Nov 30

Updating the mess that is Perez

News Oliver Perez has thrown 10 scoreless innings in the Mexican Leagues is best greeted with a who-cares yawn. Afterall, we’ve heard news of such prowess during spring training and rehab assignments before only to watch him unravel when facing major league hitters.

Word his fastball barely touches 90 isn’t encouraging news. Low-velocity pitchers can be successful, but only if their control is impeccable and they know how to set up and work hitters. That has never been the case with Perez.

When Perez was having problems several years ago, I wondered how he might do in situational relief because he still had his fastball. But, that’s gone and he must rely on guile and smarts, both of which he has in short supply.

Even so, Perez will probably get a chance to earn a role in spring training because the Mets don’t have many options and it doesn’t appear as if they’ll be signing anything significant this winter.

They’d love to trade him, but that’s not going to happen. Nobody wants to pay $12 million for all that baggage. Even if the Mets eat a large portion of his contract, Perez isn’t attractive based on what has happened.

Cutting him loose is something we all think about, but Sandy Alderson isn’t likely to do that because the Mets don’t want to pay for nothing. Solution? They will role the dice in the hope Perez finds something that will make him viable. With Hisanori Takahashi gone and Pedro Feliciano declining arbitration today, Perez will get an opportunity by default.

Even when he was Coin Flip there was a chance of him throwing a good game. Now, there is none.

If Perez doesn’t have it in the spring and refuses a minor league assignment again, then I can see the Mets ditching him. Alderson is here to change the culture and I don’t see him putting up with another year of carrying Perez on the major league roster and not using him.

Perez’s attitude and performance last year was poisonous and no good can come with duplicating last year.

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.

Oct 07

Mets never had chance at Halladay

Watching Roy Halladay make history yesterday made me wonder if he could have made it for the Mets.

HALLADAY: Never would have been a Met

Reportedly, the Mets rejected a trade proposal from Toronto that would have had them sending Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Ruben Tejada and Fernando Martinez to the Blue Jays.

It would be great to have Halladay, especially in light of Johan Santana’s injury, but it never was going to happen.

Why?

Because it wasn’t true, said then Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

It was absolutely wrong,” Ricciardi told USA Today. “We didn’t exchange names with the Mets. I felt so bad for [Mets GM] Omar [Minaya] because there was no truth to it. None. Now, he’s the one who has to answer why they didn’t get Halladay.’’

Trade talks never got to the name-exchanging stage for several reasons, beginning with Halladay having a no-trade clause in his contract with the Blue Jays and there was no hint of him wanting to come to New York.

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Aug 24

Can’t see Warthen surviving, either.

The Mets’ starting pitching is decidedly better than it was last year at this time, but I don’t think it will be enough to save Dan Warthen when Jerry Manuel gets the ax, presumably within days after the end of the regular season.

Incoming managers prefer to name their own pitching coach and staff. To have a staff thrust on a new manager is unfair and puts him at a disadvantage. There’s always the underlying thought  if the pitching coach stays he’s really the GM’s guy. The new manager could interview from the old staff as a courtesy, but there are no guarantees.

That coaches’ contracts expire after the season – unlike that of GM Omar Minaya – should make the transition easier. If Manuel goes as expected, it will mean five managers this decade, hardly a bastion of stability. They’ve also had three general managers during that span to further indicate this is franchise without stable direction.

So, they start again with a new manager and pitching coach.

While the rotation has improved, there’s not enough of an imprint by Warthen to make a difference for these reasons:

1) John Maine: Calling one of your pitchers a “habitual liar,” is not good business. Although it turned out Maine was injured, the process of letting him go out there when he didn’t have it to throw five pitches lost the player, and might have damaged Warthen’s ability in the clubhouse. The team had rebound hopes for Maine but he never made any progress and then came the injury.

2) Oliver Perez: While this is probably unfair with the assumption Perez is a lost cause, Warthen did have two years to work with him without positive results.

3) Mike Pelfrey: Kudos for the fast start, some questions for the slide. There was also last year. Pelfrey, despite showing signs of coming out of it, remains an enigma.

4) The Eighth Inning Guy: All season the Mets have had troubles finding somebody for the eighth inning. A lot of guys have pitched there, but nobody has taken hold of the job. While Manuel will get roasted for this, Warthen must share responsibility.

5) Burning out the bullpen: Manuel kept riding the hot horse until he drops. Somewhere, the pitching coach has to do a better job of monitoring the bullpen arms to keep everybody fresh.

Aug 16

Looking for a silver thread ….

The Mets are 10 games behind Atlanta and below .500. They have an upcoming schedule at Houston – which is playing better since the Roy Oswalt trade – and Pittsburgh – which always plays them tough. This is their last chance to make up some ground and bring interest into September.

Frankly, while I doubt they’ll make a real run, there could be some interesting ball ahead.

Their pitching, supposedly the weak link entering the season, has been surprisingly good, and if not for Mike Pelfrey’s July slide it would be good enough to have them in contention. What has been dismal, and has since the beginning of the season has been the offense. Also weak has been the bullpen.

As the season slowly fades into disappointment and winter, let’s take a moment to look at some of the positives through 117 games:

1) The record. Seriously. Last year on this date they were 55-62 and sinking fast. David Wright had just been plunked and would be rendered useless for the rest of the season. They have made improvement and with a full season from Carlos Beltran and a productive year from Jason Bay, they’d be over .500 and within spitting distance even with their bullpen woes. Hey, you take your positives when you can.

2) Johan Santana. We’re looking at 15 victories easily with a little run support. There was a brief four-game stretch when we were wondering about his fastball and whether he was still an ace. Well, he is. There are times when I wonder if he regrets coming here, but he’s the ultimate professional and will never show it. The Mets are lucky to have him, and hopefully the younger pitchers in the rotation are learning from him. Eventually, there will be a decline, but not now.

3) Angel Pagan. He began the season behind Gary Matthews, but has evolved into the Mets’ most reliable offensive performer. He’s the best they have with RISP, has some pop, can steal a base, and has surpassed Beltran as the team’s best center fielder. What Pagan showed last year was no fluke. This is a player the Mets can build around.

4) Ike Davis. He wasn’t supposed to be here until late in the season, perhaps September, but has become one of the NL’s premier’s rookies. He hits for power and should finish with over 20 homers and plays a sparkling first base. Davis has made Daniel Murphy a footnote. First base will be his for years to come.

5) Josh Thole. Another young player who arrived ahead of schedule. The pitchers like throwing to him and he’s not an easy out at the plate. Rod Barajas is coming back, but the position is Thole’s to keep. The time he’s getting now will only help him in the future.

6) Jon Niese. The question as the fifth starter going in, Niese has become a dependable starter, perhaps the No. 2 with Pelfrey being erratic. He’s not afraid to challenge hitters and works quickly and efficiently and with remarkable poise. He’s getting more adept at making adjustments within the game. He was in demand at the trade deadline, but the Mets were wise to say no.

7) R. A. Dickey. The other shoe has yet to drop for Dickey. He’s been impressive from the outset, but none more so than rebounding against the Phillies after the same team hammered him the previous week. That’s hard to do. The way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if he led the team in victories before it is all over. The Mets still need to add a starter in the offseason, but not to replace Dickey.

8) Hisanori Takahashi. The numbers are night and day between Takahashi the starter and the reliever. Forced into the starter’s role, he performed admirably before being exposed. He’s great one time through the order and that should be his role. Hopefully, Pat Misch will step in and allow Takahashi to do what he does best.

9) Bobby Parnell. Still a work in progress, but he’s made strides since last season when he was yanked around between roles. I believe Parnell has what it takes to develop into a solid set-up man. The experience he’s getting now can only bring hope.

10) Mike Pelfrey. I mean the pre-July Pelfrey. For two months he was better than one could have imagined, working with confidence and command of all of his pitches. Then came July, but has last two starts have been much better, an indication he might have learned from his slide. Of all the things I’m anxious to see during the final six weeks the most is whether Pelfrey can rebound completely. It would say a lot about his maturation process if he can take something out of his adversity.

11) Ruben Tejada. There’s no questioning his defense, and although he’s not hitting now he showed some glimpses early. The Mets played with energy when he was in the lineup replacing Luis Castillo when the latter was on the disabled list. I think the Mets will be in good hands when he finally takes over for Castillo.

12) Jose Reyes. If nothing else, the Mets finally learned Reyes is a leadoff hitter and nothing else. He’s lost focus at times this season, but he’s overcome his injury problems and the team still thinks highly enough to want to sign him to an extension. Perhaps the focus will always be a problem, but when he’s on his game he’s still a dynamic presence at the top of the order.

13) David Wright. Despite a horrible pace for 176 strikeouts, which must come down, he’s also on pace to hit 24 homers and drive in 107 runs, showing an improvement over last season’s power outage. Wright has been streaky all season, but he’s still the best this franchise has to offer.