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.

Nov 13

Not biting on Reyes to Marlins … yet.

The early reports are in, and they are saying Jose Reyes is close to a deal with the Miami Marlins. I’m just not buying it … at least not right now.

Reyes could very well “take his talents to South Beach,” but it is just too early in the free-agent process to think this is a done deal, and it has nothing to do with the Mets not getting a chance to submit what is speculated to be an artificial counter.

Rarely do these things get done this early. There are still visits to be made to Milwaukee and Detroit, and possibly Philadelphia should Jimmy Rollins bolt for San Francisco. The Marlins might have given Reyes an offer, but do you really think he’ll bite on the first numbers? Hardly. The Reyes camp will counter, especially if the contract is only three years as has been reported.

Reportedly, the CBA is close to being signed, so that doesn’t appear to be the obstacle I originally thought.

However, there are too many steps remaining in this process – especially if Reyes is in it just for the money – for him to accept the first offer. There’s still a ways to go.

 

Nov 05

Will there ever be a new culture?

We heard a lot about the Mets’ culture changing when Sandy Alderson was hired as GM and Terry Collins as manager. The atmosphere changed t0 a degree, but the Mets’ talent level remained roughly the same with once again, the pitching faltered and took the team down with it.

Looking back on the season there were three significant story lines outside of the newness of the front office and manager. The first half when the Mets found themselves over .500, the swirling question was whether, or when, they would deal Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez.

When the pitching went south it was about the thinness of the rotation and weak bullpen, highlighted by not having a closer, who was in Milwaukee because the team feared Rodriguez’s option.

The season was played against the backdrop of the Mets not being able to re-sign Jose Reyes because they wouldn’t want to – or don’t have – the resources to retain the All-Star shortstop.

All three were about money and the Wilpon’s legal and financial troubles because of the Madoff Ponzi scandal. The Wilpons received positive news in the courts that would reduce the damages, but those damages would still be significant. And, it doesn’t help that the team has a $25 million debt to Major League Baseball.

You can change the manager, general manager and upper management and that could change the culture somewhat, but real change begins with ownership and that hasn’t changed. With the budget always an overriding issue, we can never expect things to really change and Mets being an elite franchise.

Oct 14

Examining the market for Reyes.

In examining the potential market for Jose Reyes, we must first realize there are no concrete numbers. There’s “Carl Crawford Money,” as Fred Wilpon so eloquently called it. The $142 million over seven years given the Boston outfielder is the fuel behind speculation of Reyes’ reported quest of $100-plus million over seven years.

But, it is 0nly speculation, and we won’t have a frame of reference before the first offer is made and Reyes’ camp presents a counter. Until then, every number – including mine – is only an opinion. Reyes’ agent has not publicly stated any contractual demands.

What we do know is few teams can afford a $100 million contract, so the pool is pretty shallow.

So, let’s take a look at some of the teams reportedly in the mix for Reyes, their needs and what might be holding them back.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Boston: The Red Sox are a franchise in turmoil and realize they must do something dramatic to win back their emotional fan base. They have a need for a shortstop, leadoff hitter – Crawford doesn’t prefer that role – and, of course, to keep pace with the Yankees. They have the resources, even though they are burdened with several huge contracts, notably Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett. Plus, they’ll have to pay Jacoby Ellsbury in arbitration.

However, change should take money off the books in the form of David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew.

The Red Sox are not a stagnant organization. They made overtures for Reyes before and will likely do so again.

New York: As a matter of course, you have to list the Yankees because, well, afterall they are the Yankees. We know they have the money and could have even more of it if they don’t retain C.C. Sabathia.

However, pitching is their priority, and if they don’t bring back Sabathia they will throw it at C.J. Wilson or a cast of thousands.

The obstacles in signing Reyes will be in getting Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez – both with huge contracts and egos – to change their positions. That won’t happen. Jeter will not give up shortstop to move to third, even though Rodriguez will get more and more DH at-bats, especially with Jorge Posada not coming back.

A wild thought is would Reyes be willing to come to the Yankees to play the outfield? I don’t think he’ll do it, but what if the money was too good?

Just a thought.

Anaheim: Owner Arte Moreno has the money and shown to be a progressive owner. The team missed the playoffs the last two years and he’s not one to sit tight.

First things first, the Angels need to name a general manager, who’ll decide the team’s identity. One thing for sure, Reyes is better than Erick Aybar.

Chicago: I wouldn’t label the White Sox serious contenders, but with new manager Robin Ventura they are a team in transition. As a large market team needing to compete with the Cubs, they can’t be overlooked as they have g0ne after high profile players before.

Their current shortstop Alexei Ramirez tailed off last season, but has enough of a track record to where there isn’t a compelling need to move him.

The White Sox have several decisions to make, including pitcher Mark Buehrle, but I can see Reyes’ camp approaching them, if for no other reason to widen the pool.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Mets: We’ll see how serious the Mets are about Reyes when they have their exclusive negotiating window following the World Series. They say they’d like to keep him and have the money, but at the same time GM Sandy Alderson is talking about shaving $30 million off the payroll.

Alderson said the Mets would like to keep Reyes, he didn’t say they want to keep him, and there’s a difference. There seems to be so sense of urgency from the Mets on Reyes. That indifference could push him out the door.

When you big picture things, the Mets haven’t won with Reyes, and with their current financial situation might be better off using that money to fix several other holes.

Philadelphia: Shane Victorino will have to just accept Reyes. The Phillies, if they lose Jimmy Rollins, should come after Reyes hard. Ryan Howard’s injury would make it more compelling to add offense.

Remember when Andy Pettitte said he wouldn’t sign with the Red Sox because they are the Red Sox and he would always be a Yankee at heart? Nope. Reyes doesn’t have those feelings.

Philadelphia has the money and certainly doesn’t want to waste all that pitching with a stagnant offense. The Phillies will be players in this.

Milwaukee: Reyes has a supporter in Ryan Braun, and the Brewers seem resigned to have Prince Fielder leaving. If the Brewers lose in the playoffs, then have Fielder bolt, they’ll have to do something to keep the fan base.

Normally, you don’t think of the Brewers as a spending team, but things have changed with Miller Park and the franchise, while not crazy, is a little more liberal than it had been.

St. Louis: I have seen the Cardinals mentioned several times, but I don’t see the fit. St. Louis is committed in re-signing Albert Pujols, which is one reason they threw a lot of money at Matt Holliday.

Tony La Russa might be just the manager to get Reyes to reach his potential, but the Cardinals aren’t likely to add a third $100-plus million package.

Chicago: We know the Cubs have the money and a new regime, but they also have an excellent shortstop in Starlin Castro and their eyes on Fielder.

It won’t happen here.

San Francisco: Reportedly, the Giants don’t have, or want, to spend the money on what it would take to get Reyes, but I’m not buying it. There’s a sense of urgency for the Giants to return to the playoffs after winning the World Series in 2010.

They definitely have the pitching to take them there, but are lacking offense. Maybe, they’ll re-sign Carlos Beltran, but their need is a shortstop and speed. Reyes will still be a triples machine in that park.

Over the next couple of seasons, the Giants will have several contracts off the books, including Barry Zito’s in two years (no way will he get the innings for his option to be picked up in 2014).

Los Angeles: This is a team in worse financial straits than the Mets. Small wonder Joe Torre left.

 

Oct 12

Interesting how October is shaping up.

The networks must be loving baseball’s final four of Milwaukee, St. Louis, Texas and Detroit. Their thinking, of course, is any LCS without the Yankees and Red Sox, or a Chicago or Los Angeles team, can’t be worth watching.

Actually, I tend to root for the match-ups the networks least want to see.

FIELDER: Looking out the door.

I don’t care either way that the Yankees and Phillies are done. I realize many Mets’ fans were thrilled to see them lose, and I understand the initial burst of joy, but does it really matter? Is that what you’re going to take from the season?

Who cares what those teams do? Savoring them lose is admitting to an inferiority complex. The Mets have enough on their plate for their fans to worry about what the Yankees did.

After all, it doesn’t change what happened to the Mets. For a while, it looked as if the Mets would overachieve, but they finished as expected. I was thinking .500, which would have represented significant improvement – I never imagined the playoffs – and for a period they were fun to watch.

But, talent seeks its level and the Mets did what most of us thought they would.

Continue reading