Oct 11

What Should Mets Learn From Playoff Teams?

So far, this has been a compelling playoffs with the possibility of all four series going to a deciding fifth game. Major League Baseball is thrilled, and hopefully this trend will continue in the League Championship Series and World Series.

That’s what baseball should be about.

Hopefully, the Mets are taking notes. Four of the teams in the playoffs – Oakland, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington – have payrolls less than the $100 million the Mets shelled out this year for the joy of finishing 14 games below .500.

Here’s what the playoff teams have that the Mets lack:

1) Pitching: Both starting and bullpen are vital to winning. Always has been, always will be. That’s why I get frustrated when I hear complaints about the Mets’ lack of power. Home runs are the great eraser and the Yankees proved that last night. But, they were in position to win because of pitching. Three games against the Orioles and their starters reached the eighth inning each time. Unheard of. All of the teams have solid pitching and a good bullpen. As I wrote earlier today, Baltimore’s Darren O’Day is making $1.35 million this year, so it can be done inexpensively. However, that requires an aggressive front office and superior scouting, two areas where the Mets need improvement.

2) Strong minor league base: It would be foolish to say each of these teams were built solely on their farm system. Detroit and the Yankees all acquired significant talent from the outside, but there is core home grown talent from all. Just look at Matt Wieters, Joey Votto, Matt Cain and Bryce Harper. I would have mentioned Stephen Strasburg, but the Nationals pulled him from the playoffs. It could bite them in the butt, and what if the Nationals never get back here? It is possible. That is why it was encouraging this summer when several times the Mets fielded a full home grown-lineup and why I am opposed conceptually to trading Ike Davis. The Mets have a home product who hit 32 homers this year. Those don’t come along often, and rarely for the Mets. Davis is a start, along with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Ruben Tejada, not to mention David Wright. Bolstering the farm system and improving the scouting are essential for long-term growth. Free-agent signings should be to complement what’s already there.

3) Strong catching: Wieters is clearly the catcher with the most upside in the group. Regardless of how Russell Martin has played in October, the idea of pursuing him is outlandish and it was a ridiculous idea in the first place. Obviously, a slow news day. Martin is too old and too expensive for a rebuilding team, and let’s not kid ourselves, that defines the Mets. I was initially optimistic about Josh Thole, but those feelings have waned. He’s not hit for average or power and his defense has regressed. And, let’s not blame R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball for it. Catching is an issue, but I don’t believe it is as high on the Mets’ priority list as adding outfielders and relievers.

4) Timely hitting: It doesn’t get more timely than what Raul Ibanez did last night. The Mets were clutch in the first half, but their hitting with runners in scoring position disappeared in the second half. It all fell on Wright after the All-Star break and he couldn’t handle the strain. Each of these teams has an offensive core, hitters that concern an opposing manager. After Wright, and at times Davis, who is frightening in the Mets’ lineup. Scott Hairston had a good season coming off the bench, as Ibanez did, but after hitting 20 homers for the first time he might be too expensive to bring back.

5) Home field advantage: So far, it hasn’t helped San Francisco and Cincinnati, but nonetheless each of the teams in the postseason had a winning record at home. The Mets can’t ever be a serious contender until they learn to use Citi Field as an advantage. I understand the Catch-22, that part of that advantage is having people in the stands. The Mets need to improve the first four before this will take root. When Citi Field opened the Mets were vocal in saying they would build around pitching and defense, so naturally the first thing they did was sign Jason Bay. That’s the final lesson I hope the Mets learn …

6) Have a plan: Where are the Mets headed? If they don’t bring back Wright and Dickey, then it is back to square one. The team is operating as if they have no money and that’s a discouraging sign. GM Sandy Alderson said the team had the resources to add at the trade deadline, but waited until the team had fallen out of contention before deciding it was too late. On one hand, the Mets are singing the praises of their young pitching, but on the other it is exploring trading Davis, and could not bring back Wright or Dickey. What gives?

 

 

Sep 12

Mets Announce 2013 Schedule

With the Mets playing out the string, what better time to announce the 2013 schedule, which is crazier than usual.

One good thing is the Mets and Yankees only play four games, scheduled in back-to-back two game series at the end of May.

On the flip side, interleague play is spread out throughout the season. You all know what this blog thinks of interleague play, so there’s no use in going through that now. One interleague comment, however, is the absurdity of scheduling something in September. In fact, the Mets have four series in September out of their division. They also have four series against teams that will only make one trip to Citi Field, which opens up the possibility to long rain delays and  awkward make-up dates later in the season.

Here’s the schedule. Times not announced.

1, 3, 4 vs. Padres

5, 6, 7 vs. Marlins

8, 9, 10 at Phillies

12, 13, 14 at Twins

15, 16, 17, 18 at Rockies

19, 20, 21 vs. Nationals
23, 24, 25 vs. Dodgers
26, 27, 28 vs. Phillies
29, 30 at Marlins
MAY
1 at Marlins
3, 4, 5 at Braves
7, 8 vs. White Sox
9, 10, 11, 12 vs. Pirates
13, 14, 15, 16 at Cardinals
17, 18, 19 at Cubs
20, 21, 22 vs. Reds
24, 25, 26 vs. Braves
27, 28 vs. Yankees
29, 30 at Yankees
31 at MarlinsJUNE
1, 2 at Marlins
4, 5, 6 at Nationals
7, 8, 9 vs. Marlins
11, 12, 13 vs. Cardinals
14, 15, 16 vs. Cubs
17, 18, 19, 20 at Braves
21, 22, 23 at Phillies
25, 26 at White Sox
28, 29, 30 vs. Nationals

JULY
1, 2, 3, 4 vs. Diamondbacks
5, 6, 7 at Brewers
8, 9, 10 at Giants
12, 13, 14 at Pirates

16 All-Star Game at Citi Field

19, 20, 21 vs. Phillies
22, 23, 24, 25 vs. Braves
26, 27, 28 at Nationals
29, 30, 31 at Marlins

AUGUST
1 at Marlins
2, 3, 4 vs. Royals
6, 7, 8 vs. Rockies
9, 10, 11 at Diamondbacks
12, 13, 14 at Dodgers
15, 16, 17, 18 at Padres
20, 21 vs. Braves
23, 24, 25 vs. Tigers
26, 27, 28, 29 vs. Phillies
30, 31 at Nationals

SEPTEMBER
1 at Nationals
2, 3, 4 at Braves
6, 7, 8 at Indians
9, 10, 11, 12 vs. Nationals
13, 14, 15 vs. Marlins
17, 18, 19 vs. Giants
20, 21, 22 at Phillies
23, 24, 25 at Reds
26, 27, 28, 29 vs. Brewers

Jul 23

Mets Now Fading Into Sellers?

Falling below .500, the Mets are no longer the National League’s feel-good story. That would be Pittsburgh and Washington, two perennial losers poking on top of their respective divisions.

As the Mets struggled the past weeks and faded, they resisted the urge to buy relief help, the commodity that will define this season. Mathematically, they remain alive, but watching those long faces in the dugout yesterday afternoon in the 12th inning, one can surmise the frowns greater than the math.

They might have another run in them, but they must start it against the Nationals, followed by ten games in the Pacific Time Zone. Yeah, no problem.

As the Mets transform from buyers into sellers, just who do the have worth putting on the block. David Wright, Daniel Murphy and R.A. Dickey would bring the most, but they are the core to next year and those beyond.

Any of their relievers, save Bobby Parnell and maybe Tim Byrdak can be had.  Byrdak, actually could bring something if the Mets were to call it quits. Off the bench, Scott Hairston and Jordany Valdespin might bring some value, but I’d like to keep both.

As the story of this season is written, things unraveled first with the bullpen and then the starting pitching. The offense, while not great, has been good enough to put them into contention.

 

 

Jul 22

Mets Swept By Dodgers In Ugly Weekend

There probably have been worse weekends, and uglier stretches in Mets’ history. Perhaps, during the collapse of 2007. However, their current freefall is gathering momentum in its brutality.

Three games against the Dodgers; three comebacks that fell short. Today’s took them 12 innings before the Dodgers stopped fooling around and hit the Mets’ pen with a five spot.

The Mets have lost nine of ten games with the Nationals coming into Citi Field for a three-game series tomorrow. Then, they are off to the West Coast to continue a stretch of 20 straight games without a day off.

Evidently, MLB uses the same schedulers as the NBA.

The Mets face this stretch with Johan Santana on the DL – not that it matters – and a stop-gap starter for Wednesday. David Wright is starting to cool, and Jason Bay has never thawed. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are also struggling.

The Mets are hitting the icy patch in their schedule as expected. For three months they more than held serve. Actually, they might have played over their heads, although that’s something they’ll vehemently deny.

What they can’t deny, after dipping below .500 for the first time this season, is things are slipping away and it won’t be soon before adding help will become a moot point.

Jul 21

Mets Considering Shutdown Options With Santana

After another horrid start by Johan Santana – at least six runs in last three starts – the Mets are clearly worried about his arm. They insist he’s not injured of this related to his high pitch count in his no-hitter.

Maybe they are correct. Maybe it’s denial. But, something isn’t right with Santana and you don’t have to be a pitching coach to see it. His fastball last night clocked at two, three mph., slower than it had been. He’s also not challenging hitters as he used to. In previous seasons, and maybe earlier this year, he would have challenged Matt Kemp instead of having Josh Thole set up in the left-handed batters box.

The Mets are considering pushing him back a start, skipping him in the rotation altogether and putting him on the DL to “get some energy back in his arm,” said Terry Collins.

Over his last three starts, Santana has given up 19 earned runs over 12.2 innings for a lofty 13.50 ERA. ), and became just the third pitcher in franchise history to give up six or more earned runs in three consecutive starts.

Santana insists his health is fine, but that the problem is not commanding his fastball. If something were wrong, the competitor in him wouldn’t allow him to admit it, just gut it out. Even so his ERA is 3.98 ERA, over a run higher than at the time of the no-hitter (2.75).

Santana’s next scheduled start is Wednesday afternoon against the Nationals. We’ll see. I’ll take the DL option just to shut it all down and start over.