May 11

Mets Start Johan Santana In Milestone Game

The Mets will play the 8,000th game in their history tonight, starting Johan Santana against Miami.

SANTANA: One of the best.

I know there will be focus on Jose Reyes, but I’m bored with that topic. He’s gone, let’s move on, and move on to a better things, Santana for example.

Santana has been handled with kid gloves following a delicate shoulder surgery few have recovered from. It has taken a lot of hard, and painful, work for him to return, and he’s come back as a force.

Santana doesn’t yet have the outstanding command that made him an elite pitcher, but he’s heading in that direction as his arm gets stronger. Currently, his velocity is good enough to win with because his pitches have movement.

The Mets have spent a lot of money on Santana and will spend a lot more. He’s been a positive influence to others in the rotation, although Oliver Perez grasped the concept.

He’s been a pleasure to deal with and I hope he continues his come back strong.

May 10

Terry Collins Has Changed Culture

Several times this season the Mets answered a winning streak with a losing one. They have won five straight and you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if the other shoe will drop this weekend in Miami.

Great timing to have Johan Santana start in the opener.

COLLINS: Getting it done.

While you and I might wonder, nobody in the Mets’ clubhouse is thinking along those lines. Terry Collins won’t allow it.

The book on Collins going in was he could get uptight and lose a clubhouse. There’s been nothing to suggest he’s going that way. It does show one can adjust, and even change, over time.

Collins came with little fanfare or declarations. There was no timetable to get the Mets into contention. Instead, he promised to change the culture. His teams are prepared and seldom come out flat, with the Houston debacle an exception.

We’ve seen hustle, better pitching and defense than expected, and a manager who sticks by his players. The Mets are hitting at an extraordinary clip with two outs and lead the majors in comeback victories with 11.

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May 05

Mets Bullpen An Issue

This is why you don’t make declarations during the first week of the season, or for all of April for that matter. The season opened with four straight victories and four strong performances from the bullpen.

After Opening Day, the talking heads as SNY – and that’s not the game broadcasting crew – started pontificating about how the bullpen would be a team strength this season.

Four weeks later, you don’t hear talk like that anymore.

Last night they threw away a strong effort from Dillon Gee. Once again, the focus in on control, as a walk from Tim Byrdak with a man on lead to Arizona’s three-run rally in the eighth inning. Yes, the walk was important, but it was also one batter.

“That’s the thing that sticks out the most,” Collins said. “The base on balls out of the pen have certainly come back to really bite us.”

The bottom is two-fold. One, walks kill and they always have. And two, these guys are major league pitchers and can’t fall apart after one bad at-bat. That’s been a problem with Mike Pelfrey, and it also applies to the bullpen.

Where the pen attacked hitters early, lately they’ve been working deep into counts and losing the at-bat. The pen has been worked hard in recent weeks with the starters not going more than six for the most part and the loss of Pelfrey.

Jon Rauch blew the save and took the loss last night, but wouldn’t blame it on an increased workload. He said it was poor pitching.

“You can’t come in and throw balls and expect to get everybody out after that,” Rauch said. “So we’ve gotta do a better job. I know personally I need to do a better job, especially coming in with guys on base and not letting inherited runners scored.”

Glad to hear there were no excuses, but it would be even better to see improved execution.

Once four games over .500 and sensing optimism about the season, the Mets have lost four straight and are counting on Johan Santana – the pitcher they seemingly refuse to score for- to stop the slide.

Regardless of what happens today, success this season largely depends on the bullpen holding up its end. And, that’s not a premature pronouncement, but a statement of fact that can be made any time of the year.

 

May 01

New Poll: Mets Player Of Month For April

David Wright’s ability to regain his status as an offensive threat is why I chose him as the Mets’ April Player of the Month.

There are other viable candidates, such as Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Johan Santana. Please vote and tell us your thoughts on the Mets Player of the Month for April.

ON DECK: Is this it for Pelfrey as a Met?

Apr 30

Wondering If Johan Santana Regrets Signing With Mets

This time, it was the Mets’ bullpen that betrayed Johan Santana. The Mets finally scored runs for him, but the bullpen blew a four-run lead in the eighth inning with Tim Byrdak serving a grand slam homer to Todd Helton.

Another no-decision for Santana, who is still looking for his first victory since September 2010.

SANTANA: Comes up empty again.

I know Santana doesn’t regret the money, but there are times such as yesterday when I wonder if he regrets not staying with Minnesota, where he had a chance to go to the World Series, or try the free-agent market where he could have gotten the money and a better chance to win.

The Mets were still a contender when they acquired him, but there were major cracks in the foundation. When Santana agreed to the deal, did he think about those things?

Santana has pitched well with the Mets when healthy, and to be fair, injuries could have happened anywhere. But, there have been too many games when the offense disappeared or the bullpen imploded to make him wonder if he did the right thing.

“We won. and that’s all I care about,” Santana said after yesterday’s game.

But, if winning is the only thing that matters, there must be times when he wonders if he made the right decision as there have been so many games since joining the Mets when he came away empty.

Santana is 0-2 with three no-decisions despite a 2.25 ERA this year. He’s given up only six earned runs in 18 innings, with four of them coming in one start.

He pitched to a 2.89 ERA in 2010 before the injury, but with nine no-decisions. Eight of those were games decided by two runs or less, and seven by one run.

In 2009, eight games he started that the Mets lost were decided by two runs, with five by one run.

There were 11 no-decisions in 2008, with the Mets winning six of those games. The Mets lost nine of the games he started by two runs or less, with six by one run.

All those numbers reminds me of the Peanuts cartoon strip when Charlie Brown, after being told of his lousy pitching record, screams “Tell your statistics to shut up!”

Trouble is, that can’t be done. The stats are louder than ever.