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.

Apr 25

It Was Wright Or Reyes

Jose Reyes received cheers last night. He also heard boos from the largely uninspired Citi Field crowd. Reyes didn’t exactly pack them in last night, did he?

REYES: Smiles before the boos.

David Wright wasn’t surprised by the lukewarm ovation, saying some people would never forgive Reyes while others understood why he left.

Reyes simply said the Mets never made him an offer, which he took to mean they didn’t want him. There can be no other explanation.

In retrospect, despite lip service to the contrary, the Mets were never going to be in it for Reyes. This is a player who makes his living with his legs, but missed considerable time the previous two seasons with assorted muscle pulls. The first years of his career were the same.

Reyes is a breakdown waiting to happen. He is a high maintenance sports car frequently in the shop.

What Reyes didn’t say last night, was he was in it for the last dollar and the Mets knew they couldn’t swim in that end of the pool. No, the Mets didn’t go out of their way last year to keep Reyes, but he didn’t exactly go out of his way to say he wanted to stay.

It was an inevitable divorce; two parties seeing the end and doing nothing to stay together. Passive aggressive? Not committing is a statement.

The Mets, not knowing their future finances, did know they couldn’t keep Reyes, then re-sign Wright, and then fill in the rest of the pieces. It just wasn’t going to happen. It couldn’t happen with Johan Santana and Jason Bay on the payroll, and after all that money wasted on Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and others. Even with Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez gone, the Mets couldn’t afford to keep both. Not with what they knew at the time.

The choice was Reyes’ flash and speed against Wright’s power and consistency. While both had sustained injuries, the Mets decided Wright might last longer at the top of his game than Reyes, even with the latter having a stellar year and winning the batting title.

Reyes had injuries the previous two years and had already been on the disabled list twice last summer. When he returned the second time, he turned it off as to not risk hurting himself and his chances in the market. In doing so, they had to wonder if this decline would continue and what he would be like at the end of his contract.

Conversely, Wright hurt his back, but it was in making an aggressive play. These things happen. Wright lost his power stroke hitting 14 homers last year, but after 29 the season before. The Mets’ gamble, enhanced by moving in the fences, was Wright could sustain being a power hitter longer than Reyes could be a speed threat.

Power is more marketable, and so is Wright’s personality and grit. Reyes tweaks a hamstring and is out for two weeks; Wright played a month with a small fracture in his back and this year with a broken pinkie.

Wright plays with passion; Reyes plays with flair. Which would burn out first?

The Mets might have gotten their answer when Reyes took himself out of the season finale after bunting for a hit to preserve his batting title. I can’t imagine Wright pulling himself from a game for such a me-first motive. Reyes turned his back on the fans who supported him and came out to say good bye.

Maybe the Mets and Reyes weren’t loyal to each other, but the fans were loyal to Reyes and he dissed them. Mets fans have, and always will have, an inferiority complex. It comes from being the second team in town. And, in leaving, Reyes reinforced that insecurity and told the public Miami’s millions were more important than the Mets’ millions.

He was saying New York wasn’t good enough. Meanwhile, Wright has been saying New York is all he wants.

It really wasn’t a hard decision after all.