Jan 04

Mets face difficult start.

It won’t take long to figure out the 2012 Mets.

The team entering spring training without expectations – at least positive ones – face a difficult schedule despite 13 games at Citi Field and ten on the road. That includes everybody in their division, so we’ll have an idea of how they’ll stack up against the NL East.

I looked at their schedule this afternoon and if things play out as expected, they could be done before the weather gets warm. It isn’t hard to imagine interest in the baseball season being done in Flushing before the kids are done with school.

They open with a pair of three-game series at home against the Braves, who always give them a hard time, and the new-and-improved Washington Nationals (80-81 last year), who are talking with Prince Fielder.

Then they have consecutive three-game series at Philly and Atlanta before coming home for four games against San Francisco and three with Miami.

The Nationals and Marlins were sub-.500 last season, but both played the Mets tough and are expected to be better this year, perhaps to the point of wild-card contention.

They close out the month with three at Colorado and one in Houston, places where they have struggled.

Following two more at Houston, the Mets play Arizona, at Philadelphia and Miami, and home to Milwaukee and Cincinnati before May 18.

Think there’s a chance they could be ten games under or more by then? You bet.

It is not productive for a team to look too far ahead, but with all that’s going on with the Mets, it isn’t hard.

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 08

Departures of Pujols, Reyes shouldn’t scuttle Cardinals or Mets.

Pockets of fans in St. Louis and New York are understandably upset after Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes sold their legacies and moved them out of town as mercenaries.

Pujols thought $220 million over ten years, his developmental years in St. Louis along with his businesses and foundation weren’t enough, so he took $30 million more and shuffled off to Los Angeles.

Reyes could have had close to $100 million from the Mets – which included incentives – but in the end took roughly $6 million more to move to Miami.

In the end, reports from Pujols supporters and Reyes himself, were that they weren’t “loved” enough by their former teams so they went with the money.

I never expected Reyes to stay. I always believed he’d go to who flashed the most bling. However, I thought Pujols might have been one of the rare few to spend his entire career with one team.

Stan Musial did it and so did Mickey Mantle. So did Cal Ripken and Don Mattingly. They were thinking of a statute for Pujols in St. Louis. Not any more.

Who is to blame?

Actually, nobody.

As much as it would have been nice to think about Pujols staying home, in the end I was naive. It was something I wanted to believe in.

Pujols and Reyes; the Cardinals and Mets; the Angels and Marlins all made business decisions this week.

For Pujols and Reyes it was for the money. Pujols might also have the additional incentive of setting the career home run record with the aid of the designated hitter. Reyes sought the comfort of a guaranteed contract because of his house-of-card hamstrings.

The Angels are competing with the reeling Dodgers for the lion’s marketing share of Los Angeles and now have star power for their television network. As an American League team, the Angels can offer Pujols the DH during the back end of his contract. Pujols is worth all that money to them.

As for the Marlins, they significantly upgraded not only with Reyes, but Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, and should have a good product in their new stadium. They might not be good enough to catch the Phillies, but with the extra wild card, they have a chance at October.

For the Cardinals and Mets, they have $220 million and $100 million, respectively, to build with. The Cardinals always have been a smart organization and based in the average NL Central, they should be able to rebound and retool quickly.

For the financially strapped Mets, they couldn’t afford to risk that kind of money on Reyes’ brittle hamstrings. The Mets have holes and ownership is drowning in red ink. The last thing the Mets needed was to be on the hook for another brutal contract.

So, nobody is to blame. And, the winners? It seems as if all the players got something they wanted. That is, of course, except fans of Pujols and Reyes, but who is surprised by that?

Dec 07

Reyes addresses New York media.

Jose Reyes spoke with members of the Mets’ media this afternoon at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. Here’s a transcript of what he said:

On whether he was surprised that Mets were not more aggressive:

“During the season, you guys know, I always say I want to go back to play there. But they don’t do anything to want me there. So, after that, there’s nothing really I can do. Now, I’m with the Miami Marlins. The Mets don’t do anything to have me. It is what it is, man. This is a business and I have to move on. It’s over. I can’t be crying about that, because they don’t show me anything. They don’t push anything to have me there. Why should I be worried about it if they didn’t want me?”

Do you think they just didn’t want you? Or was it probably their financial situation and not being to afford you?

“You know, I can’t tell you that, because they never talked to me. I don’t know if it was because of the money or they don’t want me there — they want to move on with some other pieces. I don’t know, because they never said anything. Sandy maybe talked with Peter, but they don’t offer anything. They don’t do like real offer. They don’t do anything, really.”

Would you have wanted them to call you more this offseason, show you more love?

“No doubt. They don’t do that. When we almost get close to making a deal with the Marlins, that’s when they called. But they call for nothing because they don’t offer anything. It’s kind of weird. I was confused a little bit. During the season a lot of times Sandy (Alderson) said, ‘We want Jose’ and stuff like that. I expect they’d at least call and say, ‘We’re still working on some things so we’re going to get to you guys.’ That never happened.”

Do you feel badly leaving David Wright behind in what may be a difficult situation to win?

“I don’t want to say I feel bad. They still have some good talent there on the team. I wish all the best to David. I think if he’s healthy this year he’s going to do what he did in the past. I don’t worry about David because he’s a guy who is working hard a lot. I know I’m going to miss him, because I play all my career with him beside me. But it was time for me to move on.”

The hair was to be cut?

“That’s the rule that they have.”

What about making only one postseason appearance with the Mets?

“It is disappointing because you play this game to win. A couple of times we had very good teams over the years and we weren’t able to do anything. I feel sorry from that part because we weren’t able to bring a championship to Queens.”

If the money was similar, would you have picked Mets?

“That’s too late to think about that.”

Are you still going to hear those “Jose, Jose” chants at Citi Field?

“I don’t know, to be honest with you. I don’t know. But, like I say, I show a lot of love to the fans. They show a lot of love to me too and they support me. They know that I’m going to play for another team. So I don’t know how their reaction is going to be. But I’m going to still love them. Whatever it is it is. But I’m going to play for another team now.”

Was it hard to walk away from only team you ever knew?

“I don’t want to say easy, but I’m on another team now. I’m past that place. … It’s never easy, because like I said, I spent all my life playing in New York. So it’s not an easy decision. But what can I do? They didn’t show anything. And Miami, they were there from the beginning for me. With the good plan that they have, I have to make my decision there.”

Several observations on what Reyes had to say:

1) Reyes made it clear he didn’t want to negotiate during the season, but he’s making it sound as if the Mets did nothing. They simply respected his request.

2) He’s right. There’s no reason he should worry about things if the Mets didn’t make a formal offer. Reyes, however, did understand the parameters the Mets were operating from. To say he was oblivious to what the Mets would offer is not accurate.

3) It was uneasy to hear him say, “I show a lot of love to the fans.” Isn’t this is the same guy who pulled himself from the game in the season finale to sit on his batting average? Not much love there.

4) “I’m past that place.” Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

5) “This is a business and I have to move on.” Truer words were never spoken.

By the way, great line by Sandy Alderson when asked if he should have shown more love to Reyes, said: “If you’re asking me if I should have sent him a box of chocolates, perhaps I should have done that.”

 

Dec 07

Ramirez supposedly not happy; Mets deal Pagan.

Word out of the Winter Meetings has Hanley Ramirez upset about being asked to move to third base. Initial reports had Ramirez saying he’d be happy to move if it meant adding his buddy Jose Reyes.

RAMIREZ: Not a happy camper?

To hear Ramirez is unhappy is ridiculous, but hardly surprising considering how some teams communicate. This should have been resolved a long time ago, similar to when the Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez, who knew he wouldn’t move Derek Jeter out of shortstop.

Ramirez is an immensely talented player, but also has pronounced streaks of petulance and moodiness, and can be a dog if he doesn’t get his way. This is not something a team on the rise needs. If these reports are true, the Marlins made a mistake, unless, of course they plan to deal Ramirez for pitching.

But, that’s Miami’s problem.

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