Feb 14

Spring Wright Of Passage: Oh, Say Can You “C”

john franco captain

It’s been eight years since the last time a Met donned a “C” on his uniform. Met Hall of Famer John Franco was the last player to serve as a Mets captain; his reign lasting from 2001-2004.

In what seems to have become an annual ritual for the last 3-4 years, like placing a bet on Kentucky Derby, the subject of naming David Wright the team captain came up once again. This time it reared it’s head during manager Terry Collin’s state of the Mets address held on Tuesday at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie.

Interestingly enough, Collins sounded like the whole matter was overblown and tried to make light of it. ”He knows he’s the guy,” Collins said. “He knows he’s the man here. This is his team. He’s the face of it. He’s the captain.”

And then, with a twinkle in his eye, Collins said, “Does he need a ‘C’ on his jersey? Well No. 2 doesn’t have a ‘C’ on his jersey.”

I love this guy… Of course he was referring to Derek Jeter, but more importantly Collins seems to share the same disdain for that damned “C” as I do. I thought it looked ridiculous on Franco, and I thought it looked even worse on Gary carter and Keith Hernandez.

You want to ceremoniously name David Wright captain? Go ahead and do it, it makes no difference to me. But please, for God’s sake, no “C” on the uniform. I think it’s so cheesy ( I hate using that word) and it ruins the look of what I think are the best uniforms in baseball.

“Are we going to have a press conference to make David Wright the captain?, said Collins. “I don’t see one coming, but that’s not saying it’s not going to happen.”

O Captain. My Captain

O Captain. My Captain

Feb 14

Wilpon Said Mets Will Spend, But Doubts Are Raised

Fred Wilpon’s proclamation in Port St. Lucie yesterday the Mets are now out of debt and ready to jump into the free-agent market brought a skeptical response.

The feeling wasn’t  “oh boy, let’s go get Jacoby Ellsbury next year,’’ but rather “I’ll believe it when it see it.’’

Remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and not re-signing R.A. Dickey spoke volumes about immediately competing.

I never thought the Wilpons were cheap. I thought they didn’t always spend wisely and gave Omar Minaya almost carte blanche to bring in whoever he wanted.

The Wilpons once were spending over $140 million in payroll and meted out generous contracts to guys like Oliver Perez, Johan Santana, Luis Castillo, Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez.

That’s not being cheap.

They also gave long-term contracts early in their careers to Jose Reyes and David Wright when they could have had them for much cheaper. That was good business.

Also, don’t forget lesser tier contracts to guys like Scott Schoeneweis, Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, Guillermo Mota and Julio Franco. That’s more misguided than cheap.

Wilpon’s name was on all those checks, so let’s dispense of the notion they aren’t willing to spend. Isn’t going after Michael Bourn some indication?

The Mets are committed to stocking their farm system, which is the right way to go. The minor leagues represent a two-pronged approach to building a franchise: 1) to develop the talent to play on the major league level, and 2) to have the trade chips to deal for proven talent.

The Mets have some good, young pitching with potential, but are thin on position player prospects. They don’t want to deal their pitching and have few major players of value to trade – they don’t want to part with Jon Niese or Ike Davis and can’t trade Wright now – so their primary route for immediate improvement is by the free-agent market.

Sandy Alderson was an austerity-driven general manager while with Oakland and San Diego, and his first two years with the Mets. If Wilpon is willing to spend, it will be interesting to see how Alderson will react.

I don’t expect him to abandon his method of evaluating players, but hope he’ll show some daring if there is a big-ticket player available. Curtis Granderson could be had next winter, but are all his homers – figure a decline moving out of Yankee Stadium – worth all his strikeouts? I don’t think Alderson would agree.

Ellsbury would be ideal for Citi Field, but won’t come cheaply.

But, that’s next year.

The first test to the believability of that statement will come at the end of spring training when players are released to create a new free-agent market. That’s a wave of available talent, and I would guess, there could be an outfielder or two that could start for the Mets. Nothing great, but better than what is there now.

There could also be a reliever or two.

The second test will be at the trade deadline if the Mets are competitive. Alderson waited too long yesterday in the hope the Mets’ bullpen would right itself. It didn’t happen and soon after the All-Star break the season began to spiral out of control. By the deadline it was clear the season was lost.

The first two tests are important because they will show the Mets’ true intentions as to fielding a competitive team.

Wilpon also said yesterday spending would in part be contingent on attendance. Attendance has steadily declined and the way the roster is presently constructed doesn’t inspire confidence.

Signing Wright was the first step, but there are so many more to take.

Feb 13

Mets Shouldn’t Be Surprised At Francisco Injury And Losing Bourn

Two days into camp and the Mets have already taken two shots.

The first was inevitable, that Michael Bourn signed elsewhere. Come to think of it, so was the second when Frank Francisco was shut down with elbow inflammation. The proviso was Francisco would be the closer if healthy and he is clearly not.

How long he’ll be shut down is anybody’s guess, and opening the season on the disabled list is a fair place to start. In the interim Bobby Parnell will close. Again.

I like Parnell over Brandon Lyon or Josh Edgin because he has the greatest upside. Parnell has pitched in several capacities for the Mets, ranging as a starter to a set-up role to closer, and hasn’t excelled in any of them for a variety of reasons.

First, he has been overly reliant on is fastball, which, if it isn’t darting is hittable, regardless of how fast he throws. As a starter, he didn’t develop his secondary pitches. Also, it isn’t unrealistic to think how the Mets bounced him around from role to role didn’t have an accumulating impact on his confidence.

Remember, over the past few years the Mets have not been contenders so there wasn’t really any harm in letting Parnell learn on the job, even if it meant taking his lumps.

The Mets initially wanted Parnell as a starter, but then-manager Jerry Manuel – managing only to save his job – yanked Parnell from the rotation in September.

Parnell never had clear stake to the closer role. Yes, there were times he pitched terrible, but for a team going nowhere it was a chance to learn and turn it around. Don’t think that couldn’t have happened. Parnell closed at the end of last season when Francisco was injured and pitched well holding opponents to a .196 batting average over 17 appearances.

There’s no reason to rush Francisco back other than to attempt to salvage something for his $6.5 million contract (count that as a Sandy Alderson mistake).

So, the Mets will move on for now without Francisco, and also without Bourn, who was a long shot in the first place.

Assuming the Mets could have worked out a deal with agent Scott Boras – the Indians got him for $48 million – there was the matter of Bourn waiting for an arbitration hearing to determine whether they would surrender their draft pick.

If they had to, there would have been no deal. There is no way Bourn would have waited for that outcome and miss another offer. Bourn was never going to happen, and if I were a cynic I’d be thinking going after him was a smokescreen to suggest action.

That would have been a pipe dream, as is thinking Francisco wouldn’t go down again.

 

Feb 12

Players Association Not As Strong As They Think

As much as blaming the Mets is the popular thing to do, I can’t in the case of Michael Bourn signing with Cleveland. The Mets made it clear they coveted their first-round (11th overall) pick rather then surrender it as compensation.

Make no mistake, there is no true free-agency in baseball with compensation picks. A team is giving up something and it does limit a player’s option. In this case, Bourn’s desire to play for the Mets. That’s all part of the collective bargaining agreement. The Players Association used to be exceedingly powerful and undefeated in court, but not any more.

Nonetheless, it has slowly given away things they once refused to cave on. Things such as revenue sharing and the soon-to-be-coming stringent luxury tax which is akin to a salary cap. The revenues have proven to be so large, and Major League Baseball’s willingness to share a greater slice of the pie have proven to make the two real partners.

Both have the common goal as money, and there’s too much of it now to squabble.

In the end, the Mets get to keep their pick and are saved from paying nearly $50 million for a .270 hitter. The Mets are building for the future and have made strides, but they are still not where they need to be. And, Bourn wasn’t going to take them there.

Nobody knows who will be that 11th pick, so we can’t justify claiming the Mets blew it. As far as Bourn goes, maybe he preferred the Mets, but with $48 million, he can visit New York any time he wants.

Feb 11

Mets Pitchers And Catchers Report Today With Several Questions

Pitchers and catchers report today in Port St. Lucie, although dozens of Mets are already in camp, which is the first encouraging sign of spring training.

As with most teams, the Mets have an array of issues and questions they must address over the next six weeks if they have hope of being competitive this season.

Gee: How healthy is he?

Gee: How healthy is he?

It begins with health and pitching, which for the Mets seem intertwined every spring. A competitive season needs a sound Johan Santana and Dillon Gee, with the Mets ideally getting 200 innings from each.

Gee is coming off surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm. He’s shown flashes, but hasn’t been projected any higher than a fourth starter. Then again, Gee has never pitched a complete season where he’s gotten over 30 starts. Obviously, if he can do that and approach 200 innings it would take strain from a makeshift bullpen.

As for Santana, this is his walk year. If he remains healthy and productive, the Mets have a chance to approach .500. However, regardless of how well he pitches the Mets will not pick up his option for 2014. Trading Santana is wishful thinking, but should they get lucky the Mets would have to assume a portion of Santana’s contract.

Complete and healthy seasons from Santana and Gee, plus the continued development of Matt Harvey will only begin to make up for the loss of R.A. Dickey, assuming, of course, he doesn’t fall back to his pre-Cy Young performance. Dickey is not the second coming of Tom Seaver, and last year was his first as a dominant pitcher. Still, it’s 20 fewer wins from the rotation.

Figuring the Mets break camp with their rotation intact, the next issue is their makeshift bullpen.

GM Sandy Alderson backtracked and Frank Francisco is the closer going in, but that’s written in pencil as he’s coming off elbow surgery. This means spring training is for the Mets to determine Francisco’s health or come up with another closer, probably Bobby Parnell or recently-signed Brandon Lyon.

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