Mar 31

Reviewing the Mets’ issues going into the season.

I hope you’re all doing well, anxious for another season of watching the Mets. While the Yankees faced Detroit this afternoon at the Stadium, the Mets worked out in preparation to play the Marlins tomorrow night.

When the Mets opened spring training six weeks ago, I proposed a list of ten issues surrounding the team that would dictate the course of the season. Spring training only partially answered those questions.

Here’s the top issues surrounding the Mets and the progress made:

Q: WHAT WILL BE THE OWNERSHIP FALLOUT?

A: This is still an on-going issue that won’t be going away any time soon. The Wilpons remain adamant they were played and have no intention of selling the franchise outright. The family is looking for a limited owner, but heavyweights such as Mark Cuban and Donald Trump say they don’t want to pay up to $500 million for what is tantamount to a season ticket with free parking. The Wilpons still want full control and aren’t willing to offer up part of SNY in a deal. The Mets’ inactivity during the winter was emblematic of their financial stress, and although GM Sandy Alderson said the team would have the resources at the trade deadline, nobody is expecting much, especially if they’ll be listening to offers for Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.

Q: HOW WILL TERRY COLLINS IMPLEMENT THE NEW CULTURE?

A: So far, so good. There was no problem in selling right field to Beltran, although that had a lot to do with the outfielder making the choice himself because of his fragile knees. Reports are positive about the Mets’ attitude and concentration on fundamentals. There weren’t any problems with how the releases of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez.were handled. The first impression has been a good one, but we’ll see how responsive the Mets are when the grind starts.

Q: HOW HEALTHY IS CARLOS BELTRAN?

A: Beltran will be in the starting lineup tomorrow, but we didn’t know that until the beginning of the week. Beltran’s health remains a concern and despite the move to right field, nobody knows how his knees will hold up and the production the Mets might receive. The only certainty with Beltran is he won’t be back next season and the Mets would love to work a deal to save some of his $18.5 million contract. An interesting dilemma would be what would the Mets do at the trade deadline with Beltran if they are contending and he’s hitting?

Q: WHAT WILL BECOME OF JOSE REYES?

A: Alderson said the Mets will have the resources to sign Reyes to an extension, but would they be willing to take that chance if he’s not playing well? Reyes didn’t have a bad finish to the end of last season, but realistically he’s been a health question the past two years. Should Reyes get off to a great start his price tag will undoubtedly spike as will the attention he’ll draw from teams wanting to make a deal. This will put the Mets in the stressful situation of risking him leave as a free agent.

Q: WILL MIKE PELFREY TAKE THE NEXT STEP?

A: With Johan Santana out, Pelfrey enters the season as the ace. Pelfrey didn’t have a good spring training stats wise, but then again he didn’t last year, either and had the best season of his career. Friday’s Opening Day starter said his goal this summer is to be more consistent. A miserable July might have prevented Pelfrey from winning 20 games last year, but he said he learned from that stretch, and one of those things was not to abandon his fastball. There were still times last year when Pelfrey lost his focus and ran up his pitch count which cost him the chance to work longer and even finish games.

Q: WILL THE REAL JASON BAY STAND UP?

A.: If he does, it won’t be right away as he’ll open the season on the disabled list with a strained left rib cage muscle. It’s not an easy injury to overcome as it saps your power because it slows the hitter’s bat speed. Prior to the rib cage, Bay was complaining about a sore back, and even before then he wasn’t having a good spring power wise. For the $66 million package they are spending on him, the Mets expect 25 to 30 homers a year, not the six he hit last year. With Beltran not a given and Bay out, there’s the concern David Wright will feel the pressure to carry the team as he has the past two seasons.

Q: WAS R.A. DICKEY A FLUKE?

A: Evidently, the Mets believe Dickey is the real deal, otherwise they wouldn’t have given him a two-year deal. Dickey’s knuckler makes him second in the rotation, but there’s still the matter of him proving he can do it again. Dickey came out of nowhere to keep the Mets competitive in the first half, but there’s no element of surprise this year.

Q: WHAT ABOUT THE BACK END OF THE ROTATION?

A: Jon Niese, at No. 3, got off to a 6-2 start, but finished 9-10. Obviously, there’s more learning that needs to be done. Chris Young and Chris Capuano will attempt to rebound from injuries as the No. 4 and No. 5 starters, respectively. Bottom line on the last two: Despite good springs there is no guarantee the Mets will get 25 starts from each.

Q: WHO’S IN THE BULLPEN?

A: Francisco Rodriguez and Bobby Parnell are the only names you’ll remember from last year, which is just as well considering what the Mets got out of their pen. The overriding issue with the bullpen is whether they’ll allow Rodriguez to complete 55 games that would enable his $17.5 million option to kick in. Parnell gets the set-up role. The rest of the pen includes D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz, Pedro Beato, Tim Byrdak and Blaine Boyer. Jason Isringhausen will stay in Florida for an extended spring training, and the Mets will need him to mentor this inexperienced pen.

Q: WHO PLAYS SECOND?

A: The Mets finally did the right thing and cut ties with Luis Castillo. Then he had the nerve to say he didn’t get a real chance. Huh? Daniel Murphy stuck, but as a left-handed bat off the bench. In the end, Rule 5 draft choice Brad Emaus will start. But, winning the job and holding on to it are two different things.

 

Mar 30

Bay to DL; Izzy stays.

Jason Bay returned to New York today to have his strained left rib cage examined and all indications are he’ll be placed on the disabled list. When manager Terry Collins said he’d rather lose Bay for a week rather than a month, how else can you read the tea leaves?

This is not an easy injury from which to recover, and even when he does return there’s no guarantee he’ll hit the ground running. And, he wasn’t exactly stroking the ball with power this spring. So, with Opening Day two days away the Mets have two significant power issues: Not having Bay at the start and concerns about Beltran’s health.

Meanwhile, Jason Isringhausen accepted the Mets’ decision to stay in Florida for an extended spring training. Odds are Isringhausen will be on the 25-man roster soon enough. Isringhausen had a good spring and his experience could be beneficial to a young bullpen.

Oh, a note that should make you crack a smile: The Phillies, who have a hole at second base with Chase Utley injured, waived Luis Castillo today.

 

 

Mar 22

No kudos for Alderson on Perez, Castillo.

Let’s be careful not to go overboard in praising the Sandy Alderson regime for the sacking of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. Credit to Alderson goes in finally convincing the Wilpons eating $18 million in salary was the prudent option.

The actual decision itself was a no-brainer in that neither would be a viable contributor to the team, both were an emotional and psychological drains in the clubhouse, and to adequately change the culture of the Mets they must be purged.

There was no real thinking that had to be done and the key was in the timing. Alderson knew he couldn’t trade either in the off-season because of their salary, performance and injury histories. His only hope for Castillo was he could find his game and prove enough in spring training to warrant going north; for Perez was he could regain his fastball and hook on in a relief role.

Both were long shots, but Alderson had no choice to bring them to spring training and let it play itself out.

Since neither distinguished himself in the positive, it was time to make the move. With Opening Day rapidly approaching and the Mets playing at a .500 pace and little room for optimism, Alderson needed to make a spark and this was it.

This was a move the Mets needed to make so let’s not throw roses at Alderson for doing the obvious.

Mar 20

Waiting out the Mets

ESPN is reporting the Phillies are close to signing Luis Castillo to fill in for the injured Chase Utley. If not the Phillies, it would be somebody else. The same goes for Oliver Perez when the Mets finally release him, presumably on Monday.

There was no chance the Mets had of trading either because teams knew they were dealing from a position of strength with Sandy Alderson. There is no reason for any team to offer a player to the Mets when they know they could wait them out and just sign them when they were cut loose. More importantly, by waiting out the Mets the new team wouldn’t assume those contracts, but only be responsible for the major league minimum of $414,500.

Sandy Alderson admitted Castillo was released in large part because of his perception by Mets’ fans. The same reasoning will also apply when it comes to Perez. Alderson and manager Terry Collins will meet Monday to discuss Perez’s fate. After giving up back-to-back homers Saturday, the inevitable is probably hours away.

 

Mar 18

Mets drop Castillo like that pop-up

The inevitable finally occurred..

Luis Castillo, who wasn’t having a bad spring offensively, was finally released today. However, staying with the Mets, unless somebody picks him up, will be the $6 million the club owns him.

CASTILLO: The play that defined his Met career.

The Wilpons frequently have been criticized for refusing to eat bad contracts and there was speculation Castillo might stick. I thought he’d at least last the weekend.

However, in the end, the negativity Castillo brought, his declining defensive ability and the belief he wasn’t much better – if at all than his competition – were the overriding factors in ridding the organization of one of its most scorned players in its history.

Sandy Alderson made the announcement: “After a long evaluation during spring training, after consulting with [manager] Terry [Collins] and the coaching staff, I made a recommendation to ownership in the best interest of the organization and Louie that he be released. Ownership approved.’’

Indeed, the culture has changed.

Collins was never enamored with Castillo, starting for his failure to notify the manager he wouldn’t report early because of a family emergency. A simple phone call could have diffused things.

Twice Castillo reported to spring training out of shape. There were times he didn’t hustle, including this week when he failed to cover first base. His defense and range were in decline. He was injury prone. He had one good season with the bat, hardly enough to justify the four-year, $24 million contract former GM Omar Minaya awarded him.

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