Feb 22

Feb. 22.10: Koufax eyeing Perez.

Sandy Koufax is back in camp, taking a special look at Oliver Perez today. There’s something about Koufax. He’s worked with other Mets, and other players, before, and it has translated well. Perhaps it is his demeanor and touch.

Not all great athletes can teach, but Koufax has been able to impart something to others. Well, others have tried with Perez, from Pedro Martinez to Johan Santana, but nothing has stuck. Maybe this time will be different. At least, let’s hope so.

Word is Perez is healthy and in shape after working out at a sports institute in Arizona in the offseason. He’s won 15 games before, so the potential and history is there, but he’s also shown an aptitude for wildness and disaster. Perez is a wild card for the Mets. He does well and the team can be competitive; he does poorly and he can take the Mets down with him.

Feb 22

Feb. 22.10: Wright cut right.

David Wright spent a lot of time this offseason working out to get himself ready for the season, and that included eating right. Jeff Francoeur said Wright is chiseled.

The new-and-improved Wright brought some criticism, with some suggesting why he didn’t do this earlier in his career. I can’t see that. Wright has always been one of the hardest working Mets, and to suggest he hadn’t put the effort in previously is unfair. I’ve always known Wright to come to camp early and as one of the team’s hardest working players.

Last year was a bad one for him, both mentally and physically. That he recognized that and stepped up his program is to commended, not second guessed. Wright has always taken a leadership role with this team, but until last season he’s lead a charmed life. To work harder after adversity only affirms his leadership responsibilities.

I see a big year for Wright, with him again reaching his career norms in power and run production. And, with Carlos Beltran out early and Carlos Delgado gone, it will truly be his locker room and his team.

Feb 18

Feb. 18.10: Pitchers and catchers report with issues.

Finally, pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie today, and with them, more than a few issues that comprise the 2010 New York Mets.

It seems like forever since the Mets were last in the playoffs, but consecutive collapses and last summer’s injury-riddled freefall have us wondering if fourth place in the NL East was an aberration or a realistic assessment.

Assuming for a moment David Wright’s goal is realistic, that the World Series is realistic, it won’t happen just by saying so. For the Mets to compete, never mind win it all, the following questions must be answered in the positive during spring training:

Question: What is this team’s attitude?
Assessment: Wright is correct, this team has to use embarrassment as a motivator. There were too many games last year where the Mets just mailed it in, too many games where their heart wasn’t in it. This was also not a thinking team, whether it be on the bases, in the field or at the plate. The Mets gave away far too many outs on the field and at-bats at the plate.

Question: How healthy is this team?
Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and already Carlos Beltran won’t be ready for the first month and set-up reliever Kelvim Escobar is behind with shoulder issues. The early signs are positive for Jose Reyes, Jeff Francoeur, Oliver Perez and Johan Santana, all of who are coming off surgery. Of course, they must pass the test under game conditions.

Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?
Assessment: How far the Mets go this season is dependant on their pitching, and all three represent significant concerns. The Mets didn’t make any rotation additions this winter because they believe in the upside of these three. Pelfrey took a step back last season; Perez, who has always been erratic, spent the offseason working out and the reports have been good; and Maine is in his second year since surgery.

Question: Who is fifth starter?
Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Pat Misch and Nelson Figueroa are all in the mix. None represent givens. The fifth starter probably won’t matter until the end of April, but that still leaves five months where every fifth day a question takes the mound unless somebody steps forward.

Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?
Assessment: The bullpen took the Mets deep into the 2006 playoffs, but played a significant role into the collapses of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Closer Francisco Rodriguez can be an adventure at times and there’s no dependable set-up man. Pedro Feliciano was run into the ground last summer, and other than him where are the consistent arms in situational roles.

Feb 13

Feb. 13.10: Looking at Perez.

The Mets spent a lot of time this offseason with Oliver Perez, visiting him once a month at the Fischer Sports Physical Therapy in Arizona. They also checked in on him at his Mexico home.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen said Perez became lackadaisical and “slipped into cruise mode,” after landing the big contract. He didn’t come into camp in good shape and was set back after the World Baseball Classic.

The Mets are saying Perez has changed, that he’s in good shape and optimistic about this season. You’ll have to excuse me as I’ve heard that refrain before. I wrote the other day of how you could look at Perez and it is true. He’s young, he’s won before, he’s got a great arm – you know, the party line the last three summers.

It’s all true. So to, have been his brain cramps, wildness and inconsistency.

It’s tempting to look at Perez’s shortcomings and think the worst, which I’ve done. I’m not ready to think the best, but I think I’ll look at him this way. If he pitches poorly, which he’s sure to do, I’ll try not to get upset. Instead I’ll try to think, “well, that’s not surprising.”

And, if he pitches well, and that will happen at times, I’ll try to be pleasantly surprised. There should be less anxiety that way.

Jan 26

Jan. 26.10: Sheets seems headed to Oakland; the rest of the market.

Ben Sheets appears to be headed to Oakland, yup, as far away from Citi Field as possible. That’s Oakland, a team, that does things on the cheap.

I can’t say how serious the Mets were, but they couldn’t have been that intent on getting.

Who’s left?

Jon Garland, John Smoltz, Jarrod Washburn and Chien-Ming Wang. Garland and Washburn are starters, and could pass as No. 5s, but didn’t we open the offseason thinking the Mets needed a No. 2?

Wang won’t be available until May and Smoltz would go to the pen.

The Mets are also looking at bringing back Fernando Tatis to platoon with Daniel Murphy at first base.