Feb 20

Delcos: Notes from the first day of camp.

* Quote of the Day: “I’m to the point now where I have to be developed and I have to be ready to play on a daily basis. That’s the biggest thing for me is not to use that as a crutch.”

That was Josh Thole talking about this being a make-or-break year for him. It’s true. Hard to believe, but this is Thole’s third year on the major league level and he needs improvement behind the plate and at-bat. Thole came up with a reputation for patience at the plate, but deviated from that last season. His game  calling also became suspect last year, as was his defense (eventually, he’ll have to learn to catch R.A. Dickey).

* Jenrry Mejia isn’t ready to throw yet. There’s no way he’ll be ready in early part of the season. The Mets still don’t know what role they are planning for Mejia, but what seems to be apparent is it isn’t a stretch to assume his arm problems might be linked to how the Mets have bounced him around from role to role.

* Word is the Mets aren’t giving out No. 7, the number worn by Jose Reyes. Why? Are they keeping the light on for him? The sooner they give out No. 7, the sooner they are moving on without him. He’s gone. Get used to it.

 

May 03

Mejia to have Tommy John surgery; must figure the worst.

Jenrry Mejia is seeking a second opinion on his medial collateral ligament, as is his right, but don’t bet the new doctor will offer a better alternative than Tommy John surgery. And, regardless of whom performs the surgery, the Mets can’t think all will be well in a year.

The Mets must continue on without Mejia in their plans, and although there are examples of pitchers who have come back from the surgery, there are similar examples of those who did not. Subsequently, the Mets must conduct business without Mejia in their plans and consider anything out of him in the future as a bonus.

The Mets eschewed an opportunity last season to deal Mejia, and the thinking at the time was sound. He was too good a prospect to just deal. I thought the Mets handled Mejia poorly last year in juggling his role, and it is speculation as to how much that contributed to the injury.

MEJIA: Mets must figure he's done.

It will be at least a year before we know whether Mejia will be sound enough to pitch, and even then there’s no guarantee he’ll be a hot prospect again.

There are examples on both sides of the aisle, of those who returned to have successful careers, and those who didn’t.

There’s no way of knowing where Mejia will be, but this much is sure, the Mets will be seeking pitching. The question is: How much are they willing to spend, both in prospects in the trade route and dollars in the free agency path next winter? The Mets must consider anything they get from Mejia as a bonus and look to build without him.

These pitchers made it back from Tommy John surgery: Josh Johnson, John Smoltz, Billy Wagner, David Wells, Tim Hudson, Mariano Rivera, Francisco Liriano and Chris Carpenter. And, of course, Tommy John.

These pitchers didn’t make it back: Kerry Wood (although he had a good season last year as reliever for the Yankees), Scott Williamson, Pat Hentgen, B.J. Ryan, Darren Driefort, Kris Benson, Phil Humber, Jaret Wright, Mike Hampton and Bill Pulsipher.

There is a wide enough sampling where it can go either way with Mejia, but we won’t know for at least a year, and there’s no telling what the Mets’ financial landscape will look like by then.

 

Apr 17

Mets stop slide behind Gee, Thole.

Well, you didn’t think they’d lose them all, did you?

GEE: Gives Mets solid start

The Mets snapped their seven-game losing streak this afternoon behind the strong pitching of Dillon Gee and timely hitting of Josh Thole to beat the Braves, 3-2.

Gee was brought up from Triple-A Buffalo and Thole was elevated to second from eighth in the batting order, and for one afternoon at least all seemed right in the Mets’ universe.

Gee had a rough travel day that included his luggage not arriving, so he had to borrow a glove and spikes. He was called up to replace the disabled Chris Young, and given the state of the Mets’ pitching he should get another start Friday in New York against Arizona. Thole will likely stay in the two hole for a while.

One of the interesting things to come out of the day was the news the Mets considered bringing up Jenrry Mejia to start over Gee. Mejia has been pitching well in the minors, but wisely GM Sandy Alderson eschewed the temptation of Mejia’s crackling fastball to allow him to continue to grow on the farm.

Using Mejia for this start would have come across as a panic move and been reminiscent of a decision from the Omar Minaya era. As bad as the Mets have been lately, it’s still only April and way too early to bag their building plans regarding Mejia.

On another positive note, word is Jason Bay is making progress and could be activated from the disabled list Tuesday.

Dec 04

Making a go with little

Sandy Alderson said it again, that the Mets have little payroll flexibility and aren’t expected to make a splash in the free-agent market.

Again, even if the Mets cut Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, they are still on the hook for $18 million between them. It’s not as if the money could be spent elsewhere.

The Mets need to find two starters, bullpen depth, a second baseman (if it is not Castillo), a back-up catcher and bench depth. Try doing that with about $10 million to spend.

There’s not much in the minor league system to help immediately. And, Ruben Tejada and Jenrry Mejia are best served in the minor leagues for this year, Alderson said. There aren’t the prospects available to make a trade similar to the one Boston did for Adrian Gonzalez. And, if there was, the Mets are committed to not spending.

Again, we can re-examine trading Jose Reyes and David Wright, but you’d be dealing your two best players. And, with Reyes, his value because of injury and lack of production the past two years, and that he’ll be a free agent after 2011, make him difficult to deal.

And, while a solid player, Wright isn’t one that would bring a boatload of talent in return. Plus, he’d leave a gaping hole at third base.

Alderson said this would be a process and he’s not lying. This is becoming more apparent as the winter meetings approach. They might be able to add a band-aid or two, but other than that, hope for 2011 is for Reyes, Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran to get healthy and continued development from players such as Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and Ike Davis.

As of now, hope is the plan.

Nov 03

What will be the “Mets Way?”

Sandy Alderson’s first hire is former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi as his special assistant, with presumably one of his responsibilities to help implement a “Mets Way,” throughout the organization, beginning with the lower levels of the minor league system.

Considering the dimensions of Citi Field, presumably an organizational philosophy will place an emphasis on pitching and defense first, followed by situational hitting, and down on the list power.

As the Giants proved, power is not essential to win, and the Mets have enough to get by with David Wright, Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran (presuming all are healthy, each has 30 homer potential) followed by Ike Davis.

It must begin with pitching, with the first step pounding the strikezone and getting ahead of the hitters. Hopefully, it will include instilling the mindset of working deep into games. When Mike Pelfrey was winning in June he worked fast, efficiently and kept the ball down. When he struggled in July he was the opposite and lost confidence.

The Mets have some talented arms below and I’d like the organization to keep them and not rush their progression. Let them develop a variety of pitches and not be reliant on just one pitch. The prime example is Mike Pelfrey, who gradually developed his secondary pitches, and Jenrry Mejia, who still has a way to go.

If the Mets are able to harness arms and pitch to contact, they should then let the defense take care of them. The Mets still gave away far too many outs, and this must be addressed in spring training. There were still instances of overthrowing the cutoff man and not knowing ahead of time of what to do with the ball.

Defensively, there must be more of a concentration on fundamentals, and this also pertains to the offense, where at times it was glaring as emphasized with the amount of strikeouts.

Offensively, way too many at-bats were given away because the hitter lacked patience and didn’t have a mastery of the strikezone. On-base percentage is a statistic that could be improved by nearly every hitter on the team, including Jose Reyes and Wright.

When the team was winning in June Reyes and Wright were on their games, which meant forcing the play and using the whole field. When they hit the skids in July, their situational hitting as a team was non existent.

Wright, Davis and Bay must reduce their strikeouts, which would automatically increase the on-base percentage and lead to more productive outs.

Power is baseball’s great eraser and always has been. The three-run homer can overcome a lot of things. However, being consistent fundamentally applies continuous pressure on the opposition and that’s the way to go.

I want players who’ll force the action, who know how to take the extra base, who’ll make the correct decisions and not take plays off. I want to see a hustle that was absent at times. We saw Angel Pagan have a horrific season fundamentally in 2009, but he greatly improved last year so it can be done.

I want pitchers who’ll throw strikes and not beat themselves with walks. I want pitchers who’ll go after hitters, and not lose concentration after an error, bad umpire’s call or poor pitch.

This must be emphasized on the major league level, with consequences when it is not. It must also be taught and drilled in the minor leagues.

It’s not an overnight process, but if strongly implemented we should see results the first year.

The Mets’ Way should be to play smart, aggressive, fundamental and relentless ball. It shouldn’t be a novelty when a player advances a runner, hits the cutoff man or doesn’t get lazy in the strikezone with a pitch when he falls behind in the count.

It should be an all time thing.

Let’s face it, the Mets don’t have a rotation like that in San Francisco. They don’t have the power or the ability to buy their way out of trouble like the Yankees.

The Mets have talent, but to win they must out hustle and out work their opposition.