May 09

Mets Go For The Throat; Dillon Gee Gets Crack

The Mets have won 17 games this young season, ten of the come-from-behind variety and seven by one run. They have won six series, sweeping two. They go for the sweep today in Philadelphia.

Doing so will represent another step in their development. Contending teams close out games and close out series. Winning a series winning two of three is great, but sweeping is better.

Sweeping represents a sense of dominance and reinforces confidence. I know what you’re thinking; I’m being greedy. Maybe so, but doesn’t that signify a new attitude about this team?

Today it’s Dillon Gee going, and twice now Terry Collins let him pitch out of trouble when he was on the ropes. That demonstrates confidence, something you rarely saw Jerry Manuel give his pitchers.

I mention that not to rip Manuel as that would be piling on. I do say it to show the difference in attitude and culture between Manuel and Collins.

Manuel came on strong at first, taking out Jose Reyes in his first game. He then regressed, taking an unequal approach in dealing with players and afraid to be forceful with the deadwood. Then again, in all fairness, that message – in dealing with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo – came from up top.

Things are different now. The Mets are infusing themselves with young, homegrown talent. You don’t often see guys not running out ground balls. There are occasional fundamental lapses, but they aren’t as frequent. That explains in part the winning.

The Mets haven’t hit this well with two outs in as long as I can remember. The defense from early questions – Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole – is better than anticipated, as is the starting pitching.

Something else the Mets have done, and this is another mark of a contender, is winning within the division and beating teams when they are done. They’ve won two series from the struggling Phillies, swept the Braves when they limped out of spring training without Chipper Jones, and swept the Marlins during their slow start.

Things have changed with the 2012, and that includes the expectations. Have yours changed?

 

Apr 25

It Was Wright Or Reyes

Jose Reyes received cheers last night. He also heard boos from the largely uninspired Citi Field crowd. Reyes didn’t exactly pack them in last night, did he?

REYES: Smiles before the boos.

David Wright wasn’t surprised by the lukewarm ovation, saying some people would never forgive Reyes while others understood why he left.

Reyes simply said the Mets never made him an offer, which he took to mean they didn’t want him. There can be no other explanation.

In retrospect, despite lip service to the contrary, the Mets were never going to be in it for Reyes. This is a player who makes his living with his legs, but missed considerable time the previous two seasons with assorted muscle pulls. The first years of his career were the same.

Reyes is a breakdown waiting to happen. He is a high maintenance sports car frequently in the shop.

What Reyes didn’t say last night, was he was in it for the last dollar and the Mets knew they couldn’t swim in that end of the pool. No, the Mets didn’t go out of their way last year to keep Reyes, but he didn’t exactly go out of his way to say he wanted to stay.

It was an inevitable divorce; two parties seeing the end and doing nothing to stay together. Passive aggressive? Not committing is a statement.

The Mets, not knowing their future finances, did know they couldn’t keep Reyes, then re-sign Wright, and then fill in the rest of the pieces. It just wasn’t going to happen. It couldn’t happen with Johan Santana and Jason Bay on the payroll, and after all that money wasted on Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and others. Even with Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez gone, the Mets couldn’t afford to keep both. Not with what they knew at the time.

The choice was Reyes’ flash and speed against Wright’s power and consistency. While both had sustained injuries, the Mets decided Wright might last longer at the top of his game than Reyes, even with the latter having a stellar year and winning the batting title.

Reyes had injuries the previous two years and had already been on the disabled list twice last summer. When he returned the second time, he turned it off as to not risk hurting himself and his chances in the market. In doing so, they had to wonder if this decline would continue and what he would be like at the end of his contract.

Conversely, Wright hurt his back, but it was in making an aggressive play. These things happen. Wright lost his power stroke hitting 14 homers last year, but after 29 the season before. The Mets’ gamble, enhanced by moving in the fences, was Wright could sustain being a power hitter longer than Reyes could be a speed threat.

Power is more marketable, and so is Wright’s personality and grit. Reyes tweaks a hamstring and is out for two weeks; Wright played a month with a small fracture in his back and this year with a broken pinkie.

Wright plays with passion; Reyes plays with flair. Which would burn out first?

The Mets might have gotten their answer when Reyes took himself out of the season finale after bunting for a hit to preserve his batting title. I can’t imagine Wright pulling himself from a game for such a me-first motive. Reyes turned his back on the fans who supported him and came out to say good bye.

Maybe the Mets and Reyes weren’t loyal to each other, but the fans were loyal to Reyes and he dissed them. Mets fans have, and always will have, an inferiority complex. It comes from being the second team in town. And, in leaving, Reyes reinforced that insecurity and told the public Miami’s millions were more important than the Mets’ millions.

He was saying New York wasn’t good enough. Meanwhile, Wright has been saying New York is all he wants.

It really wasn’t a hard decision after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 12

Mets Have No Options With Bay

The Mets have been here before, saddled with an unproductive player and a huge contract. It wasn’t too long ago the Mets cursed the existence of Oliver Perez. Now it is Jason Bay.

BAY: Nowhere to go but up (Getty).

A significant difference is while Perez’s attitude in the clubhouse turned teammates against him, Bay remains a popular figure because he plays hard and hustles. He just can’t hit.

With Andres Torres on the disabled list and David Wright possibly heading there, the Mets’ serious lack of depth has been exposed six games into the season.

Realistically, what can the Mets do?

They could drop him in the order as Terry Collins hinted, but he’s still an out waiting to happen. Besides, without Wright – and with Lucas Duda and Ike Davis also not hitting – where’s he going to hit? Sixth? Seventh?

If the Mets had somebody better to play they would, but since they don’t there won’t be a platoon system and they can’t bench him.

Bay’s contract and two years of not hitting makes him nearly impossible to trade. And, do the Mets really want to eat his contract and release him? There’s that egg-in-the-face risk again of him being picked up and producing elsewhere.

The Mets’ best hope with Bay is the same as it was with Perez, and that’s for him to play and eventually fix himself.

 

 

Two days ago I thought there might have been a chance of dropping him in the order and then perhaps platooning him because the Mets didn’t want Bay being an anchor to a fast start. But, Wright is hurt and two losses later with the Mets heading to Philadelphia, what was once bright is now bleak.

Bay will stay. Sorry.

Apr 07

Mets To Announce Jon Niese Contract

The Mets will make it official in a matter of minutes and announce the five-year, $25.5 extension for Jon Niese, who, if he lives up to expectations will make that a bargain.

NIESE: Gets new contract.

Premium left-handers are in high demand and Niese has already shown a high upside. Throw in two team option years and the deal could rise to $45.5 million.

The Mets have been targets for bad contractual decisions, but this is a sound move because it will enable them to avoid the arbitration and free-agency issues for the next five years.

All contracts represent a gamble, and any thing long term with a pitcher is such, but because of Niese’s age and upside, they are locking him in to a reasonable deal. This is nothing like the Oliver Perez fiasco.

Niese called the deal a blessing and a relief.

“It means a lot,’’ Niese said. “It’s a relief. It’s just a burden off my shoulders. It’s something I don’t have to think about when I go out and pitch. I can just go out there and pitch, have fun and help the team win.’’

Niese will make his season debut tomorrow afternoon against the Braves.

Mar 23

Pelfrey just doesn’t get it.

Mike Pelfrey continues to tick me off. This time, it is hearing the news has been pitching with a high right ankle sprain during spring training. Pelfrey said he injured his ankle in the offseason and aggravated it the beginning of camp.

PELFREY: Will it ever happen for him?

There are several ways to look at this, none of them good for the Mets:

* If Pelfrey is injured, then he’s a complete idiot for not telling the Mets’ trainers and medical staff immediately. It is common knowledge in the sport that leg injuries often lead to arm injuries because it alters the pitcher’s mechanics and puts a strain on the arm.

As a pitcher, how does Pelfrey, either not know this or chooses to ignore it? Just plain stupid.

Pelfrey came to camp saying this could be a make or break season for him, so given that, why would he take such a risk? Just dumb.

* These get their ankles wrapped every day. How could a trainer miss this? There has to be tenderness, soreness, slight swelling or change in color.

* What does pitching coach Dan Warthen have to say about this? Warthen told reporters the ankle is why Pelfrey has primarily pitched out of the stretch most of this spring and why his velocity was down. So, with that answer, Warthen is saying he sent Pelfrey out there knowing he had a bum ankle. That’s got to be a new level of stupid.

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