Feb 19

Feb. 19.10: Manuel likes Reyes third.

Manager Jerry Manuel, in talking to the press for the first time this spring, said he likes the idea of batting Jose Reyes third. I don’t understand why you’d want to take arguably the best leadoff hitter in the game and tinker with him.

REYES: Leave him alone.

REYES: Leave him alone.


Reyes, if he works on his game – bunting, hitting the ball on the ground, drawing more walks – could become one of the game’s all-time leadoff hitters. A modern day Rickey Henderson, perhaps.

The numbers suggest leaving him where he is. Over the past three seasons, Reyes is batting .293 leading off an inning and .295 with nobody on base. Conversely, he is batting .267 with RISP, .230 with RISP and two outs, and .205 with the bases loaded.

The offensive criticism of Reyes is he sometimes plays outside his game, and once he hits a home run or two starts swinging for the fences, which is away from his strength. Why put him into a slot in the order where he could become prone to bad habits?

The reasons I can fathom moving Reyes to third are two-fold, 1) the Mets don’t expect Carlos Beltran back soon, and 2) the Mets are more worried about Reyes’ running and speed than they are willing to admit.

For years, we’ve been told Reyes was the ignition to the offense, that as he goes so do the Mets. But, that was predicated on him batting leadoff. I have been critical of Reyes at times, but that’s when he takes plays off. However, the Mets’ inability to win since 2006 have nothing to do with him.

Another way to look at this are to examine the other options. There’s nobody comparable to Reyes as a leadoff hitter, but David Wright is capable of hitting third, followed by Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur. It’s not Philly, but it is a good 3-4-5.

There’s plenty of issues with this team, tinkering with Reyes shouldn’t be one of them.

Feb 18

Feb. 18.10: Pitchers and catchers report with issues.

Finally, pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie today, and with them, more than a few issues that comprise the 2010 New York Mets.

It seems like forever since the Mets were last in the playoffs, but consecutive collapses and last summer’s injury-riddled freefall have us wondering if fourth place in the NL East was an aberration or a realistic assessment.

Assuming for a moment David Wright’s goal is realistic, that the World Series is realistic, it won’t happen just by saying so. For the Mets to compete, never mind win it all, the following questions must be answered in the positive during spring training:

Question: What is this team’s attitude?
Assessment: Wright is correct, this team has to use embarrassment as a motivator. There were too many games last year where the Mets just mailed it in, too many games where their heart wasn’t in it. This was also not a thinking team, whether it be on the bases, in the field or at the plate. The Mets gave away far too many outs on the field and at-bats at the plate.

Question: How healthy is this team?
Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and already Carlos Beltran won’t be ready for the first month and set-up reliever Kelvim Escobar is behind with shoulder issues. The early signs are positive for Jose Reyes, Jeff Francoeur, Oliver Perez and Johan Santana, all of who are coming off surgery. Of course, they must pass the test under game conditions.

Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?
Assessment: How far the Mets go this season is dependant on their pitching, and all three represent significant concerns. The Mets didn’t make any rotation additions this winter because they believe in the upside of these three. Pelfrey took a step back last season; Perez, who has always been erratic, spent the offseason working out and the reports have been good; and Maine is in his second year since surgery.

Question: Who is fifth starter?
Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Pat Misch and Nelson Figueroa are all in the mix. None represent givens. The fifth starter probably won’t matter until the end of April, but that still leaves five months where every fifth day a question takes the mound unless somebody steps forward.

Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?
Assessment: The bullpen took the Mets deep into the 2006 playoffs, but played a significant role into the collapses of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Closer Francisco Rodriguez can be an adventure at times and there’s no dependable set-up man. Pedro Feliciano was run into the ground last summer, and other than him where are the consistent arms in situational roles.

Jan 29

Jan. 29.10: Minaya thinking positive.

Mets GM Omar Minaya was in full defense mode last night on SNY, saying among other things, he still has full autonomy, but sometimes decisions are a collaborative effort and he doesn’t care as long as the right decision is made.

PELFREY: A major if.

PELFREY: A major if.


Sounds good, but I didn’t expect to hear anything other than that on that topic. Anything other than that is a sign of weakness.

Most curious was his stance on the pitching.

John Lackey was the only difference maker in the free agent market, and I don’t believe the Mets were even in that game. Everything else in the market, he said, wasn’t significantly better than what the Mets already have.

The Mets’ three question marks – John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez – when healthy are as good as what was on the market. In theory, if you take the best years of those three, Minaya would be correct.

So, the Mets’ pitching plans really were to hope they improve and stay healthy. Rarely, when a team has as many pitching questions as the Mets, that the answers all come up roses.

A significant key, and one I believe might be the most important this season, is the development of Pelfrey, who regressed after a good season in 2008. Even so, Pelfrey still managed double-digit victories.

“If we can get Mike Pelfrey to be the Mike Pelfrey of 2008,” Minaya said. “There’s upside there.”
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Jan 28

Jan. 28.10: Around the horn.

PEREZ: Yawn ... says he feels good.

PEREZ: Yawn ... says he feels good.

Oliver Perez closed mini-camp with a strong side session and said he’s comfortable with his mechanics. Pitching coach Dan Warthen is trying to get him to make a longer stride with his lead leg which will help him drive toward the plate. Theoretically, that’s supposed to help with his control. But, I’ve lost track of all of Perez’s mechanical adjustments designed to help his command. We shall see.

* All indications are the Mets are about to bring back Fernando Tatis. For a role player, Tatis has done pretty good for himself as he’s about to get his third year in the majors after leaving the game. Tatis’ primary asset is his versatility that enables him to play the infield and outfield corners and second base in a pinch. Tatis will be used primarily to platoon with Daniel Murphy at first base.

* John Smoltz said he’s interested in signing with the Mets. He’s being recruited by former Braves teammate Jeff Francoeur.

* Manager Jerry Manuel said Bobby Parnell won’t compete for the fifth starter job in spring training but to compete for the set-up role. Kelvim Escobar is also a candidate for that job. Of course, if Smoltz were signed for the bullpen it would bump everybody down a notch.

Jan 19

Jan. 19.10: The Mets Hall of Fame.

STRAWBERRY: Leads four into Mets' Hall.

STRAWBERRY: Leads four into Mets' Hall.

The Mets will announce today that Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Davey Johnson and Frank Cashen will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. All good choices, all deserving.

Cashen was the architect, Johnson the manager and Strawberry and Gooden the hitting and pitching faces from the 1986 team.

Do you agree with the choices? I, for one, am glad to see the Mets honoring their past. There will be a Hall of Fame and team museum in the Rotunda in what used to be the team store.

Strawberry, Gooden, Johnson and Cashen join Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson from the 1986 Mets in the team’s Hall of Fame.

In other news:

* Jeff Francoeur avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5 million contract. The Mets and Francoeur aren’t done as they are considering a contract extension. The Mets traditionally avoid arbitration and continue talking with Pedro Feliciano, Sean Green and Angel Pagan.

* NESN.com reported the Red Sox and Jason Bay agreed to a four-year, $60 million extension last June, but it fell through when a MRI showed problems with both knees. The Mets signed Bay to a four-year, $66 million contract with a vesting fifth-year option. Does that give the impression the Mets were truly bidding against themselves?

* Carlos Delgado is batting .280 in winter ball with one extra base hit and two RBI in eight games. Reports are he’s still sluggish running. But, with Carlos Beltran out, there’s need for left-handed power and that enhances the chances of him being re-signed.