Apr 04

A good weekend in Florida for Mets; Bay still ailing.

The Mets didn’t win their first road series last year until June. They didn’t win their first on the road against a National League team until August.

That’s just the beginning of a positive first impression to take out of the first weekend for the Mets, a team with lowly expectations.

Take away Mike Pelfrey on Friday, and it was a good weekend for the Mets in Florida as they received strong pitching performances from Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, questions going in.

“The first game was more of what Josh Johnson did than what we didn’t do,’’ said David Wright. “All in all, it was a good weekend, especially since the last couple of years we’ve had a lot of trouble here. It’s good to get off to a good start. We’re going to have to play just as well in Philadelphia [next series].’’

While nobody is getting carried away by the Marlins series, following the Mets must include finding your silver linings when you can. The Mets didn’t let blowing a ninth inning lead derail them Saturday and they put a team away Sunday, both signs missing from last season.

Chris Young will start for the Mets tomorrow night in Philadelphia, where things are always different.

Meanwhile, Jason Bay’s ribs are still hurting and he hasn’t begun swinging a bat, yet. I wouldn’t be placing any bets on him returning in a week. Also, Jason Isringhausen is feeling discomfort in his back. Just as well he took the extended spring training.

 

Feb 03

Why it is important for Beltran to play center

BELTRAN: Easier to move as center fielder

Angel Pagan said manager Terry Collins has not talked with him or Carlos Beltran about who will play center, but this is an important issue for the Mets to decide as soon as possible in spring training, and it must be the veteran.

With Beltran making $18.5 million this year, the Mets know they will not re-sign him to an extension. They also know with their roster they will not overtake Philadelphia and the wild-card is also a long shot. And, that’s with Beltran and Jason Bay healthy and producing.

Pagan was the better center fielder last year and might be better this season, but the best interest of the Mets in the short term is for Beltran to prove he can play the position.

The Mets have had surface discussions with teams about Beltran, but there aren’t any serious talks because nobody wants to take the gamble on his salary, age and injury history the past two seasons. And, there won’t be any legitimate conversations until Beltran proves he can play, and that means center field.

If Beltran is back in center and hitting, he’ll be easier to trade and a contender might bite. Because Beltran won’t be returning and the Mets aren’t winning this year, his value to the franchise is not as a player but what he can bring back in prospects and the salary they might save.

And, he’ll be easier to move as a center fielder.

Dec 15

No need to panic

Sandy Alderson said Philadelphia’s stunning signing of Cliff Lee will have no great bearing or impact on his plans for putting together the Mets for 2011. Nor should it.

Alderson says the Mets can be competitive, but there’s room for interpretation on what that means. Will the Mets make a run at the wild card or just play tight, close games they’ll more often than not eventually lose? With the way the roster is compiled and limited spending to them, it is probably the latter.

The Mets talked bravely about the Phillies being better on paper, which is undoubtedly true, but they still have to play the games. That’s the way to slip into cliche mode. Adding Chris Young or Jeff Francis isn’t going to make a world of difference for the Mets. Fact is, with the Yankees losing out on Lee I can see them swooping down on Young to bring into camp. The $4 million he wants is chump change to the Yankees.

Alderson can’t write off 2011 entirely because he still has tickets to sell and he needs to change the culture by improving the remaining product on the field. A panic signing now, with all that payroll coming off the books later, does the team no good.

Just get used to it. This will be a rough year, but it is the needed medicine to cure the ills of the previous regime.

Dec 14

Phillies land Lee in stunning turnaround

On a day Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Johan Santana won’t  be available until July at the earliest and Oliver Perez had a chance of going to spring training with a chance to compete for a job, the Philadelphia

LEE: Back in Philly

Phillies stunned the sport by bringing back Cliff Lee.

Ouch.

Lee left money and years on the table to return to Philadelphia, the place where he was most comfortable, now even more cozy because he’s joining  a rotation that includes Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. The Phillies’ team he left is better now than when he was there, and now arguably is the best in baseball.

Never mind that the Yankees were spurned. No tears for them as they’ll sign Andy Pettitte as a stop gap and add somebody at the All-Star break. I feel a little for the Texas Rangers, but they probably made off better in the long run by not being saddled with a huge contract. With Lee, they might have become the Mets in four years.

The Mets and Phillies are close in payroll, but there’s such a disparity in talent. So much so, that adding Lee wouldn’t have put them over the top. Adding Santana didn’t put them over the top, either.

You can try to convince yourself  Halladay and Lee are 32, that Oswalt is showing breakdown signs, that Lee had a bad back, and Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, that Jayson Werth is gone so there is a closing window in Philadelphia. Maybe so, but before it slams shut the Phillies will have played a lot of October baseball games. Maybe even spilled some champagne.

For the past four years the Phillies have been more aggressive and smarter than the Mets, and eclipsed them in the standings despite similar resources. The Mets have spent money since 2006, but not wisely. The Mets, in essence are starting over with a plan to make up for the poor choices of the past. The Phillies’ choices in that span have worked and they continue to feed the monster.

Maybe, when it is done eating, the Mets will be in position to do something. But, it won’t be anytime soon.

Nov 16

Alderson shows leadership in managerial search

That Sandy Alderson is continuing the search for a new manager in the aftermath of his father’s death shows true leadership and commitment; it shows the taking of responsibility. I have a feeling whomever he chooses will be a sound choice, one who is probably every bit the leader Alderson is proving to be.

I’ve read with great interest about the lack of discipline in the Mets’ clubhouse and the need for an iron hand. This is another point in Terry Collins’ favor.

If there was a lack of discipline, it stems from the previous administration. Both Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya were passive and too easy going and the players knew what they could and couldn’t get away with. Give a child an inch and he’ll take a mile.

Never was this more evident than in the case of Oliver Perez, whose selfishness forced the Mets to go with 24 players. Minaya was supposedly tight with the Hispanic players, but had no influence in the Perez case. Manuel, it was clear, had already lost the clubhouse at the end and couldn’t exert any authority, whether it be with Perez or anybody else for that matter.

To see Perez impose his will killed the clubhouse and the concept of team. But, too many other players had their own agendas long before Perez strangled the team.

It was obvious as the season faded that the Mets played with a lack of discipline. I don’t know if you’d call it a sense of entitlement as you would playing without passion or a fundamentally sound base.

Part of discipline should come from within, but a strong willed manager is essential in the molding part of a team. With some teams, you know there’s no questioning the authority of the manager. It’s that way in Boston and Philadelphia and St. Louis. It hasn’t been that way with the Mets.

When concentration wanders and at-bats are given away, both by the hitters and pitchers, a team looks lackluster and players fail to take accountability.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to play the game, and too often the Mets played the wrong way. And, there’s not a player not at fault.