Aug 05

Today in Mets’ History: A reason to watch.

The Atlanta Braves are in town and not too long ago that was a big deal. As the Yankees and Red Sox go at it in Fenway Park for first place – it’s a worn story, but it’s real baseball – the Mets are clinging to what is left of their season.

After two disheartening losses to Florida, the Mets are 16.5 games behind first-place Philadelphia – noting for the record – and eight games behind wild-card leader Atlanta. They are also 2.5 games out of last place.

At 55-55, the Mets have exceeded most expectations to the point where the losses to the Marlins were anguishing. There was a moment this week when I actually looked at the scoreboard for the Braves score and did some quick wondering math.

The math is quite simple this weekend: Win or go home. Nothing short of a sweep will do.

For those who can’t dream of the impossible, remember on this date in Mets history they were in last place in the National League East by 11.5 games with a 48-60 record.

The Mets have the same record today as they did last season after 110 games, but even with their financial problems, there isn’t the same train wreck scenario.

Last year at this time we wondered about the job stability of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, and there was the lingering stagnating cloud that was Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

All that negativity is gone, and with Sandy Alderson there is the hope of a rebuilding process heading in the right direction. And, considering what he was dealt, how can you not be impressed with what Terry Collins has brought to the party?

Carlos Beltran is gone, but we knew all along that would happen. We also knew this would be a season without Johan Santana. We aren’t surprised Jason Bay isn’t hitting. We can’t also be surprised by a fall off from R.A. Dickey and the bullpen lapses.

But, we didn’t expect to be without David Wright for two months and not have Ike Davis, and we thought Mike Pelfrey would take another step.

And, quite honestly, when Beltran was here, few expected him to play as well as he did.

There are still a myriad of questions and issues surrounding this team, not the least of which is its financial structure and what will become of Jose Reyes.

All that and there’s still reason to watch.

For the most part the Mets are playing hard, aggressive and interesting baseball. Not always spotless, but there is a grit about them that is appealing. Last year, mostly because of its leadership and the Perez mess, the Mets were an easy team to dislike.

However, there is a likeable quality about this group. They play with an integrity that for one more weekend at least, there is reason to watch them and wonder what if.

 

Jul 26

Santana to pitch Thursday

The Mets announced today Johan Santana will make his first rehab start Thursday at Port St. Luice and make 45 pitches. Figuring no setbacks, perhaps we’ll see Santana by mid-August. What do the Mets have to gain by pitching Santana with the season all but lost by then?

SANTANA: Expected to pitch this week.

Obviously, Santana will not have pitched enough by the end of the month for anybody to risk a trade. The key for Santana is to gain peace of mind so he won’t have to go through the winter wondering about the spring.

Pitching this year will also enable Santana to judge where he is physically and what his off-season pitching workouts will be like.

It’s tempting to say watching Santana could help the Mets gauge their pitching needs over the winter, but he wouldn’t have made enough starts for them to get a definitive picture. Even if Santana pitches well the last six weeks of the season and during spring training, he’ll need to go deep into 2012 before we know if he’ll hit the wall as pitchers often do the year after surgery.

 

Jun 20

Santana resumes throwing; return not soon.

Johan Santana resumed his throwing program and told ESPN Radio he believes it is possible to return in late July.

SANTANA: Throwing again.

That falls under the I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it category. Athletes are always putting a positive spin on the return dates of their injuries, and Santana is no exception.

The most hysterical thing I’ve heard lately was on a call-in radio show when the topic was who Santana would replace in the rotation.

There’s no way of telling when Santana would return as evidenced by his setback in June when he complained of soreness in his shoulder. Santana underwent surgery last September to fix a torn capsule in his left shoulder.

The protocol in these things is to throw off the mound to build up this arm strength and work on all his pitches.  From there, it will be throwing to live hitters in batting practice, until graduating to rehab games.

It takes a pitcher a six-week spring training to be ready for the season and that puts us into early August. As of now, Santana isn’t even at the first day of spring training.

 

Jun 16

Sandy Alderson speaks, but what is he really saying?

ALDERSON: What's he really saying?

As usual, there’s a lot of issues floating around the Mets, and general manager Sandy Alderson touched on several this morning on WFAN.

Not all his comments can be interpreted in the positive, and for the most park he spoke in GM-speak, which means more smoke than fire and nothing definitive.

Among the issues:

Jose Reyes: Alderson recognized the year Reyes is having, but said he doesn’t know if the shortstop intends to test free agency and hasn’t determined the parameters of a contract offer.

This seems incomprehensible. First of all, How can Alderson not plan on Reyes testing the market? He can’t be naïve enough to believe the player will take what the Mets offer in the offseason without testing the market. The only way he won’t is if he commits to the Mets now and he certainly won’t without a contract offer.

For an offer to be made, Alderson has to have limits and I can’t see how an opening offer hasn’t already been determined, even with the Wilpon’s financial troubles. The Mets must know the price keeps rising the better Reyes performs and they need to make a decision now on whether they want to keep him.

Reyes has played well enough, and long enough, so far for that decision to be made. If the Mets are waiting to see if he’ll make it through the year healthy, then they seriously risk losing him. The longer this drags on, the odds get longer on him staying with the Mets.

As far as trading him, Alderson won’t tip his hand, but must realize that with how well the team is playing he risks the fans losing interest if the Mets deal Reyes.

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Jun 14

Is there a reason to bring Santana back this season?

Come on, did you really expect smooth sailing on Johan Santana’s rehab and comeback attempt for this season?

SANTANA: Will we see him again this year?

Santana shut it down about ten days ago after complaining of soreness in his surgically-repaired left shoulder. He is back to long-tossing on flat ground with the hope of returning to the mound later in the week. Considering how long it took Santana to graduate to the mound from flat ground initially, that’s an ambitious goal.

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets’ recent success from their rotation removes the urgency to bring back Santana quickly. That comment brings about an interesting conclusion question: If the intent is to bring Santana back soon, shouldn’t the assumption be they are doing it because they believe they can compete for the playoffs, and if this were true, then what is the point of dealing off players at the deadline?

The only other conclusion I can draw from wanting Santana back soon is to ascertain his health with the purpose of dealing him and the remainder of his contract, which is for $24 million next year and $25.5 million in 2013. The Mets hold a $25 million option for 2014 or a $5.5 million buyout. Only a healthy Santana can be traded.

The rehab guideline is to bring Santana to a point where he would be at physically to start spring training, which is a six-week progress.

Conservatively, I would estimate at least another three weeks, barring further setbacks, to where he would reach that point. Such a projection would put us at around July 4, and six weeks on top of that would bring it to around mid-August.

If it lasts much further than that, I wonder it the Mets would consider not bringing him back at all this year. If the team is out of contention, the only reason would be to see where he stands physically in preparation for 2012. And even then, the window would be fairly small to make an accurate decision.