May 05

Even against the best, the Mets had chances.

We saw what the Mets could do a week ago.  They were proficient in tacking on runs, scoring late and getting hits with two outs, and – surprise – with runners in scoring position.

CAPUANO: Strong effort wasted.

 

However, they were also doing that against Houston, Arizona and Washington. Teams not much better than them.

Now we are seeing what they can, or should I say, can’t do against the National League’s elite arms.

They were taken down last night by Tim Lincecum. Before that it was Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Those games also featured wasted pitching outings by Jon Niese, Chris Young and Chris Capuano.

Maybe it will get better when Jason Bay and Angel Pagan return, but their absence is really no excuse. Major league hitters must find away to manufacture runs. Even against the best, the Mets must play better than their current pace, which would net them 65 victories.

That’s good enough for last place, not much more.

As dominating as Lincecum was last night, the Mets left nine runners on base and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They had their chances.

This isn’t a team without opportunities. This is a team not good enough to convert them.

ON DECK: Even though he is playing well, Beltran will be tough to deal.

 

May 04

It won’t get easier against Lincecum.

The Mets have lost four of their last five games after winning six straight, and it won’t get likely won’t get any easier against Tim Lincecum, their third Cy Young Award winning pitcher over their last four games, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay being the others.

LINCECUM: Presents a big challenge.

Lincecum is 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA, numbers that say he’s not getting any run support. Of course, the Giants’ offense is why there’s been a lot of Jose Reyes talk the past couple of days. Yes, the Giants are interested. Why wouldn’t they be?  There are other teams as well, but let’s face it, only a few that can afford to sign him to a long-term deal.

Reyes reached base six times last night to raise his on-base percentage to .377, which isn’t what neither him nor the Mets would like it to be. Reyes has been hot over his last 12 games, hitting .367 with four doubles and eight runs scored in that span.

The Mets are wondering what to do with Dillon Gee, and a spot in the rotation isn’t out of the question should Chris Capuano struggle tonight. Capuano has alternated wins and losses in his last four starts. He gave up four runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings in his last start Thursday at Washington. The week before he gave up one run in seven innings against Houston.

During his pre-game talk with the media, manager Terry Collins touched on the following issues:

* Jason Bay will return to the lineup tomorrow after leaving the team on paternity leave.

* Johan Santana is progressing in his rehab, but didn’t offer a date when he’ll start throwing off the mound. Until that, it’s all speculation.

* Angel Pagan is maybe a week away from returning from the disabled list.

To talk about the Mets tonight, click onto the Mets Chat icon to your left.

 

May 04

Reyes trade rumors simmering again.

There’s buzz today after Jose Reyes’ stellar game Tuesday night when he reached base six times, unbelievably three times on walks.

REYES: We like his uniform dirty.

It is the kind of game the Mets routinely expect from Reyes, but one not often received the last two seasons because of a variety of injuries.

That the Mets couldn’t parlay such a performance into victory says that as potentially potent Reyes can be, this team still has weaknesses it must fix before it can return to contender status. These are holes that can be filled in part by what Reyes might bring back in a trade.

Bottom line: The Mets aren’t a contender now with Reyes and likely won’t be one if they deal him without making complementary deals.

Reyes passed the audition in the eyes of the San Francisco Giants, who, like every other team are discussing their options, of who interests them and whom they are willing to offer.

It is too early for serious trade discussions, but not too early to laying the foundation for when things heat up in June and July.

The Giants have not made and offer to the Mets for Reyes, but are doing their research. For the Giants, they will undoubtedly ask for a negotiating window, but if denied, San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean should have already decided whether he will sacrifice one of their top pitching talents or prospects to acquire Reyes as a rental.

From the Mets’ perspective, general manager Sandy Alderson must decide whether the return off prospects from the Giants, or Boston, or whomever wants Reyes, is greater than the draft picks they would get should the All-Star shortstop leave via free agency.

Alderson wanted to see two things from Reyes before deciding the 27-year-old shortstop’s fate in New York. The first was Reyes’ health, especially his legs and the first returns have been positive, although I find it puzzling as to why he didn’t try to steal second late in the game.

Secondly, Alderson wanted to see Reyes perform and for the most part he has with a .325 average and 11 steals in 29 games, but there were concerns about his on-base percentage before it surged to .377 last night. Still, an elite leadoff hitter, as Reyes is supposed to be, should be north of .400.

Reyes’ career on-base percentage is .336 and he has averaged 81 strikeouts and 51 walks a year during his career. The latter two numbers need to be reversed.

Reportedly the asking price for Reyes is a package of $100 million-plus, which Alderson said the Mets can afford, although they might not have much left for little else. With Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and likely Francisco Rodriguez off the books there should be plenty of money left after this season to bring back Reyes if they really wanted.

The Mets don’t appear inclined to push things with Reyes. Alderson said he’s not adverse to talking contract during the season, although Reyes has said to the contrary.

Alderson still has time to see if Reyes remains healthy and productive. Whether Reyes stays or not, the Mets will receive something in return.

What they really must decide is if they want Reyes instead.

 

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.

 

May 02

Mets win, NY wins, US wins.

I woke up around 6 , turned on the TV and he was still dead.

The flag endures.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and it will be one of those moments that  you’ll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. For those who learned on ESPN last night, it was reminiscent of hearing John Lennon was murdered while watching Monday Football.

I was home channel surfing when I heard. I called a few friends and became mesmerized by the images on the screen. Just like when watching the Japan earthquake, Katrina, Columbine, and, of course, September 11. There is no script to history. It just relentless attacks us and grabs us by the scruff of the neck and shakes. It shook me to about 4 in the morning.

Flipping back to the Mets game, where it was tied in the ninth, 1-1 — 9-1-1. You don’t find irony or symbolism like that too often. It was  inspiring to hear the crowd spontaneously chanting, U-S-A, U-S-A. Sometimes the chant sounds forced and cliche. Not last night.

“I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit. But they got this one right,” said David Wright when asked about the chanting.

Yes, the Mets won, but the crowd reaction is what we’ll remember and take with us, much as we do the images of that day.

I was covering the Yankees at the time and took the weekend off to move to New York from Maryland. I was on the Jersey Turnpike just north of the Philadelphia exit when the planes hit the towers. Because all the bridges were closed what was normally a five-hour trip became 11. My movers were volunteer firefighters. My furniture didn’t arrive for several more days.

That week was spent covering workouts at Yankee Stadium and watching the Shea Stadium parking lot used for a staging ground for the EMS workers. It was inspiring to see Bobby Valentine and his Mets, in uniform, help the workers load trucks.

And, when the games finally resumed, we witnessed one of the most memorable home runs in New York history, Mike Piazza’s drive that beat the Braves. The Mets and Braves were mortal enemies at the time, and their display of unity that night was another memory. It was another example of how sports can be unifying.

So much has happened in the ten years since, and we’ve changed personally and as a nation in so many ways, and for a baseball writer it goes well beyond the joys of traveling, from the pat downs to the long lines to the general uneasiness of strangers.

I live in a small town in Connecticut, and the fallout hits here, too.

What small town doesn’t have a 9-1-1 Memorial? Who among us doesn’t know someone lost in the attacks and the subsequent military actions in the Middle East? The failing economy is a byproduct of that day, and with it the foreclosure signs, layoffs and stress of trying to make ends meet. Who among us doesn’t cringe when filling up our tanks and wonder when things will ever get back to normal.

Or, is this normal?

I hope you’ll share with us what you were doing that day.