Sep 15

Today in Mets’ History: Record-wise the Mets were actually better last year at this time.

Last year at this time, we knew the playoffs were out of the question for the Mets, but they were at .500 at 73-73 and trying to salvage their season.

There was a twinge of optimism because we figured there would be a changing of the guard, with a new regime making things right again.

It’s what baseball does. It gives us optimism and hope.

So, we all hoped this year would be better. It would be a rebuilding year, but it would be better than the past two dreadful seasons because new blood would be running things.

I thought for a moment it was possible, the Mets would rally to salvage the season and finish at .500 or better.

It would have been a sign of true progress.

There have been positives this year, but they have been off-set by the inevitable injuries and other negatives. There’s a new regime, but there’s so much economic uncertainty swirling around the Mets that we can’t honestly say things will improve any time soon.

Never should the Mets be playing today to avoid being swept in a four-game series by the Washington Nationals. It tells of how things soured, and underscored the Mets’ inability to get over the hump.

The Mets had several spurts this season, but answered them with several slides. Win five, lose five, isn’t the answer.

Scoring four runs in the first three games of this series, and last night their anemic offense took away from a strong performance from Mike Pelfrey. However, I’ve written “strong performance,’’ from Pelfrey before only to watch him get torched in his subsequent start. In many ways, he personifies what has happened.

The Mets stranded ten last night and 40 over their last four games, and have left 1,558 on the season, tops in the majors. I don’t want to hear about their ability to get runners on base and even score (sixth in the NL). The point is they don’t score enough to overcome their spotty pitching.

The Mets have lost 24 games by one run, which is a reflection on both their pitching and offense. Improving one without the other doesn’t guarantee they take the next step.

I never expected them to compete for the playoffs this year. And, when they made a run and were four games over .500 in late July, you always expected the other shoe to fall.

Carlos Beltran was traded, and the Mets lost five straight at the end of July and early August. They fought back to get a game over .500, then had two five-game losing streaks within two weeks to fall eight under.

A staple of this team has been to rally and play with heart, to show us it cared. They pulled within a game of .500, but lost seven of eight on this homestand.

It is this homestand that made me feel some disappointment for the first time. I thought with the Cub and Nationals they could get over .500 to make a symbolic gesture at improvement.

Win or lose today, the Mets close with Atlanta, St. Louis, the Phillies and Reds. They are limping to the finish and .500 – which is mediocre to begin with – is no longer a possibility. They will be hard pressed to equal last year’s 79-83, and that would be disappointing.

The attitude under Terry Collins is much better than it was under Jerry Manuel, but the talent level hasn’t necessarily improved.

There are a myriad of issues facing the Mets in the offseason that should warn us the road is still long.

* Will the Mets keep Jose Reyes?

* Will Johan Santana be 100 percent?

* What happened with Mike Pelfrey and what direction will he take?

* Can Bobby Parnell be the closer, and can the Mets build a reliable bullpen bridge to him?

* Will they ever get anything out of Jason Bay?

* Will David Wright be a power hitter again?

Those are just the headline issues. There are issues surrounding Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, everybody in the rotation and at second base.

There’s also a collective bargaining agreement that makes the offseason uncertain, plus the Wilpon’s financial issues.

Gone is the poison that was Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, but this team still has a long way to go.


 



 



Apr 26

Santana update. Could he be dealt?

The Mets arrive at Nationals Park this afternoon with the news Johan Santana’s rehab is progressing, but not to where the team is willing to put a definitive timetable on his return. And, it won’t until he starts throwing off the mound, and even then any date will depend on his pain threshold.

SANTANA: Positive update.

While the news is encouraging, I’m not counting on Santana being a viable pitcher this season, and that even if he does return it will take time before he rounds into form, if at all.

The goal for Santana is to recover from his surgery and regain his strength, however long it takes, and not worry about him going seven or nine innings. Just get out to the mound, period. The intent should be to get him ready for 2012, and if not, at least ensure he answers any health questions a contending team might have if it wants to pursue him in a trade.

Personally, I’m not holding out any hope Santana makes it through the rest of his contract uninjured considering he’s already had three surgeries since joining the Mets.

If I’m the Mets and I can pull off a trade, I’d jump on it. You have to considering their legal and financial restraints. They’ll have Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and probably Francisco Rodriguez off the books after this season. They would be lucky if they could add Santana’s contract to that list.

The plan is to continue throwing off flat ground – he’s currently at 100 feet – through May, then get on the mound followed by rehab games. Santana said this spring he wants to reach 180 on flat ground before getting on the mound.

Santana posted an update on his Twitter account.

The positive outlook is by the All-Star break, and pitching coach Dan Warthen said he’s hoping for a dozen starts.

The Mets spent their day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center this afternoon, with no reports so far of any no-shows. Last season, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Carlos Beltran blew off the trip which is a favorite of owner Fred Wilpon. Beltran said earlier he would make the appearance.

 

Mar 23

Plan for Beltran; Emaus inside track at second.

Although not definitive, the Mets’ roster is taking shape as spring training approaches.

The Mets remain insistent Carlos Beltran will be ready for Opening Day and are pushing him, although they aren’t likely to play him in a major league game in case things unravel and he’ll be forced to open on the disabled list.

EMAUS: Second base frontrunner.

Beltran was hitless in five at-bats today as a DH in a minor league game. He will play as a DH tomorrow and Friday, but possibly this weekend he could play in the field and run the bases.

Possibly.

“I do think it is fair to say at this point there’s not a lot of wiggle room in that schedule between now and Opening Day if he’s going to be on the active roster,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said. “As of this point he’s still on track for Opening Day.’’

DL assignments are backdated 10 days into spring training, so if things stand as they are and Beltran were to only play in minor league games he would only miss the first three games of the season (the Mets have two off days among the first five games).

Assuming this plan works out, Willie Harris and Scott Hairston, the outfield depth, will right field. Should Beltran land on the DL, Lucas Duda will be the 25th man on the roster.

Today, Alderson told reporters to take a look at today’s lineup card and use their imagination. Standing out was Brad Emaus at second base and Daniel Murphy at third.

Emaus, a Rule 5 pick-up from Toronto, has a greater upside than Luis Hernandez, who is out of options and is being shopped because he probably won’t clear waivers. The Mets have a good idea of what to expect from Hernandez, but Emaus has potential working for him.

“I like my chances, but we’re not all the way there,’’ Emaus told reporters this afternoon about his chances.

Murphy started at third today and has been getting time and first and second. He’s the projected left-handed bat off the bench.

Justin Turner, as expected because of his options, was sent down.

Meanwhile, Oliver Perez signed a minor league deal today with the Nationals.

Mar 22

No kudos for Alderson on Perez, Castillo.

Let’s be careful not to go overboard in praising the Sandy Alderson regime for the sacking of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. Credit to Alderson goes in finally convincing the Wilpons eating $18 million in salary was the prudent option.

The actual decision itself was a no-brainer in that neither would be a viable contributor to the team, both were an emotional and psychological drains in the clubhouse, and to adequately change the culture of the Mets they must be purged.

There was no real thinking that had to be done and the key was in the timing. Alderson knew he couldn’t trade either in the off-season because of their salary, performance and injury histories. His only hope for Castillo was he could find his game and prove enough in spring training to warrant going north; for Perez was he could regain his fastball and hook on in a relief role.

Both were long shots, but Alderson had no choice to bring them to spring training and let it play itself out.

Since neither distinguished himself in the positive, it was time to make the move. With Opening Day rapidly approaching and the Mets playing at a .500 pace and little room for optimism, Alderson needed to make a spark and this was it.

This was a move the Mets needed to make so let’s not throw roses at Alderson for doing the obvious.

Mar 21

Perez error over

GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins closed the door this morning on the Mets’ career of Oliver Perez, arguably one of the most scored players in franchise history when they released the frustratingly erratic pitcher known as Coin Flip.

There were no 50-50 odds on Perez when spring training began and giving up back-to-back homers in a relief outing over the weekend was the final image of him in a Mets’ uniform.

PEREZ: We rarely saw him celebrate.

Perez is now free to pass GO, collect $12 million and sign with any team for the major league minimum. For those counting at home, that would be an additional $414,500.

I don’t begrudge Perez the money like some. Afterall, nobody put a gun to then GM Omar MInaya and forced him to offer Perez that contract. What was Perez supposed to do, turn it down?

What annoys me most about Perez is not that he lost his fastball, or never had command. That happens. It’s part of baseball. What was most upsetting about the Perez era was how things were handled last season. Perez said frequently this spring he is trying to get better every time he pitches. It’s the proper thing to say, but rings hollow after last summer.

When it became clear he was losing it, Perez refused to take the minor league assignment that could have helped his mechanics. There was no guarantee, but he had a better chance working things out in the minors than by languishing in the bullpen by himself as the Mets played with a 24-man roster.

Just because it was Perez’s contractual right to refuse the assignment, it doesn’t make it the right thing to do. And, it certainly contradicted Perez’s statements on self-improvement.

The Perez saga paralyzed a reeling team and he became a symbol of all that was wrong and subsequently a pariah in the clubhouse. Nobody denied Perez put the effort in, but there was groaning about playing short and he deprived another player a chance to play. As the losses mounted, it was hard to find supporters in the clubhouse, especially after the bullpen coughed up another game.

Perez made Jerry Manuel’s job more difficult, and with the manager knowing he’d be fired, his parting gift to the Mets – and the fans who booed him – was to give them one last glimpse of the erratic left-hander who put himself ahead of the team. After barely pitching in the second half, there was little doubt he would give it up one more time, and it was symbolically fitting Perez would lose the final game of a lost season.

After Luis Castillo was given his release – he has since been signed by Philadelphia – Alderson said the decision in part was made by the negativity that swirled around him and his perception by Mets fans. The perception of Perez is far worse because the sum is greater and that he represents wasted potential and the disaster that has been the last three seasons.