Dec 13

The Times, They Are A Changin’

jeff wilpon winter meetings

Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post

Maybe this really is a sign the Mets are back in the business of brandishing, pairing the Colon signing with Curtis Granderson and seemingly stating, for the first time in forever, Madoff’s $50 billion lie finally has stopped chiseling away at their finances and their foundation. The Wilpons and the Katz’s have been steadfast in their argument that Madoff didn’t kill their baseball team as much as you would believe, but the counter evidence of what has become of the Mets these last five years is compelling.

Remember, before Dec. 12, 2008, the Mets had taken on several varsity-level contracts — Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Billy Wagner, even Paul Lo Duca — and bought out the arbitration of their young stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright. The spending didn’t yield a title. But it did produce the best three-year stretch in franchise history, and puts a lie to the theory that whenever the Mets spend money, it winds up in flames. Before Dec. 12, 2008, the Mets had learned to behave like the Yankees — and had learned to like it, truth be told.

Bob Klapisch of The Record

But Jeff Wilpon had a rough day in several of the local newspapers Wednesday, including The Record, as he was challenged to do more after signing Curtis Granderson, and not to punt on the 2014 season. By mid afternoon, the Mets decided to yield to Colon’s demand for a second year. Just like that, the team had its temporary replacement for Matt Harvey.

Of course, Colon is not Harvey; that’s an understatement. And we’ll never know for sure whether the stinging criticism had anything to do with Wilpon’s sudden willingness to stretch the budget. But Mets fans shouldn’t be concerned about the particulars, because Colon is a legitimate front-of-the-rotation presence, despite his risks.

David Lennon of Newsday

The Mets just changed the conversation.

It took close to $90 million, and yesterday’s sizable risk in the extra-large Bartolo Colon. But for the time being, we’re done ripping the Mets for not reaching into their pockets to improve the team. The Mets were the only team to go to four years for Granderson, and with Colon now on board, it’s probably safe to say that no other club was willing to do two. But that’s what we ultimately needed to see from the Wilpons — some signs that they weren’t mailing in 2014 because of the injury to Harvey.

At least the Mets are making us feel like they are back in business. Rather than just hearing about blueprints and a multiyear rebuilding plan, we’re seeing the actual remodeling effort going on, with the addition of impact players who should make a difference right away — not five years from now. Spending money isn’t the answer to everything. But it does stop all the chatter about not having any. For the Mets, that has value.

Thoughts from Joe D.

I beat the Wilpons up all the time, actually I kill them all the time… But to be fair, they are giving Sandy Alderson the opportunity to spend and transform the roster this offseason. Sandy is getting a chance to buy and not just sell. Vaccaro, Lennon and Klapisch do a nice job of conveying that. The Mets do seem to be back in business and regardless of what you think of the moves, just be happy that we can make moves like this again. LGM

Presented By Diehards

May 15

Thoughts On Terry Collins Blasting the Fans

COLLINS: Lashes at fans.

COLLINS LASHES AT FANS OVER VALDESPIN ISSUE

Terry Collins did what no manager should do, especially one with a career losing record likely to be made a scapegoat for what figures to be the Mets’ fifth consecutive losing season.

Collins, who has been erratic and puzzling on several issues this season, took on the exceedingly frustrated Mets’ fan base Tuesday night, basically calling them clueless and he didn’t care for their perception of his team, which is rapidly falling out of relevance before June.

Not surprisingly, the catalyst for Collins’ anger was the lingering Jordany Valdespin issue. Neither Collins nor general manager Sandy Alderson has been able to get through to Valdespin, and both handled his self-glorifying home run and subsequent beaning poorly.

If the Mets were winning, it would have gone away. Because they are not and in the midst of a stretch that could blow up their season, Valdespin is an issue.

After Valdespin’s homer last Friday in a blowout loss, Collins alluded to the possibility of the temperamental outfielder getting beaned as payback. Collins spoke of baseball’s unwritten code, and how Valdespin’s attitude is the norm and he couldn’t do anything about it.

Basically, he left it up to the Pirates teach his player a lesson, when what he should have done was rip Valdespin’s actions. Collins could have also told Pirates manager Clint Hurdle he would handle Valdespin.

By not doing so, Collins invited the Pirates to throw at his player. After the plunking, Collins pretty much said, “that’s baseball,’’ and Alderson took the same milquetoast approach.

No Met approached Valdespin after his dugout temper tantrum, and only David Wright offered any verbal support. The perception is the Mets don’t have Valdespin’s back, and several nameless quotes say he is universally scorned in the clubhouse.

Collins was asked whether Valdespin is on an island and told reporters in St. Louis: “I don’t answer to fans. They don’t play this game. They have no idea what goes on. They have no idea what goes on in there.

“They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level. … I’ll tell you one thing: Jordany knew they were going to throw at him. He knew it. And you’ve got to go take your medicine. That’s part of being a big guy in this league.’’

If Valdespin knew he would get hit – and his reaction suggests he might be oblivious to the baseball code – then why would he put his player in that position?

Telling Hurdle he would handle things might have prevented the rib-banging pitch.

There are varying perceptions of the incident brought on by how Collins and Alderson handled things. Shipping Valdespin’s butt out the next day would have sent a strong message to the Pirates as well as his clubhouse his hot-dogging would not be tolerated.

The perception of that would have been clear and decisive. If nothing else, it would have shown Collins and his front office were in sync.

Instead, Collins put himself in position to handle another question of which its answer could grease the skids on his exit.

“I don’t care what the perception is,’’ Collins said. “All I know is what goes on here. I’ve been doing this for 42 years. I don’t care what anybody on the outside thinks.

“I know how to get it done in the clubhouse. I’ve been doing it a lot longer than a lot of people. He’s fine. He handled it great, I thought, the way he went about it. He went to first base. He didn’t throw his bat any place. … He did it the right way. And now it’s over. Now we move on.’’

Easier said than done, because Valdespin did not handle it the right way. No, he didn’t throw his bat or charge the mound, but he did slam his helmet, which prevents moving on.

Collins then went on to make excuses for Valdespin, saying he had a tough background. He also said Valdespin has to be careful not to alienate his teammates, which might already be the case.

One day, Collins spoke of baseball’s code and another made excuses for his polarizing player. You can’t help but wonder how Valdespin’s teammates might be annoyed by that defense.

Valdespin was not in the lineup Tuesday, and for a team struggling for offense, the perception is clear he’s on the outs. So, why is he still here?

Yes, Collins has been in the game for over 40 years, and in that time one would have thought he would have learned a few things.

One, managers are hired to be fired, so don’t align yourself with a seemingly lost cause like Valdespin, because by the time he gets it, you’ll be gone.

Secondly, this fire keeps on burning because Collins refused to put it out. He knows he could have given a neutral answer with the Cardinals media in the room, then after the session gathered the New York writers into his office for an off-the-record briefing. That way, his ripping the fans never gets out.

Finally, don’t take on the fans, as they always have the last word. That word is “boo,’’ and Collins will hear it loudly if things don’t change fast.

Thoughts from Joe D.

I get emails all day long asking me why don’t we let the story die. My answer to them we are not the story, the Mets are the story and we do what we’ve been doing which is to report and debate things as they happen.

Two weeks ago there were plenty here who told me that it was a non-story when I wrote that there was something amiss between Jordany Valdespin and his teammates in the clubhouse.

I picked up on that during the start of Spring Training when two players came into the clubhouse to find their lockers and said, “Thank god I’m nowhere near Valdespin’s locker.”

“Joe D. you are reading too much into things.”

I commented on the jokes that were made when Valdespin was hit right in the groin and lied on the ground in pain.

Then there was the pie.

All I did is what any rational and reasonable person who reports would do and connected the dots.

Now it’s a full blown controversy and the only story that anyone is talking about.

How can you hope it goes away when the General Manager only two days ago added more fuel to the fire by saying he wasn’t hung out to dry, and then learning that Valdespin ask out of going to the plate a second time after being plunked the first time. A fact that Collins even admitted to shortly after he ripped into the fans.

The Mets create the stories and it’s on the Mets to stop feeding us the stories, not me. I don’t have the power to keep players, coaches and management from saying things that are better left unsaid. I can fault the players for saying silly and inappropriate things, but when management does it how can you find that to be acceptable and professional behavior.

I agree with Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post regarding Collins who said:

Collins probably knew, as soon as he said this, he shouldn’t have said this. He knows the fastest way to be packing your belongings in boxes — faster than losing games in bunches — is to take on fans. Fans are undefeated. Fans are a franchise’s lifeblood. Fans …

 

Well, fans allow you to stay relevant, long past your expiration date. I’ve believed, and written, that Collins deserves a full and fair accounting before his time is done here. But Collins has also found trouble in Houston and Anaheim when the losing became too much for him. In both cities, he lost the players, and that’s bad enough (and judging from the listless way the Mets mailed in another game with the Cards last night, 10-4, that may be happening again).

My big concern right now is that the Mets are blind to their own problem. That means nothing is being done to keep more incidents like this one from taking place. The best way to fix a problem is to admit you have one. So far management seems to think everything is hunky-dory when it’s clearly not.

How many dog houses does Terry Collins have and why was Ruben Tejada apparently in one of them last night when the manager decided to scratch him from the starting lineup before last night’s trouncing at the hands of the Cardinals?

That factoid came from Eddie Coleman who is not known for exaggerating the truth and conjuring up false storylines. Eddie is as straight as an arrow.

Is there anyone else residing in these dog houses aside from Jordany Valdespin and Ruben Tejada and when are their parole dates?

I don’t make the stories, I just talk about them and ask the tough questions and am usually the first to do so. Ahh… the benefits of having an independent Mets site.

Apr 07

Zack Wheeler Very Close To Big League Debut

zack wheeler

According to Mark Hale of the New York Post, Triple-A manager Wally Backman believes Zack Wheeler is not far away from being promoted to the Mets despite his rough outing on Thursday, and drew comparisons to Matt Harvey.

“He is the same spot Matt Harvey was at last year, I would say,” Backman said of Wheeler in a phone interview with The Post Friday. “It’s a matter of command. I think it’s going to be a matter of consistency.”

“He struggled with command a little bit Thursday night. It was the first game. He was rushing a little bit. He showed signs of just dominating, and then he’d get a little bit erratic.”

Wheeler had big command issues walking three of the first six batters he faced. He was unable to complete the fourth inning after tossing 86 pitches in 3.1 innings.

Last season, Wheeler went 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA in six Triple-A starts, striking out 31 and walking 16 in 33 innings.

Mar 15

Ike Davis Merits An Extension, But Getting One Done Remains To Be Seen

ike-davisMets GM Sandy Alderson was a guest of Mark Hale and Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post on their podcast today, and he had some interesting things to say about a variety of Mets topics.

At one point, Hale brought up the possibility of signing Ike Davis to an extension and buying out his arbitration years, similar to the extension the Mets completed last spring with left-hander Jonathon Niese.

“We’re always looking at our young players to see if it makes sense, both from their standpoint and ours, to do complete something on a longterm basis,” Alderson said.

Ike Davis is coming off a big second half last year, showed up to camp in great shape and in great spirits, and we see him taking on a bigger leadership role in the clubhouse right behind Captain America – David Wright.”

“Any kind of an extension has to fit for us and it has to fit for the player. So it’s something we’ll keep an eye on. Sometimes the player is not interested, and sometimes the agent is not interested. It’s one of those things that has to work for both sides.”

We’ve discussed this topic a few times already this offseason, and back on January 22, I wrote the following regarding Ike Davis and the possibility of extending him:

Now that the Mets have avoided arbitration with Davis and both sides have agreed on a one-year deal worth $3.2 million dollars, the plot thickens somewhat.

Davis gets a hefty raise from the $500K he earned last season. It’s the first step to a four year process that will take his salary to the $15 million dollar a year range by 2016.

Even the $7-8 million dollars he most likely will earn in 2014 sounds like a tough nut to crack for a team who hasn’t doled out that much cash annually in a new contract to a player in many years, not counting their franchise player David Wright who just cashed in for $142 million through 2020. In fact, Jason Bay was the last of the Mohicans.

So will the Mets open their wallets and pay Ike Davis at a level commensurate with what other first basemen of his caliber get paid?

That’s tough to say and I remain skeptical. I don’t think it will happen. Niese signed a deal that averaged about $5 million a season for the next five years. It will take a lot more than that to get Davis to sign any extension.

As I’ve said before, I have yet to see any evidence that this front office will ever pay any player not named Wright at current market value levels. It’s simply not in their DNA.

I could be off base here, but I challenge the front office to go ahead and prove me wrong. In fact, I’d welcome it in Ike’s case.

I like ike button

Feb 25

Until The Product On The Field Improves, Mets Attendance Will Continue To Decline

mets fans

Josh Kosman of the NY Post is reporting that the Mets won’t have much money to play with this season and are expecting to lose more than $10 million this year as well as suffering a fifth straight year of declining attendance.

“There is little room this year to raise salaries,” said a source familiar with the team’s finances told the Post.

Last week, principal owner Fred Wilpon told reporters that the Mets’ money woes were over and suggested that he had the resources to boost payroll and sign some major free agents if that’s what Sandy Alderson chose to do.

“While attendance is expected to be down,” Kosman writes. “The team is banking on a small uptick in gate proceeds in its second season of so-called dynamic pricing, which allows ticket prices to be adjusted on the fly based on supply and demand.”

As I’ve said repeatedly and will say again, unless the product on the field improves, fans will continue to stay away. People don’t flock to ballparks and lay out a hundred bucks a game just because a team’s farm system ranks in the top ten. What matters most is wins and the players they pay to see.

As I’ve preached for the last two years, it looks like payroll will in fact be around $80 million in 2013 counting dollars that are actually being paid out. In July of 2011, many of my readers were aghast at that projection and yet here we are.

Next season, the Mets will have about $30 million in payroll commitments, give or take a few. Does anyone really expect Sandy Alderson to go out on a $70 million dollar spending spree? I don’t.

Read Kosman’s full article in the New York Post here.