Dec 02

Saying good-bye to Maine

Many thought it at the time, that when John Maine left that game in Washington after only five pitches that he was also leaving the Mets.

MAINE: Waving good-bye?

It sure appears that way as they aren’t likely to tender a contract to Maine by today’s midnight deadline. They’ll tender Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, Angel Pagan, and possibly Sean Green, but Maine is a longshot.

Maine came to the Mets in the Kris Benson deal as a throw-in, but emerged into a viable, productive pitcher. He won 15 games in 2007, but injuries, a weak shoulder and sometimes his attitude sabotaged him. Maine never regained the form that brought optimism he might develop into something special.

I don’t think the Mets did him any favors last spring and he was poorly handled by Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen, but Maine also didn’t bring much to the table the past two years.

A team weak in pitching, the Mets might bring him back at a reduced rate, but with the pitching market so thin, he’s liable to test the waters to see what’s out there. There’s also no compelling reason why he’d want to return especially since he’s still steamed at Warthen.

At one time, Maine represented potential and good things to the Mets – remember that game against the Marlins? – but now he personifies part of what went wrong. He’s about unrealized dreams.

Of course, so does Oliver Perez, but the Mets are on the hook to him for $12 million and they have no other choice but to give it one more chance. Maine would come at a lower rate so it’s much easier to cut the ties.

As far as Dickey is concerned, the Mets will tender him and then work on an extension. They’ll probably want to see is last year was a fluke before giving him a multi-year contract.

Nov 03

What will be the “Mets Way?”

Sandy Alderson’s first hire is former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi as his special assistant, with presumably one of his responsibilities to help implement a “Mets Way,” throughout the organization, beginning with the lower levels of the minor league system.

Considering the dimensions of Citi Field, presumably an organizational philosophy will place an emphasis on pitching and defense first, followed by situational hitting, and down on the list power.

As the Giants proved, power is not essential to win, and the Mets have enough to get by with David Wright, Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran (presuming all are healthy, each has 30 homer potential) followed by Ike Davis.

It must begin with pitching, with the first step pounding the strikezone and getting ahead of the hitters. Hopefully, it will include instilling the mindset of working deep into games. When Mike Pelfrey was winning in June he worked fast, efficiently and kept the ball down. When he struggled in July he was the opposite and lost confidence.

The Mets have some talented arms below and I’d like the organization to keep them and not rush their progression. Let them develop a variety of pitches and not be reliant on just one pitch. The prime example is Mike Pelfrey, who gradually developed his secondary pitches, and Jenrry Mejia, who still has a way to go.

If the Mets are able to harness arms and pitch to contact, they should then let the defense take care of them. The Mets still gave away far too many outs, and this must be addressed in spring training. There were still instances of overthrowing the cutoff man and not knowing ahead of time of what to do with the ball.

Defensively, there must be more of a concentration on fundamentals, and this also pertains to the offense, where at times it was glaring as emphasized with the amount of strikeouts.

Offensively, way too many at-bats were given away because the hitter lacked patience and didn’t have a mastery of the strikezone. On-base percentage is a statistic that could be improved by nearly every hitter on the team, including Jose Reyes and Wright.

When the team was winning in June Reyes and Wright were on their games, which meant forcing the play and using the whole field. When they hit the skids in July, their situational hitting as a team was non existent.

Wright, Davis and Bay must reduce their strikeouts, which would automatically increase the on-base percentage and lead to more productive outs.

Power is baseball’s great eraser and always has been. The three-run homer can overcome a lot of things. However, being consistent fundamentally applies continuous pressure on the opposition and that’s the way to go.

I want players who’ll force the action, who know how to take the extra base, who’ll make the correct decisions and not take plays off. I want to see a hustle that was absent at times. We saw Angel Pagan have a horrific season fundamentally in 2009, but he greatly improved last year so it can be done.

I want pitchers who’ll throw strikes and not beat themselves with walks. I want pitchers who’ll go after hitters, and not lose concentration after an error, bad umpire’s call or poor pitch.

This must be emphasized on the major league level, with consequences when it is not. It must also be taught and drilled in the minor leagues.

It’s not an overnight process, but if strongly implemented we should see results the first year.

The Mets’ Way should be to play smart, aggressive, fundamental and relentless ball. It shouldn’t be a novelty when a player advances a runner, hits the cutoff man or doesn’t get lazy in the strikezone with a pitch when he falls behind in the count.

It should be an all time thing.

Let’s face it, the Mets don’t have a rotation like that in San Francisco. They don’t have the power or the ability to buy their way out of trouble like the Yankees.

The Mets have talent, but to win they must out hustle and out work their opposition.

Oct 03

Mets season ends with disappointment, hope for future

Game #162 vs. Nationals

We’re now done to the final innings, the final pitches of a disappointing season, yet one that ends with some glimmer of hope.

Jerry Manuel spoke of regrets this morning in his final pre-game press conference. He’s been around, he hears the whispers that have become shouts. There will be changes, and therein lies the hope. Maybe the changes will be for the better.

Manuel’s regrets are forcing Jose Reyes in the third slot and rushing players, notably Reyes and Carlos Beltran from injury. I am sure there are other thoughts that will creep into his consciousness in the black of the night this winter.

It’s always that way in every baseball season for every team but one. This year the Mets haven’t been the one as they haven’t been since 1986. There was trepidation for the Mets coming out of spring training, concerns, worries and holes, but during the season there was a turnaround and a flash of hope.

But, the worries and holes resurfaced, along with injuries and poor play and the season faded and then spun out of control and the dreams died.

The Mets will stay home this fall, watching and wondering what might have been. There also will be a time this winter when the thoughts turn to David Wright staring down that pitcher yesterday and saying “enough is enough,” with the high-and-tight fastballs. There will also be thoughts of Mike Pelfrey taking a step forward, of Angel Pagan, or Josh Thole, or RA Dickey and of Ike Davis.

There were things down the stretch that said the situation is not hopeless, that there is reason for hope and perhaps soon a season won’t end in regret.

To access the chat room, click onto the Mets Chat icon to your left.

Sep 17

Encouraged by Pelfrey

PELFREY: On the cusp of stardom

The qualifier, of course, is it was against the Pirates, but it was good to see Mike Pelfrey throw a good game last night. His July swoon was alarming, but he seems to have corrected his mechanical and concentration problems that slammed the brakes on a potentially great season.

It is premature to say he’s completely there as a starter, but he could win 16, 17 games this year which is a watershed mark for a pitcher. And, if he even went .500 during his slide he could be looking at a 20-win season.

Pelfrey worked quickly and efficiently last night. He mixed his pitches well and worked both sides of the plate. The movement on his pitches was excellent, just the way it was at the beginning of the season.

I said going into the season Pelfrey might be the key Met, and it should be that way again next season. This guy is on the cusp of being right there and there will be more pressure than ever in 2011 because we don’t know what, if anything, the Mets will get from Johan Santana.

Sep 11

Upon further review ….

Maybe it is me, or am I piling on when it comes to Johan Santana’s shoulder injury which will require season-ending surgery?

SANTANA: Gone for how long?

After Santana was injured August 2, I would have expected him to have a MRI immediately and not wait a week before he tested it and found out the extent of the injury. Considering he’s the Mets’ most valuable pitching commodity, and how the team has handled injuries in the past, the MRI should have been performed matter-of-factly.

Sure, Santana said he was fine, but Ryan Church said he was fine, John Maine said he was fine, Jose Reyes said he was fine. Players will always say they are fine. That’s part of their competitive DNA, but where did Santana go to medical school?

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