Nov 06

New York Mets notebook

A lot of things happening with the Mets right now, beginning with the managerial interviews:

1) BACKMAN INTERVIEWS TODAY: Sandy Alderson will interview Wally Backman in California today and it is not a courtesy interview as the general manager doesn’t have time to waste. I’ve been hearing the Wilpons have some apprehensions concerning Backman, but nothing specific other than his lack of major league experience has come to light.

I’m still wary about Backman because of the experience factor, believing there are others that bring more immediately to the table.

2) COLLINS THE FRONTRUNNER: I don’t see how anybody can come to the conclusion Terry Collins is the frontrunner without all the interviews being conducted. The Mets do like Collins in his current role working with the minor leagues and could prefer him to stay in that role. Don’t forget, if Collins is reassigned then the Mets will need somebody else for the minor league job.

3) TAKAHASHI GONE: The Mets did not bring back reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The difference in gap  isn’t $1 million as people have suggested, but closer to $10 million if what has been reported is close. At 36, three years is a long time to give to a reliever with only one year in the major leagues.

4) CHARLIE SAMUELS: What was he thinking? The gifts Samuels received from the players is irrelevant. It’s the position he had and the betrayal factor. How much he bet on baseball, or if he bet on the Mets, is uncertain. The argument if he bet on baseball it would be OK if he wagered on the Mets doesn’t make it because of the message it sends if he didn’t bet on the Mets. Why?

I’ve always liked Charlie, but investigations like this don’t happen if there isn’t some degree of truth to the claims.

Too bad.

Nov 01

What exactly is Sandy Alderson’s definition of competitive?

Sandy Alderson expects the Mets to be competitive next season, but did not define that to mean they’ll be in the playoff hunt. He also said he doesn’t foresee the Mets being big players in the free-agent market.

There’s nothing down below that is major league ready to drastically improve the team, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll deal any of their three biggest major league commodities – David Wright, Jose Reyes or Mike Pelfrey.

Translated: Alderson believes the Mets can be competitive with pretty much the same team they had this season if their injured players can return productive and sound, which is what Omar Minaya said last winter. The Mets won 79 games this year, two below .500, which is merely average. They would figure to improve with full and healthy seasons from Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Reyes, but there are no guarantees.

But, how much better? Ten games? That would be 89, but the NL wild card team, Atlanta, won 91 games. So, winning ten more falls short, and that’s even before considering their other issues.

The first, and most important, is the expected absence of Johan Santana. Some projections have him missing most, if not all of the season. Assuming no Santana, the Mets will need two other starters to fill out their rotation.

If the Mets go the same route as they did last winter and not add an arm in the free agent market, we’ll be looking at a front end of the the rotation with Pelfrey, Jon Niese and RA Dickey, with Dillon Gee and Pat Misch among those competing in the back end.

Other issues will be hoping for the continued development of Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Angel Pagan.

Alderson has already told us he won’t have a lot of payroll flexibility this winter, but even if he were to shed the Mets of Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo, that doesn’t mean he’ll find an extra $18 million to play with for 2011.

So far, the first impression has been a good one of Alderson, and part of that has been him being forthcoming about the obstacles.

We’re all assuming the Mets will make major moves for the 2012 season. That doesn’t mean they can’t take a step up next season. How big remains to be seen.

Oct 21

Will new GM consider Sandberg?

Whomever the Mets choose as their general manager –  indications are Sandy Alderson has the inside track – he’ll have a long list of managerial candidates to consider.

SANDBERG: Could be considered for manager job

Add Ryne Sandberg to that list. The Cubs bypassed Sandberg for Mike Quade, and the Hall of Fame second baseman is not pleased and he’ll obviously listen to other offers.

He’s done everything the Cubs asked of him in preparation for the opportunity to manage in the major leagues, including working his way up the minor league chain, from Single A to Triple A, with success, including being named Pacific Coast League manager of the year.

Sandberg does not have the major league experience advocated here and in other forums, but we don’t know how much that criteria will be weighed by the new general manager. If that is lower on his priority list, Sandberg would undoubtedly receive consideration, as will Wally Backman.

It’s all speculation for now, and some of it will fall on Sandberg.

Oct 14

Don’t bank on Backman

Following the Mets’ GM search brings a couple of thoughts to mind.

BACKMAN: Would he be a gimmick hire?

I don’t see the Mets hiring Sandy Alderson plus Rick Hahn, as has been suggested.  I believe the job is Alderson’s for the taking, which would enable him to help groom John Ricco to be his successor. I don’t think they’ll end up hiring one assistant GM (Hahn) when they won’t interview their current assistant GM. If they did, they’ll take a risk at losing Ricco.

Because of Logan White’s proficiency in scouting, I can see him joining Alderson.

Whomever, the Mets hire as their general manager, I’m beginning to think Wally Backman won’t be hired as their manager if the new guy has the autonomy the Wilpons have promised. I’ve seen several list of the top managerial candidates and Backman hasn’t been on any of them.

I keep hearing about Backman’s spit and fire, but he’s not the only fiery personality out there, and that’s not the primary quality in a manager. The ability to motivate isn’t confined to yelling and over turning the food spread in the clubhouse. There’s also game management and dealing with player personalities.

Backman has not proven he can be that on a major league level, and with a team in transition such as the Mets a veteran presence is the best option. Like the general manager, I’d prefer a manager with a track record, one who could groom Backman by bringing him on as a bench coach.

This isn’t to say Backman won’t eventually become an accomplished major league manager, but I don’t believe this is the right time. There’s still too much for Backman to learn, and a rebuilding situation like the Mets isn’t the best place to start. I keep hearing about Backman’s fire and the ties to the 1986 championship team, but that sounds more and more like a gimmick hire.

I just don’t see a new general manager tying his success to an unproven manager.

Sep 09

Hospital Flap: Just like the Mets.

BELTRAN: Skips hospital showing with Perez and Castillo.

The New York Mets had planned, as they usually do when they are in Washington, to visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to comfort  injured servicemen from Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a pet project of the Wilpons and the team knew well in advance what was to happen this week.

That night’s starting pitcher, Dillon Gee, was making his major league debut and was excused. Everybody else was expected, not required, to attend. It was one of those unspoken gestures of team unity.

The firestorm is in that Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, and Luis Castillo, three players who have clashed with Mets’ management this year and who carry heavy, yet unproductive contracts, opted not to attend without prior explanation.

Beltran said he had a meeting with his foundation to build a baseball academy in Puerto Rico; Castillo said he was uncomfortable at seeing the injuries; Perez offered no explanation.

Maybe Beltran could have rescheduled; maybe he could not have. But, it was his foundation, he knew of the conflict in advance and said nothing. He could have rescheduled. That’s pretty lame. Beltran was aware of this visit to the hospital, and although he was supposedly doing charity work, it’s still a weak effort on his part in communicating. Had he taken a more proactive approach, he wouldn’t be lumped in with Perez and Castillo.

Still, it can’t be forgotten how the Mets and Beltran clashed over surgery this spring, and if surgery had been done last summer how he might have recovered for this season. Instead, Beltran is owed $18.5 million for the final year of his contract, which the Mets would gladly unload.

Beltran’s unexcused absence, regardless of the subsequent explanation, brings these other issues to light and puts him in an uncomfortable position. Beltran isn’t stupid, he knows how the media operates and what would be made of this. Beltran is too smart to do something like this unless he was trying to make a statement.

Meanwhile, Castillo’s comment that this would make him queasy is an insult to those who are injured. It is a high insensitive comment. It reminds me, that he didn’t seem to have this reaction when he visited in the past.

You can insert your jokes about Castillo making you queasy here.

Still, the thing that sticks out with Castillo has been his disappointing, unproductive and tumultuous season and the $6 million remaining on next year’s contract. He’s not playing and is angry at the Mets. Was this the right way to express that anger?

Then, there is Perez, who was smart enough not to offer a lame excuse or lie. He just refused comment, which automatically makes anybody speculate what his agenda is. Perez is bitter at how he has been treated, although he brought on a lot of it himself. Perez is owed $12 million this year and next year and has refused all requests to do things that would make him better.

There’s no doubting the Mets want somebody, anybody, to take these contracts off their hands, and it’s no secret these guys want out. It’s also no secret the Wilpons hate eating these contracts.

All what the hospital flap has done is make me wonder whether the boycotts were orchestrated as a way of forcing the team to say “enough is enough,” and cut them loose with their 2011 contracts owed them. I’m thinking it is their way to force the issue on a release.

As far as conspiracy agendas go, it’s a good one.

What also makes me scratch my head on this is Jerry Manuel’s weak response, saying they are adults and can act they way they want. That’s the way Jerry for spitting on the concepts of team and accountability and responsibility.