, Davis’ mistake was letting the ball go and hoping for the right call. As a hitter, Davis wouldn’t stay at the plate and wait for the call, but run the ball out. So, why didn’t he do the same on defense? Why would he let the ball go on such a close play and hope for the best?

Maybe he wasn’t asked, but even so, he should have known what to do and admit the mistake of giving up on the play. What we got was a roundabout analysis that sounds like an excuse. Just catch the damn ball. If it is fair and a run scores, so be. Letting it go by opened the door for three to come in.

And, let’s cue the violins when he said, “everything that could go wrong for me now is going wrong.’’

Terry Collins is in a rough place, between telling the truth and not throwing his players under the bus. But, when his team is already ten games under .500, I’d like to see him go to the whip a little more. Didn’t he also promise a culture change and emphasis on fundamentals?

Where’s the fundamentals when all but two players in the normal starting lineup are on pace to strike out over 100 times? Where’s the emphasis on getting a good pitch to hit?

Two walks is a stretch in saying Davis is showing come-out-of-it signs. And, I don’t buy Collins saying Davis is not taking his offense to the field. His fielding has been miserable lately, so how could his offense not be a connection?

Collins didn’t get on Jon Niese for letting the first inning get away from him Tuesday. Nobody on and nobody out and he walks three and let three runs in. That’s inexcusable on any level.

Collins wasn’t forceful on getting on Jordany Valdespin last week when he should have been in full rip mode. And, I would have liked for him to get on Shaun Marcum more for not coming to camp in good condition. He did the previous spring with Ruben Tejada.

However, in fairness to Collins, it is hard to come down on a player if he doesn’t get the backing of the front office. Sandy Alderson, who over the weekend said the minor leagues wasn’t imminent for Davis, echoed that Tuesday, saying: “ … at this point we’re going to live with Ike for a little longer.’’

When Alderson came on the job, he promised a change in culture and stressed accountability. Immediately, we knew he was talking about Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and both would be gone the following spring. Alderson also knew Jason Bay‘s lack of production after three years shouldn’t net him a fourth. Bay was a good guy, yes, but wasn’t hitting.

So, why be hesitant with Davis, especially if he’s considered a building block?

Alderson speaks like a lawyer with the way he dances around questions. All, I want to hear is: “I didn’t do a good job of putting together the bullpen,’’ and “I didn’t do a good job putting together the outfield,’’ and, “I should have handled things differently with Johan Santana this spring,’’ and, “If I stocked the farm system better, maybe I’d have more options to replace Davis.’’

And. ownership should show more accountability, if for nothing else, letting the Ponzi scandal distract the Mets and influence their off-season moves the past two years. Not to mention, signing off on contracts given to Perez and Bay.

And, don’t deny it hasn’t.

Be accountable. We deserve that much.