May 21

May 21.10: Chat Room, Game #43 vs. Yankees: Mets come limping home.

Both the Mets and Yankees limp into this weekend’s series at Citi Field, but as usual there are more issues in Queens than the Bronx.

“I always look forward to these series,’’ Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “You find out where you are as a team, and how you perform in that type of environment.’’

Doesn’t he know by now?

The Mets, despite winning last night at Washington, are reeling, almost in a free fall, and could very well be there after back-to-back series against the Yankees and Phillies.

The last-place Mets are coming off a 2-6 road trip in which they lost, by injury or performance, three-fifths of their rotation. Jon Niese, the most consistent of the three, went on the disabled list and could be joined there by John Maine, who was yanked after five pitches last night. Oliver Perez was exiled to the bullpen.

Journeyman knuckleballer R.A. Dickey replaced Perez and performed well, and long reliever Hisanori Takahashi will start tonight in place of Niese against the Yankees.
Takahashi’s move to the rotation, even temporarily, further strains the bullpen. Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano, so effective in April, have been hit lately.

Further complicating matters has been an unproductive offense, which is relying on a journeyman catcher Rod Barajas and rookie first baseman Ike Davis because of the season-long power drought of Jason Bay and David Wright’s assault on the strikeout record.

Bay, although he’s been making contact lately, in on pace for four homers, while Wright is on pace for 223 strikeouts. Jeff Francoeur and Jose Reyes also aren’t hitting.

As bad as things have been, one can logically assume if Wright and Reyes, the cornerstones to the franchise, were hitting according to expectations, the Mets would be over .500 and there wouldn’t be so many rumblings about Manuel’s job security.

Despite COO Jeff Wilpon’s impromptu meeting in Atlanta in which he said he wasn’t about to fire Manuel or GM Omar Minaya, the whispers persist and are even louder after last night’s Manuel-Maine dugout blowout.

“When the owner comes down, you know something is going on,’’ said Francoeur. “But at the same time, you have to be professional. At times it can be tough, all the speculation, but I try to just play. That’s the easiest way to deal with it.’’

Manuel didn’t do much to get Wright and Francoeur on his side when he rested both this week. Both expressed displeasure at sitting, but neither criticized Manuel.

Also, neither offered much verbal support.

Before he was sacked, Willie Randolph had more verbal support from his players than Manuel has received, but the players are still hustling. That is a saving grace, but will it be enough if the Mets are pasted by the Yankees and Phillies?

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ line-up behind Takahashi:

Jose Reyes, SS
Alex Cora, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
David Wright, 3B
Angel Pagan, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Hisanori Takahashi, LP

NOTE: Luis Castillo was scratched from the line-up with a bruised left heel. … After throwing five innings in relief last night, Raul Valdes is not expected to be available for the Yankees series. … With Takahashi starting, R.A. Dickey will be the long man.

PREVIOUS POST: Feel free to comment on the Maine vs. Manuel thread.

May 18

May 18.10: Wilpon demonstrates patience.

After the season, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya would be held accountable, that the standards bar has been raised.

That’s still the case after his impromptu visit to Atlanta yesterday. “I’m not here to fire anybody,’’ Wilpon said, which doesn’t mean he won’t later.

How else can you interpret him saying, “I wouldn’t be here if I was happy,’’ other than putting them on notice?

Neither Manuel nor Minaya have had a great run since the end of last season. I didn’t like how he handled moving Jose Reyes to third, but he was seeking a solution and sometimes the things you try backfire.

As far as the front office goes, we all knew pitching was this team’s weakness and that there was little margin for error. There weren’t many great choices, but what are the options now with Oliver Perez exiled and Jon Niese injured? Say hello to journeyman R.A. Dickey.

The Mets are where they are despite poor starting pitching – save that 9-1 homestand – a creaky bullpen, a listless offense that has David Wright on pace for over 200 strikeouts and Jason Bay on track for only four homers, and, of course, not having Carlos Beltran.

Considering what has gone on, the Mets are fortunate to be one game below .500. Things can, and have, been a lot worse.

Wilpon said at the end of last season he would give Manuel and Minaya a chance to make things right and 40 games is too small of a window. Let’s see where they are at the All-Star break, and if they are within striking distance, let’s see who they bring in.

May 17

May 17.10: Chat Room, Game #39 at Braves: Pelfrey tries to stop slide.

COO Jeff Wilpon and GM Omar Minaya met with manager Jerry Manuel prior to tonight’s game at Atlanta.

“I didn’t come here to fire anybody,” Wilpon said. “If I was going to make a change that quick I would have done something last year.”

According to all parties, the meeting was about how to improve what’s there with the present pieces. However, the whispers of Manuel’s job security will continue until the Mets give them reason to stop, and their play on the road isn’t it, where they are 1-8 in May and 4-12 overall, the latter a NL worst.

The Mets are coming off being swept out of Florida in four games by the Marlins. They’ve also lost five straight and 11 out of 15 games to go from first to worst in the NL East.

“We’ve got to get some things straightened out,” said Manuel, the master of the obvious. “We have to make decisions and find the pieces that can get it done.”

One aspect of the team not getting it done has been the starting pitching, which has gone 15 straight games without a win. Mike Pelfrey, despite his hot start, is now part of the slide. Pelfrey won his first four starts while posting a 0.72 ERA, but has gone 0-1 with a 6.88 ERA in his last three starts.

Pelfrey is coming off a 119-pitch no-decision against Washington in which he went 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs and seven hits.

With Oliver Perez not getting out of the fourth Friday night – and subsequently dropped from the rotation – and Jon Niese leaving in the third inning yesterday with a right hamstring injury, the Mets bullpen has been severely taxed.

The Mets are expected to dip into the minor leagues for a starter Wednesday in Washington and go with Hisanori Takahashi Friday night against the Yankees at Citi Field.

Here’s tonight’s line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Chris Carter, RF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Gary Matthews, CF
Mike Pelfrey, RP

NOTEBOOK: Reliever Ryota Igarashi (left hamstring strain) continues his rehab assignment tonight at Class A St. Lucie. Barring a setback, he will pitch back-to-back games for Class AAA Buffalo Thursday and Friday and then be activated. …. Reliever Kiko Calero, who at one time looked like he’d make the major league roster coming out of spring training, was released by Buffalo.

May 17

May 17.10: Wilpon in town; tonight’s lineup.

Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon is in Atlanta meeting with Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya. Wilpon told reporters nothing dramatic is imminent. But, one can assume the leash is getting shorter.

Among the topics on the table is what to do with the rotation, which is minus Oliver Perez and Jon Niese. Hisanori Takahashi is speculated to start Friday against the Yankees, but Perez’s spot Wednesday is open. Veteran knuckleballer RA Dickey has a locker ready for him in Atlanta reports SNY.

The Mets will DL Jon Niese to make room. Also, don’t think it is not possible the Mets could find something wrong with Perez and DL. Afterall, he’s lost up to five mph. off his fastball. Word now is trainer Ray Ramirez is in the meeting.

The wheels are spinning.

Perez has refused to go to the minor leagues which means a productive player will have to be optioned to make room for reliever Ryota Igarashi or another starter.

The Mets open a two-game series tonight with the following line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Chris Carter, RF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Gary Matthews, CF
Mike Pelfrey, RP

COMMENTS: After scoring eight runs yesterday, the line-up is essentially the same. Since Jason Bay is hitting the ball, although not for homers, he’ll stay in the third slot. … Gary Matthews, who came off the bench yesterday for a couple of hits, starts in center to give Angel Pagan a rest. … Jeff Francoeur sits again.

Apr 05

April 5.10: Chat Room, Game #1, Opening Day, vs. Marlins

There should be no pressure on Opening Day, but that’s not the case with Jerry Manuel, who was thrust under the microscope the day after the 2009 season ended when COO Jeff Wilpon said he expected better things this season from his manager and GM Omar Minaya. And, with 16 of their first 22 games at home, there an even greater sense of urgency to get off to a fast start.

And, that fast start start has to come without Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, and with a suspect rotation.

“We need to get off to a good start but what we need more is consistency and so to merely focus on a good start is not enough,” said Manuel, who knows a slow start could doom him before the All-Star break.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be the case, but the Mets were 70-92 last season following two late-season collapses.

The season is underway, so let’s talk about it. I plan to blog the games with you as I have the last three seasons, and hope this time we’re talking late into October.

Here’s today’s line-up vs. Josh Johnson of the Marlins:

Alex Cora, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B,
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Gary Matthews, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Johan Santana, LP

Don’t forget to go to the previous thread to post your favorite Opening Day memories.