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 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 15

Feb. 15.10: Who’s primed for a breakout year?

When you look at all the Mets’ issues, it must be remembered the flip side is also true and that the positive could happen. No, today I’m not looking at who I consider the most important Met to be – for me it is Jose Reyes in the field and Mike Pelfrey on the mound – but the guy poised for a breakout season. By that, I mean his best year and finally showing signs of potential.

MAINE: Could this be a breakout year?

MAINE: Could this be a breakout year?


What’s your gut telling you?

Will one of the catchers step up and shed the platoon label?
Will Daniel Murphy show some power?
Will Pelfrey, John Maine or Oliver Perez shake the inconsistency label and win north of 15 games?
Will Jeff Francoeur become the power the Braves once projected of him?

Scanning the Mets’ roster, two names immediately grab my attention as possibilities for breakout seasons: Murphy and Maine.

I like Murphy to have a big year because of last year was a learn-on-the-job experience which he picked up fairly well. I also believe with a full year of learning the pitchers and getting stronger, that his power numbers should increase. He won’t hit 40, but 20 would be a significant improvement.

I’m also liking Maine because all indications are he’s healthy. Sometimes, it is the second year after the surgery when a pitcher feels comfortable again. I believe Pelfrey will improve; have no clue about Perez, but I’m trying to think positive; but I think Maine is poised to have a year better than 2007 when he won 15 games.

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.

Feb 12

Feb. 12.10: Trying to be positive.

I know, I know, some of you will think that’s impossible, or that you’ve stumbled on to a different blog. But, today, on the heels of Bill James’ prediction of the Mets’ rotation, I’ll be trying to come up with some reasons to think positive about Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and yes, even Oliver Perez.

PELFREY: A 2010 key.

PELFREY: A 2010 key.


The inspiration comes after reading where James predicted the following seasons for Pelfrey (9-12, 4.45 ERA), Perez (8-11, 4.73) and Maine (9-9, 3.86 ERA). If James is close on the three, I don’t have to tell you what kind of season the Mets will have.

PELFREY: Pelfrey, despite taking a step back, went 10-12 with a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts. Pelfrey is only 26, young enough to believe there’s room for growth. Pelfrey made strides in 2008 and showed several glimpses of that form last year. With 31 starts, he’s proven to be durable. There’s reason to be hopeful about him. It would be premature to bail on him now.

PEREZ: Perez was hurt last season and went 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA in 14 starts. Perez has always run hot-and-cold, but his inconsistency last season was created in large part to the World Baseball Classic in spring training. There’s none of that this year. Perez worked out this winter at the Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona, and all the reports have been positive. Perez did win 15 games in 2007, so it’s not like we haven’t seen an upside from him.

MAINE: Like Perez, Maine won 15 games in 2007, his last full healthy season. Coming off surgery, Maine was 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 15 starts. The health reports have been good so far on Maine, and if he duplicates last season, projected over a full season he’d win 14 or 15 games. Who wouldn’t take that now?

Yes, I know James’ predictions are possible, but for now try to envision all the issues coming up positive for the Mets. If it all breaks right, you never know.