Nov 02

Mets Gambled And Lost On Johan Santana; End Era By Buying Out Contract

The New York Mets took care of business and officially parted ways with often-injured Johan Santana when they paid a $5.5-million buyout Friday, and the classy left-hander, who always wanted to do more – sometimes to his detriment – did the same and thanked the franchise and its fans for their support.

In a statement, Santana said: “I want to thank the Mets organization, my teammates, and, of course, a big thank you to Mets fans, who have been behind me from day one and stood by me through all the good and bad.’’

SANTANA: Era ends.

SANTANA: Era ends.

It was a noble gesture from Santana, something he didn’t have to do after completion of the six-year, $137.5-million contract that made him the highest-paid Mets’ pitcher.

The Mets have not ruled out bringing back Santana at a low-cost deal – which would be on top of the buyout – and toward that end, the left-hander lobbied on his behalf.

“I am not sure what the future holds, as this is all new to me,’’ Santana continued, “but I have every intention of pitching in 2014 and beyond and I am certainly keeping all my options open.’’

After losing in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicking away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets gambled big on Santana. They sent four prospects to Minnesota – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – to acquire the already damaged left-hander. Then they signed him at the time to the richest contract in franchise history.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so in essence the Mets were bidding against themselves, and arguably could have had him for less. Subsequently, they issued a contract they didn’t have to at that price. Clearly, they mis-read the market. The deal turned out to symbolize then-GM Omar Minaya’s tenure that included a run of lucrative, underachieving contracts.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries. If a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

That no-hitter came in just his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran was ruled a foul ball. If that call is made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, at least publicly, both sides are open for a return. But, don’t bet on it.

Oct 23

Minaya Hopes To See Beltran Get That Ring

Carlos = Beltran

Omar Minaya is rooting hard for Carlos Beltran to get that World Series Ring, Reports Bob Klapisch of The Record.

“I feel great for Carlos, because I still think he was the best center fielder of his time,” Minaya said by telephone Tuesday. “I’ve known him since high school in Puerto Rico and he’s always been that same person: not just a great ballplayer, but a great human being. When people like that get to the World Series, it makes you feel proud.”

Minaya has no hard feeling towards the Wilpons, whom he said had little choice but to fire him and Jerry Manuel after the collapse in Flushing was beyond repair.

“We did have a great thing going, but in New York, you have to win. I get that,” Minaya said. “We had a great season in ’06, but to lose the way we did in ’07 and ’08 at the very end … when you go out like that two years in a row, changes have to be made.”

I’m amazed at how many Met fans still define Beltran’s career by that one at-bat, seemingly ignoring the fact he carried the Mets to that Game 7 of the NLCS with a tremendous regular season and post season performance.

As Klapisch points out, Beltran was in the wrong place at the wrong time, expecting a fastball with a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth.

So to any Mets fan who still feels Beltran hasn’t fully paid his debts for 2006, consider the journey. He knows about pain, although there’s never been a hint of his suffering. Beltran is baseball’s equivalent of Mr. Spock – neutral and unruffled are in his genetic coding. He told The New York Times recently, “For me, being able to get so close and never being able to get to the World Series, all that has done is give me motivation to come every year, work hard, prepare myself and try to get there.”

Clearly, the commitment has paid a monster dividend: In two seasons with the Cardinals, Beltran has hit .282 with 56 home runs, and, just as importantly, hasn’t spent any time on the disabled list. His trade to the Giants in 2011 also netted the Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, which means, in all fairness, the account is paid in full.

As for what’s next as Beltran heads into the offseason, it’s becoming painfully clear that future Hall of Famer could be heading to the Bronx according to what baseball people are telling Klapisch.

It would suck to see him come to New York and play for the other team.

Sep 28

Mets’ David Wright On Iconic Path

The New York Mets have had one iconic player in their history, that being Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.

Should he remain healthy and play out his contract at his current pace, they will have another in David Wright.

WRIGHT: On iconic path,

WRIGHT: On iconic path,

When Wright signed his mega-contract he did it with the idea of retiring a Met, just as Mariano Rivera is doing with the Yankees, and Derek Jeter will follow.

“I want to retire with the Mets,’’ Wright said. “That’s very important to me.’’

Wright isn’t boastful, but definitely proud of the way he’s perceived not only by his teammates and management, but the fans.

That is why, with nothing to play for, Wright worked hard to come back from his hamstring and hopes to be in the lineup tonight despite having a jammed thumb.

Wright, who has a Rivera jersey hanging in his locker, did not play Friday after being hit in the head the previous night and jammed his thumb as he fell.

With the baseball eyes of New York fixated on Rivera’s retirement and whether Robinson Cano will bolt the Yankees for the last dollar, Wright carries on almost unnoticed.

With the exception being his clubhouse, where Collins is most appreciative.

“I think when David Wright’s days are done here, he’ll be thought of in that light,’’ Collins said. “He’ll hold every record there is in this organization. He’ll have every offensive record there is.

“And I know one of the things you’ve heard and mentioned so many times [during the Yankee Stadium ceremony] was Mariano Rivera off the field, how he is in the clubhouse, how he is in real life. This guy is the same way.’’

You have two more days to enjoy Wright until next spring.

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Sep 14

Lucas Duda Getting His Chance To Shine

When New York Mets manager Terry Collins railed at his listless team for not taking advantage of the opportunity to make an impression toward 2014, he had Lucas Duda in mind.

“This is his chance to play every day at first base. That’s where he likes to play,’’ Collins said last night. “We’re hoping he relaxes at the plate. He doesn’t have to worry about playing defense because he knows he can play first.’’

DUDA: Marlin mashing. (Getty)

DUDA: Marlin mashing. (Getty)

This is the third year the Mets hoped Duda would emerge as their lefty-hitting slugger, and the third time he has disappointed.

However, in Friday night’s 4-3 victory over Miami, Duda responded with a three-run homer in his chance to play with the injured Ike Davis sidelined. Duda has outperformed Davis statistically this season, hitting .236 with 13 homers, 30 RBI and a much-improved .351 on-base percentage.

Even so, Davis has the 32-homer 2012 season on his resume.

The Mets began the season with the offensive approach of patience, of working the count, waiting for and then driving your pitch. The rap on Duda was he became too selective and subsequently too passive at the plate.

But, playing in New York is about right-now production and Duda’s critics were far less patient with him than he was at the plate. While the final two weeks is about making an impression over Davis, everybody knows there will be a sense of urgency come spring training.

The experiment at the start of the year of Duda in left field – after playing right field the previous season – is over. It effectively ended when Duda went on the disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle. Duda lacks speed and range to complement his poor defensive skills, and there was no way he’d get back in the lineup after the acquisition of Eric Young.

At one time this summer there was the feeling the Mets would not tender a contract to Davis and Duda would get first base by default. However, Duda’s power output wasn’t what the Mets hoped, and when Davis showed signs of patience after his return from Triple-A, management’s thinking changed to keeping Davis and have the two battle it out in spring training.

Part of their thinking is that whoever wins, it will be an inexpensive option, and with first base covered they could fill other holes.

The Mets won’t carry two lefty first basemen, and with right-handed hitting Josh Satin available in a platoon, the loser would either go to the minors or be traded.

The homer last night is what the Mets want, but after the game Duda wouldn’t bite on reporters’ questions speculating the future.

“I’m just more concerned with winning and playing well,’’ Duda said. “Whatever they do is up to them. I’m just going to play hard, have fun, and hopefully continue to win.’’

Those comments are about playing the good soldier and saying the right thing, but what the Mets really need from his is to be aggressive and mash.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 11

Reports Say Japanese Phenom Masahiro Tanaka Will Post For MLB After Season

masahiro tanaka

Brett Bull of the New York Times reports that 24-year old Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka, who improved to 20-0 on the season after a 3-2 complete game victory last night, will request to be posted for Major League Baseball at the end of this season.

News media outlets in Japan are suggesting that Tanaka will request the Eagles put him up for auction via the posting system later this year. Such a move will make him the most sought-after Japanese export since Yu Darvish, one of baseball’s best pitchers, and a member of the Texas Rangers for the last two seasons.

With last night’s victory, Tanaka now has 24 consecutive wins, a streak that matches the major league mark in the United States set by the New York Giants’ Carl Hubbell in 1936-37.

Interestingly enough, his latest win came thanks to a tie-breaking homer from former Mets Kazuo Matsui. After recording the final out on a called third strike, he emphatically pumped his fist toward third base as the home crowd of 22,316 roared.

“It was a true team effort,” Tanaka said. “In the future, I’ll do my best to continue.”

The 6-foot-2 right-hander has an arsenal that includes a fastball that touches 95 mph, a sharp-breaking slider and a split-finger fastball. In his 24 starts this season, he has 1.24 ERA while striking out 155 batters over 181 innings. It’s the third straight season he’s has an ERA under 2.00, and earlier this season he had a streak of 42 scoreless innings.

What’s amazing here is that he’s only 24 and getting better. Earlier this week, Ben Badler of Baseball America tweeted the following:

If his team does post him this Fall or Winter, expect some high bids from teams like the Dodgers, D’Backs, Rangers, Mariners, Yankees and Braves. All six teams were on hand to see him win his 20th game.

“I’ve always liked his slider, but his split-finger has really come on in the last couple of seasons,” said one MLB scout. “He definitely has enough velocity to play at the major league level, and the other two pitches would compete for sure.”

I know I’m just dreaming, but I miss the days when the Mets wouldn’t be discounted from any serious pursuit of players like Tanaka or Cuban sensation Jose Abreu.