Dec 30

Top Ten Mets’ Stories of 2011

Good afternoon all. Just got back from Ohio and visiting with my family over Christmas. There was time to reflect on the year, which, of course, includes the Mets’ third straight losing season.

The year was the first under the Sandy Alderson-Terry Collins regime, which was supposed to represent a change in the franchise’s culture and downward spiral.

It did not.

There were seemingly countless storylines that swirled around the Mets this summer, most underscored their dire frustration. The following are the top ten:

REYES: Mets' mess uglier than Marlins' uniforms.

1) THE MADOFF PONZI SCANDAL: Most everything the Mets did this season, and will likely do in the next few years has roots in the Wilpon’s financial mess caused by the Ponzi Scandal. The Mets have a mounting debt approaching $1 billion due in the next three years and which does not include what the courts might put them on the hook for in a Ponzi ruling. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the Mets’ financial status and there are no immediate signs of improvement.

2) JOSE REYES SIGNS WITH MIAMI: Reyes’ departure to the division rival Marlins personifies the Mets’ current financial plight. It was a no-brainer to let him go considering his salary demands and injury history, but not making an offer revealed how the Mets aren’t in position to compete. Most believed 2011 would be his last season with the Mets, and he departed in style with two trips to the disabled list and pulling himself out of the last game of the season to preserve his batting title.

3) METS RELEASE PEREZ AND CASTILLO: Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo represented the Omar Minaya Era in giving obscene contracts for little production. Their presence cast a pall over the 2010 Mets and the new regime finally cast them away. Sad getting rid of two malcontent underachievers represented one of the highlights of the season.

4) BELTRAN, RODRIGUEZ TRADED: The Mets overachieved much of the first half, but any hope of a competitive season ended when Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez were dealt to San Francisco and Milwaukee, respectively, in the official surrender of 2011. Few thought Alderson could unload their contracts, but doing so lightened the Mets’ financial burden – a little. Beltran and Rodriguez were to be the missing pieces to a championship, but instead personified the window slamming shut.

DAVIS: Another freak injury hits Mets.

5) IKE DAVIS INJURED: What looked to be a harmless ankle injury ended up a season-ender for Ike Davis and renewed criticism of the Mets’ medical staff. Reportedly, Davis will be ready for spring training, but we’ve heard that song before. Davis’ injury opened the door for Lucas Duda’s promotion to the major leagues, one of the season’s few bright spots.

6) DAVID WRIGHT’S FALL CONTINUES: Wright missed over two months with a back injury and his power numbers dropped to 14 homers and 61 RBI. Wright’s recent injury history and declining production, coupled with the Mets in a rebuilding mode, increases speculation he could be traded. But, those factors also mean what the Mets get in return isn’t what it would have been two years ago.

7) THE DAVID EINHORN MESS: The Mets financial problems appeared to ease at the tune of $200 million when David Einhorn was brought in as a minority owner, but that fell through. The Wilpons’ fallback plan is to sell $20-milion shares. So far, no takers.

8) JOHAN SANTANA A MEMORY: Despite the Mets’ projections he might be ready at any number of occasions, it never happened and his rehab included several setbacks. The Mets will go to spring training knowing only one thing about Santana – they’ll pay him $24 million next year.

9) BAY SIGNING A BUST: It has been two years and Bay has hit a combined 18 homers with 104 RBI. He did better than that in 2009 with Boston. There were dozens of reasons why the Mets shouldn’t have signed Bay two years and one day ago. I’m thinking there are close to 66 million now.

10) PELFREY REGRESSES: After winning 15 games in 2010, Mike Pelfrey won seven games last year and there are thoughts he might never become the pitcher expected of him. With Santana injured, Pelfrey went into the season the de facto ace but posted numbers not worthy of a No. 5 starter.

Dec 07

On trading David Wright.

I wrote it also, losing Jose Reyes could make it easier for the Mets to eventually trade David Wright if they go in full rebuilding mode. However, it is not imminent and regardless of what you read, it won’t be to the Yankees.

WRIGHT: He's not going anywhere.

Despite his power dropoff in two of the past three seasons, Wright is the only marketable player the Mets have remaining. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are a promise. Nobody else generates more than a yawn.

Wright will not be dealt while the Mets are trying to sell season tickets and advertising for SNY and Citi Field.  And based on his production in two of the past three years, his value is at its lowest. If the Mets are bent on trading Wright, they’ll need to see him healthy and hitting for power. That’s what will get Sandy Alderson’s phone ringing. Dealing Wright now would be trading him when the market is low.

Just not a smart thing to do.

Continue reading

Nov 22

2011 Player Review: Lucas Duda

We began our review of the 2011 Mets by examining their free agents and players the team will consider tending contracts to. We started evaluating the rest of the roster, beginning with infielder Ruben Tejada and continue today with Lucas Duda. Tomorrow: Justin Turner.

LUCAS DUDA, RF

THE SKINNY: Duda is power personified. When he gets one, it goes. He’s the last Met who needs the fences brought in. Duda was brought up to play first base after Ike Davis was injured, and finished the season as the candidate to play right field this year.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: After a brief display of his power in 2010, Duda started the season in the minor leagues as expected with the anticipation he would be brought up eventually in case of emergency, but definitely when the rosters were expanded.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Duda’s opportunity came when Davis injured his ankle in a collision with David Wright. After a slow start, Duda finished with 10 homers and 50 RBI in 347 at-bats. First base was totally his after Daniel Murphy was disabled, but with right field forecast as a hole because of the Carlos Beltran trade, Duda eventually got 46 games in the outfield (42 in right). He closed the season with the expectations of being first in line for right field in spring training.

JOHN’S TAKE: Personally, when it became apparent the Mets wouldn’t make the playoffs – and that came pretty early – Duda should have gotten more games in right field. He’s not a great defender and a case could be made for moving him to left and shifting Jason Bay to right field, which is a difficult position at Citi Field. The brought-in fences should help Duda at the plate, but also in the field as there will now be less room to roam. I like Duda for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was his decision to bunt when he was on a roll because that was the team thing to do. The man plays hard and deserves a chance. With his power he should at least double his home run production over a full season.

JOE’S TAKE: For some odd reason, I’ve found myself having to defend Lucas Duda on a number of occasions this offseason. Many Mets fans don’t seem to believe in him as I do as an offensive presence in the lineup. Here are the facts…

Lucas Duda was leading the league with a .597 SLG and 1.100 OPS prior to his promotion to the Mets. In his last 153 minor league games, Duda slugged 33 home runs and drove in 111 runs. He also had 48 doubles in that span. In other words 550 AB, 48, 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 96 RS, 83 BB, 111 K. In five years in the minors Duda has a .286 batting average, .383 OBP, and a .473 SLG. Fluke?

After Duda was promoted this season he batted .292 in 300 AB with 21 2B, 10 HR, 50 RBI, .370 OBP and .487 SLG. As he got acclimated to the majors he kept getting better posting OPS of .711, .910, .911 and .929 from June to September to finish third in the National League that final month of the season.

Now I’m not saying Duda is the next Jim Rice or Manny Ramirez, but he could be the next Carlos Lee. It’s no coincidence I’m using left fielders as a comparison, but ultimately left field is where I see Lucas Duda settling in. And while his routes to balls and his overall defense leaves a lot to be desired, I believe he’ll get better as he becomes more acclimated.

The kid’s a keeper.

Nov 20

2011 Player Review: Daniel Murphy, IF

We began our review of the 2011 Mets by examining their free agents and players the team will consider tending contracts to. We started evaluating the rest of the roster, beginning with infielder Ruben Tejada and continue today with utility player Daniel Murphy. Saturday: Lucas Duda. Sunday: Justin Turner.

DANIEL MURPHY, IF

THE SKINNY: Murphy is a gritty, aggressive player with a high on-base percentage, but without a position and a propensity for being injured. Murphy, a natural third baseman, can’t play there because of David Wright. He didn’t take to left field, but seeming found a home at first base, but when he was injured it opened the position for Ike Davis. The Mets tried him at second base, but he sustained a knee injury at the position. Through it all, Murphy managed to hit, with a lifetime .292 average.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: Coming off an injury, the expectations were limited, but the hope was if healthy he’d play second base and come off the bench as a pinch-hitter.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Murphy was having an outstanding year offensively with a .320 average, six homers and 49 RBI in 109 games before he sustained a torn MCL in August while covering second base on a steal attempt and missed the remainder of the season.

JOHN’S TAKE: GM Sandy Alderson said at the GM meetings in Milwaukee that Murphy was available in a trade, but who would deal for him without knowing of healthy he is. Murphy has a propensity for getting injured and has limited defensive abilities. If every Met played as hard as him the team would be a lot better off. I can’t see the Mets dealing him now because of his baggage, but if he stays healthy and continues to hit, he might be attractive in July. Then again, if he’s healthy and hits, he would be valuable to the Mets. Probably as a second baseman if he finally takes to the position and Jose Reyes leaves.

JOE’S TAKE: I’m a big Daniel Murphy fan. He has a great approach at the plate and is one of the Mets’ most disciplined hitters. Just 26, Murphy has become a doubles hitting machine – collecting 75 of them over 1,030 career at-bats. It’s such a shame that a hitter this good doesn’t have a true defensive position he could call home. He’s a natural third baseman, but with Wright entrenched there, the Mets have tried to squeeze Murphy into a variety of other positions just to get his bat in the lineup. Rumors abound that he could end up being the Mets everyday second baseman in 2012, but I have a huge problem with that. It may very well be that Murphy’s greatest value to the team will ultimately be as component in a trade to a team where he could play third base or DH. Until that happens, enjoy Murphy’s at-bats and hold your breath when he takes the field. I’ll have more on Murphy tomorrow on MetsMerizedOnline.com.

Sep 20

No answers from here on out.

With the Mets out of contention awhile ago, it was hoped September would be the month where some 2012 answers could be found. It has not turned out that way.

GEE: Rocky finish to a good year.

Only .500 remains, but the Mets must run the table for that to occur, and that would mean nine straight against Cardinals, Phillies and Reds. They couldn’t win nine straight against their own minor league system.

The one slot where it was hoped could be definitive was the closer role, but Bobby Parnell has spit the bit. He’ll get another chance in spring training, that is, unless the Mets sign a qualified, veteran closer, but that would require some spending. That’s not going to happen, either.

Ruben Tejada has played well, but not well enough to see if he will be able to assume Jose Reyes’ role. We might never know that answer.

The only comfort I see has been Lucas Duda in right. So far, he’s fielded the position cleanly, but we need a full year at the plate and in the field to see for sure. And, there are usually hills and valleys in the first year as a starter.

I like how R. A. Dickey is finishing, and Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee pitched well enough this year to warrant a chance in next year’s rotation. Gee, however, is struggling, with his ERA jumping nearly a run a game over his last ten starts.

There’s too many unanswered questions Sandy Alderson must spend the winter trying to answer. There are holes in the rotation that can’t be masked by a thin bullpen. There’s a lack of power from David Wright and Jason Bay. Angel Pagan has regressed. There’s nothing that suggests Johan Santana will make it back.

There’s also no indication the Mets will be a heavy player to retain Reyes.