Feb 04

Positive or negative?

On one hand, perhaps baseball’s worst bullpen has been improved. The Mets blew 29 save opportunities last season, but the additions of Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz has to close the one-game gap on the Phillies assuming all else is equal.

That’s the strongest positive.

Another positive is the time Daniel Murphy  spent last season in the majors and the addition of Tim Redding improves the fifth spot in the rotation. The overall depth of the bullpen is better.

The rest isn’t so much glaring negatives as they are questions. Yes, if there’s no improvement from Luis Castillo, that becomes a glaring negative.

The following Q and A gives a thumbnail perspective of the other hand.

Q: How’s Johan Santana’s knee?
A: Nothing negative to report, but we’ll know when he he gets on the mound.

Q: How’s John Maine’s shoulder?
A: Reports are surgery went well and he should be ready for spring training. But, we really won’t know until he starts throwing.

Q: Is Mike Pelfrey ready to continue his progress?
A: Sometimes, after a large jump in innings, a pitcher hits a growth wall. We’ll have to see. You can’t just pencil him in for 200 innings and 18 wins. It’s not that simple.

Q: Who is the real Carlos Delgado?
A: Can anyone say for certain it will be the second half Delgado or the first half Delgado?

Q: How healthy is Ryan Church?
A: The Mets say he’s fine, but will be pick up where he left off before the concussion?

Q: How productive will the Murphy-Tatis platoon in left be?
A: The Mets will take what they got last year, but nobody is making any promises.

Add it up, if the Mets produce the same as they did last year, the bullpen improvement should pick up a game on the Phillies. Then again, we don’t know if the Phillies won’t be any better. However, there’s no guarantee the Mets will get the same production, or if it will be better or worse.

Given all this, with the start of spring training less than two weeks out, what’s your confidence level?

Jan 25

Utley says he’ll be ready by Opening Day

UTLEY: Says he'll be ready for Opening Day.

UTLEY: Says he'll be ready for Opening Day.

If the Mets were counting on Chase Utley’s hip injury to keep them close to the Phillies out of the gate, they’ve got another thing coming as the All-Star second baseman says he’ll be ready by Opening Day, contradicting initial reports his rehab from surgery would keep him out through May.

Utley has been working out with the Phillies training staff five days a week, and said he’ll be swinging a bat soon.

“In two to three weeks – that would be nice,” Utley said. “If everything goes as planned, that’s what we want to do. And right now, we’re on schedule. … It’s about listening to my body. Right now, we are listening and it’s responding well. If that continues to happen, then I don’t see why I won’t be ready for Opening Day.”

Dec 19

And the weather outside is frightful ….

Spending the afternoon getting snowed in. What better time to talk about the Mets’ pitching?

I want the Mets to bring back Oliver Perez because I still believe there is an upside there, but I also want them to add somebody else, like a Randy Wolf, because I know there will be a need.

I can’t see giving the ball to Jon Niese 33 times and having everything be all right. The Mets have upgraded, but not to where they are a slam dunk to overtake the Phillies. I want them to get two starters, and worry about slotting in guys from the minor leagues later.

Dec 17

Minaya says Phillies are still better ….

GM Omar Minaya said until the Mets add a starter or two, they still aren’t as good as the Philadelphia Phillies: “We’re not better than them, they’re the World Champions. You don’t win world championships on paper. Do I think we’ve improved our club? Yes. But, the bottom line is the Phillies won the World Series and they won the division twice. The experience of winning the World Series is huge.”

Nov 08

On the Table: Room for just one more.

I was thinking about this at breakfast: If the Mets were to sign just one free agent, who would it be? Immediately, I discarded CC Sabathia, K-Rod and Manny Ramirez, because I don’t see them paying that much.

They need bullpen help, and you could look at it a couple of ways. One, is to get reliable starters to shave the BP innings, and if Maine comes back healthy, they’ll have three. Should they sign Lowe, theoretically that’s four reliable starters, which cuts the BP innings, but still leaves you vulnerable on a fifth day and in the ninth inning throughout.

So, if I’m forced to pick one, I’m going with the closer. I know it’s tempting to think K-Rod, but my confidence level in him is he’ll break down. The next best closer on the market is Brian Fuentes. No Mariano Rivera, but who is?

My choice, if to sign just one free agent, is to go with Fuentes to plug the leak in the ninth inning. Seven games got away. If all else remains equal and Fuentes cuts that in half, that should put them ahead of the Phillies.

Remember, this exercise is about adding just one player. If you have somebody different, let’s hear it.