Mar 21

Mets Have Habit Of Placating Pitchers For The Worst

What is it with the Mets and their starting pitchers? Giving them near total control hasn’t worked. It didn’t for Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel, and it isn’t for Terry Collins.

The impression is the tail is wagging the dog when it comes to Mets’ starters, and this isn’t new. Pitchers tend to be divas by nature, but it has gone to another level with the Mets.

MARCUM: What's going on here?

MARCUM: What’s going on here?

Clearly, free-agent Shaun Marcum did not report to spring training ready to go by telling Collins and GM Sandy Alderson he only needed four starts to get ready. He was allowed to set his own pace, but obviously didn’t have the track record to deserve it.

Marcum received cortisone injections in each of the last three years, and last spring was down for nearly three weeks. Without question, this is a guy who should not be setting his own program.

Marcum vows 200 innings, a level he’s only reached once since 2005. His lifetime 57-36 record was why Alderson gave him the benefit of doubt, but his 124 innings last year should have accounted for something.

Wasn’t Marcum’s history and workout program discussed? If it was, then why agree to this?

Santana does have the resume to set his own program, but abused it when he threw off the mound without Collins’ knowledge the first week of March.

SANTANA: Won't make Opening Day.

SANTANA: Won’t make Opening Day.

The Mets said they monitored Santana in the off-season, and told him to go easy since he rehabbed the previous two winters. Something was lost in the communication as Santana wasn’t ready when spring training began and will open the season on the disabled list.

Collins said Santana knows his own body, but here’s a guy who hasn’t worked an inning all spring and at the beginning wanted to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. Had he done so, the results could have been career threatening.

Early in camp, after Alderson questioned Santana’s conditioning, the lefthander, angry with the Mets and media, threw off the mound without his manager’s knowledge. Collins wasn’t happy then and now must be fuming because Santana has done little since and has no set timetable. One must wonder how much that stunt set him back.

There are other examples of how the Mets let their starting pitches get away with setting their own routine that ended badly.

In 2009, Mike Pelfrey refused to go on the disabled list and miss a start and insisted on the start being pushed back. To placate him, the Mets brought up a starter from the minors, but to make room released reliever Darren O’Day, who only proved to be a key in the Rangers getting to the World Series twice.

O’Day has worked 247.2 innings in his five-year career with 217 strikeouts, 63 walks, a 2.73 ERA and 1.058 WHIP. The Mets don’t have anybody with that production in their current bullpen.

The Mets also let Pedro Martinez march to his own tune with mixed results for several years. Is Pedro pitching today? What’s going on with Pedro? It was like that every spring.

MARTINEZ: Where's Pedro?

MARTINEZ: Where’s Pedro?

The Mets did everything they could, including alienating a future Hall of Famer, Tom Glavine, to placate Martinez and his whims.

Of course, don’t forget Oliver Perez, whom former GM Omar Minaya signed to a disastrous three-year contract. The height of the absurdity is when Perez refused a minor league assignment – as was his contractual right – to work on his mechanics.

Consequently, the Mets carried him the rest of the season rather than release him and eat his contract, which they eventually did the following spring.

Funny, the Mets once had the stones – but no brains – and traded Tom Seaver, who wasn’t happy with his contract. Now it seems they don’t have either, as the trend is obvious, from Alderson to Minaya, and with each of the managers, to let some starters dictate to them how things would be and it turned out for the worse.

Will it be that way in 2013 with Marcum and Santana?

Mar 01

Sandy Alderson On Evaluating Terry Collins

General manager Sandy Alderson stopped short of saying manager Terry Collins’ job was secure, but in a conference call this week, left the impression he will be judged with a broad paintbrush.

COLLINS: He's smiling now.

COLLINS: He’s smiling now.

As GM, Alderson’s job description entails building for the future, while his lame duck manager has nothing guaranteed beyond this season.

That doesn’t mean the two perspectives can’t co-exist.

Collins’ extension will be assured if the Mets have a winning season, but even if they don’t – very possible considering their holes – he could be back in the dugout in 2014, when the spending is supposed to begin.

“Well I think there are two things upon which a manager is evaluated,’’ Alderson said. “One is wins and losses, and the other is the improvement of the players on the team. And regardless of whether you have a veteran-dominated team or a younger team, players have to improve.

“And more importantly, they have to be motivated to improve, and that’s really partly where the manager comes in. I think that Terry will be evaluated on both of those bases, with the understanding that the wins and losses are not an absolute – to some extent they are relative to the talent that we have.’’

Continue reading

Feb 13

Mets Shouldn’t Be Surprised At Francisco Injury And Losing Bourn

Two days into camp and the Mets have already taken two shots.

The first was inevitable, that Michael Bourn signed elsewhere. Come to think of it, so was the second when Frank Francisco was shut down with elbow inflammation. The proviso was Francisco would be the closer if healthy and he is clearly not.

How long he’ll be shut down is anybody’s guess, and opening the season on the disabled list is a fair place to start. In the interim Bobby Parnell will close. Again.

I like Parnell over Brandon Lyon or Josh Edgin because he has the greatest upside. Parnell has pitched in several capacities for the Mets, ranging as a starter to a set-up role to closer, and hasn’t excelled in any of them for a variety of reasons.

First, he has been overly reliant on is fastball, which, if it isn’t darting is hittable, regardless of how fast he throws. As a starter, he didn’t develop his secondary pitches. Also, it isn’t unrealistic to think how the Mets bounced him around from role to role didn’t have an accumulating impact on his confidence.

Remember, over the past few years the Mets have not been contenders so there wasn’t really any harm in letting Parnell learn on the job, even if it meant taking his lumps.

The Mets initially wanted Parnell as a starter, but then-manager Jerry Manuel – managing only to save his job – yanked Parnell from the rotation in September.

Parnell never had clear stake to the closer role. Yes, there were times he pitched terrible, but for a team going nowhere it was a chance to learn and turn it around. Don’t think that couldn’t have happened. Parnell closed at the end of last season when Francisco was injured and pitched well holding opponents to a .196 batting average over 17 appearances.

There’s no reason to rush Francisco back other than to attempt to salvage something for his $6.5 million contract (count that as a Sandy Alderson mistake).

So, the Mets will move on for now without Francisco, and also without Bourn, who was a long shot in the first place.

Assuming the Mets could have worked out a deal with agent Scott Boras – the Indians got him for $48 million – there was the matter of Bourn waiting for an arbitration hearing to determine whether they would surrender their draft pick.

If they had to, there would have been no deal. There is no way Bourn would have waited for that outcome and miss another offer. Bourn was never going to happen, and if I were a cynic I’d be thinking going after him was a smokescreen to suggest action.

That would have been a pipe dream, as is thinking Francisco wouldn’t go down again.

 

Sep 24

Time For Mejia To Put Up

I’ve been hard on the Mets for their handling of Jenrry Mejia, and rightfully so for shuffling him between a bullpen and starter’s role. I thought Jerry Manuel did him a disservice in rushing him up here two years ago to work in relief when the Mets had no bullpen depth to speak of.

All indications are his arm is fine, but it is time for some accountability for his performance, which has been spotty. In the minors he posted better numbers starting than out of the pen, but he was lit up in his start with the Mets.

Mejia opens the Mets’ final homestand tonight against the fading Pirates, and after that might get one more start before the team calls it quits for the year.

What kind of impression will Mejia leave on Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins and Dan Warthen?

As of now, when the 2013 rotation is projected, it does not include Mejia. The bullpen, well, that could be a different story. However, if the Mets project him in that role they should stick with that decision and see how it plays out. None of this failing in the bullpen in spring training and then being moved to the rotation in the minor leagues.

If it is the bullpen, it is time for Mejia to train their exclusively to get himself accustomed to the role and the demands of getting up numerous times to warm up, to entering the game with runners on base, to developing another out pitch to go along with his fastball.

The knock on Mejia working in the rotation is he hasn’t mastered his secondary pitches and doesn’t know how to set up hitters and challenge them. He also has a problem with a fastball that has plenty of velocity but not enough dip or lateral movement. Movement and not speed is the key to an overpowering fastball.

I don’t know what kind of damage was done to Mejia’s arm, and also psyche, during the juggling under Manuel. Maybe the arm injury would have occurred regardless as there’s little way of pinpointing the exact time it happened, especially if it is of a residual nature.

However, while the psyche is another issue, Mejia has to take some responsibility, also.

There’s a learning process to becoming a major league pitcher, and part of it is learning how to deal with adversity, handle pressure and act with poise. That is often the variable that ends careers. It is something Mike Pelfrey hasn’t mastered, and so too, Mejia.

Mejia can throw the hell out of the ball at times, but he hasn’t yet learned how to pitch.

 

May 29

Mets Settling On Jenrry Mejia Status

Jenrry Mejia might have the best stuff in the Mets’ minor league system, and that stuff could translate into a productive, and perhaps lucrative, career as a starter. But, It won’t this year.

The problem I’ve always had with the Mets’ handling of Mejia is their indecisiveness in how to use his talented arm. That problem was brought into focus two years ago, when Jerry Manuel, desperate for help in the bullpen rushed him to the major league level as a reliever. That season they brought him north in the pen, the  demoted him as a starter when he struggled. Eventually, Mejia had Tommy John surgery.

Is there a correlation? That seems a reasonable conclusion. Even if inaccurate, it is hard to dispute the perception.

The Mets are using Mejia in their rotation on the minor league level currently, with visions of bringing him up shortly to work in the pen. I’m not crazy about the Mets repeating the scenario, but the key difference is they are working first to build up his stamina and strength first before changing his role.

Will it work? I don’t know, but this time the Mets appear to be laying the foundation first. What I don’t want to see is the Mets changing course on Mejia if there is a setback. Let him go the entire season in one role, then if a redirect is needed, make the decision in the offseason and go from there.

Mejia has an explosive, talented arm that shouldn’t be fooled with. They were burned once, but could they survive another Mejia injury?