Sep 06

Can The Mets Be Next Year’s Orioles?

The Mets are off today giving us other things to think about, such as the Giants’ secondary and inability to put together a running game. Also a chance to lament about another September of non-meaningful games for the Mets.

The Mets are mired in fourth place, thinking about how a hot run could have them chasing .500, which would be a successful season. Personally, I’d rather have the collapses of 2007 and 2008 than what they are today. At least they were in a pennant race, and if you’re a baseball fan, that’s all you can ask for from your team.

Since 1997, when Orioles manager Davey Johnson was named manager of the year and fired the same day by Peter Angelos, the franchise that long symbolized baseball excellence had hit the skids.

The Orioles showed some improvement last year, but were still projected to finish last in the AL East. But the Orioles have some power, their bullpen has pitched well and they took an impressive 24-7 record in one-run games. That record, despite a negative run differential, is the probably the single most significant stat to explain why the Orioles are in a pennant race.

Conversely, the Mets are 17-18 in one-run games, symbolic of a team with sporadic power and an inconsistent bullpen.

Can the Mets improve enough from within to be a contender like the Orioles?

Baltimore has more power, where the Mets’ anticipated power from David Wright – he’s fallen way for of expectations in that area- Jason Bay and Lucas Duda hasn’t been there. Maybe Wright and Duda will produce next year to bring the Mets’ power numbers up.

Building a bullpen is a tricky proposition and should Sandy Alderson accomplish that objective, perhaps Citi Field will be alive as Camden Yards will be tonight. It could be if the Mets split their losses in one-run games. Add nine wins and subtract nine losses and the Mets are right there in wild-card contention.

Split those losses in one-run games and the Mets are playing meaningful baseball in September.




Sep 03

Mets Should Take Notice Of Marlins Heading Into Offseason

For those of you who think stocking up on big ticket free agents should be cognizant of what happened in Miami if they believe that is the way to go in building a team. A look at the Red Sox would do them good, too.

It’s not about spending the money, but spending it wisely. The Marlins, who went crazy with Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, were swept this weekend by the Mets and are in last place in the NL East. This isn’t to say the Mets’ method of not spending and hoping for the best isn’t the best answer, either.

It’s about spending wisely and being aware of chemistry.

When you go nuts and start casting off pieces in July, you know you screwed up in building your team.

When you look at what did in the Mets this season, it is the same flaws they had going in, and that was the bullpen and starting pitching depth. Yes, there was that stretch they just came out of when they didn’t score any runs, but by that time their season was over.

Building a bullpen is about finding the right role pieces and being aware of chemistry. Sandy Alderson’s pen rebuilding effort was a complete bust, and also revealing is that Bobby Parnell continues to be non-descript.

Chris Young was good yesterday, but he’s not the answer as the fifth starter. And I won’t insult you by reading anything into Jason Bay’s slam. The Mets should either release him or play him in a platoon with Lucas Duda. As far as Young goes, the Mets will probably bring him back because of, 1) concerns about Johan Santana’s durability, 2) not knowing what Matt Harvey will give them over a full season, 3) not having a ready answer of who will eat Mike Pelfrey’s innings, and 4) hot having any guarantees from the minor league system.

The Mets must look at the availability of FA starters capable of eating innings, and I’ll be examining their options as the month progresses.

I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend, made better by the sweep of the Marlins.


Aug 30

Gotta Like Terry Collins On Third Place Talk

OK, the Mets can move into third place with a victory this afternoon in Philadelphia. Matt Harvey’s strong performance last night, aided by a Lucas Duda homer, marked the Mets’ fourth victory in a row to give the team a pulse after a lifeless July and August.

Third place?

Big deal, says Terry Collins.

Collins wants .500, which would be difficult, but not impossible being eight games under with 31 to play. It could be done.

“You know, it’s not a goal. I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Collins said about third place. “It’s not a goal. The goal is to play as good as we can for as long as we can. For me, our goal should be to try to get back to .500. That should be our goal. Wherever that puts us at the end of the year, it puts us at the end of the year.

“But, believe me, we are not playing for third place. We’re trying to win as many games as we can. … I don’t want these guys coming in here every day looking at the box score, seeing who is in fourth. That does nothing for me.”

Play as good as they can for as long as they can. At one time, the Mets were eight games over .500. Imagine where the can be had they simply played .500 the last two months. It could have been a fun summer.

The Mets have holes, but how they played in the first half is indicative how what they can do with limited talent if they just play the game the right way.

Collins knows teams will only reach the next level if they play consistently hard and are fundamentally sound. There were too many times over the past two months when the Mets mentally took off too many plays.

It’s a long season, sure. Handling the grind is what defines a playoff caliber team. Those that concentrate and don’t take plays offs are the ones who persevere over the long haul.

I know this next comment is getting off the track a bit, but the long haul is why I hate interleague play and the unbalanced schedule so much. It used to be every team ran the same course, played the same teams, and there was a purity in determining the best over 162 games.

That’s not the case these days with some teams playing easier schedules based on their interleague schedule. The purity of the schedule, plus the limited playoff field is what long separated baseball from the other sports.

Aug 29

A Message To Josh Thole

If not a breakout season, 2012 was supposed to be a season where catcher Josh Thole would take it to another level, both defensively and as a hitter. That hasn’t been the case, and one hopes Thole will receive the message manager Terry Collins is sending him tonight.

THOLE: Sitting tonight vs. righty.

Originally, right-handed hitting Kelly Shoppach – who homered last night – was to start against left Cole Hamels. However, when Hamels was scratched this afternoon because of a stomach ailment and replaced by right-handed call-up Tyler Cloyd, Collins stuck with Shoppach instead of going to Thole.

Maybe Collins is simply rewarding Shoppach, but somewhere in there must be a message the Mets aren’t satisfied with what Thole is giving them. Production from behind the plate is needed, but it isn’t to the dire point where the Mets will move away from Thole, so he should report to spring training as the starter, but the patience in him is getting shorter.

Here’s tonight’s line-up:

Ruben Tejada, ss

Daniel Murphy, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Ike Davis, 1b

Lucas Duda, lf

Scott Hairston, cf

Mike Baxter, rf

Kelly Shoppach, c

Matt Harvey, rhp

INTERESTING NOTE: Scott Hairston has already cleared waivers so there are contenders seeking an outfield bat who are scouting the Mets. Hairston is is center tonight, which makes me wonder if the Mets are showcasing his versatility.

Hairston, by the way, has been productive off the bench and is somebody the Mets should bring back.


Aug 23

Mets Face Bleak Offseason

How could anybody be anything but enthused about the Mets for 2013?

With GA Sandy Alderson telling us the budget hasn’t been set but don’t expect it to be much higher than it is now. Then he said trades might be the way to go. But, if the Mets aren’t willing to part with Matt Harvey or Zach Wheeler, will they purge the rest of their farm system? History says it isn’t likely.

A quick glance at the major league roster tells us there’s little to trade of value outside of David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese. I like the potential of Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, but outside of that, who would anybody want?

You’d love to trade Johan Santana and Jason Bay, but nobody wants those contracts, plus their limited production and injury histories.

There’s simply little of any value other teams would want. We are talking about a team that is ten games below .500 and facing another losing season. This is a team that since its last World Series appearance in 2000 has had five managers and four general managers. The latest, Alderson, is a fixer, brought in to clean up a mess brought on by the owner’s financial distress and hopefully field a competitive team in the process.

Considering all that, of course there’s limited talent available. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in this mess.

It wasn’t going to be pretty work, nor was it going to be easy. So far, Alderson has sliced nearly $50 million in payroll and said good-bye to Jose Reyes. He also cut ties with Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, players with bloated contracts brought in when the team considered itself a contender.

The Mets have a myriad of issues they must face with limited dollars:

1.  Re-sign David Wright: He’s had a solid season and deserves it. Plus, if you let the face of the franchise leave who is going to want to come here? After losing Reyes it would be a disastrous decision. Wright will be a FA after 2013, so any dealing of him would be limited for the fear of him leaving. There is the possibility of next year being a huge distraction if there’s an unsigned Wright at the trade deadline. Talk about a potential mess.

2. A starting pitcher: The Mets got more from Santana than they could have hoped but eventually shut him down. They have to go under the assumption he’s a health question. Also, Jon Niese has not performed as hoped and is it realistic to think they’ll get a similar year from Dickey? No. They likely won’t bring back Mike Pelfrey – remember him? – and while there’s optimism, the Mets still don’t know what they have in Dillon Gee, Harvey, Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia.

3. The bullpen: This was Alderson’s area of concentration in the offseason and it blew up on him. Frank Francisco is a disaster and Bobby Parnell has yet to grasp a role. Maybe the Mets have run their course with Dan Warthen as pitching coach, I don’t know. But, that must be examined. Are their any viable pieces? Doesn’t look that way.

4. Outfield: Bay will be back because of his contract, but I’d eat it and start fresh. Lucas Duda will get a shot in left then, but they need power from the right side. They aren’t getting it from Andres Torres or Jordany Valdespin, both of whom aren’t any better than bench players.

5. Catcher: Josh Thole has not progressed either offensively or defensively as hoped. But, he’s a healthy body right now and for the Mets, that’s a positive.

When you come down to it, that’s an impressive shopping list to fill on a limited budget. It looks as if next year’s team will look similar to this year’s Mets, with the hope for improvement coming from more production from their current roster. They need breakout years from Davis, Duda, Thole, Harvey and either Wheeler or Mejia.

They need a monster year from Wright and more power from Daniel Murphy.

They need a hell of a lot.