May 23

May 23.10: Maine admits to arm problems; Manuel vindicated.

Is it lying or semantics?

Pitching coach Dan Warthen called John Maine a “habitual liar,’’ two words that could destroy most any working relationship. It remains to be seen whether it will ruin this one, even though Warthen and manager Jerry Manuel have been vindicated for pulling Maine after five pitches last week in Washington.

Warthen’s intent was innocent enough although his choice of words was poor. Warthen meant it in that Maine never admits to his arm feeling poorly.

Even now, when Maine finally admitted something is not right with his shoulder he couched his words.

“There’s a little bit of pain, but what pitcher doesn’t have pain?’’ Maine said. “It’s the nature of pitching. It wasn’t going to stop me from going out there every five days.’’

But, it isn’t pain as much as it is weakness or fatigue in the shoulder.

“There was a little bit of weakness, not that much,’’ Maine said. “I guess they want to get to the bottom of it. What’s the problem, you know? What’s going on back there?

“Something has got to be found, but if everything comes back good, then I’ll deal with it and pitch, if I have to.’’

In the interim, the Mets must improvise.

The current thinking is to use Raul Valdes, who replaced Maine after his five pitch-outing, against the Phillies Tuesday night, followed Hisanori Takahashi and Mike Pelfrey. The thinking of Valdes over R.A. Dickey is because of the left-handed power in the Phillies’ line-up.

The next time Maine’s turn in the rotation would be is a week from today. But, the Mets will jump off that bridge when they get to it.

May 21

May 21.10: Who goes first, Manuel or Maine?

Was one of the five pitches John Maine threw last night his final one with the Mets?

That’s what many are thinking, but if Jerry Manuel’s job security was secure, or at least stable, it might be enough for him to outlast Maine, but it is a house of cards.

Maine was the third Mets starter to go down during the team’s dreadful 2-6 road trip, but if the DL is in his immediate future then he’ll get another chance to save his career.

Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen think Maine is hiding an injury – the latter called the pitcher a “habitual liar’’ when it comes to discussing his health – and we should know after he sees a doctor today.

“I would like an explanation,’’ Maine said about his removal. “Me throwing 85 mph I don’t think is a good explanation to be taken out.’’

A weak warm-up session and Maine hunched over on the mound might have had something to do with it.

However, Maine partly answered his own question about why he wasn’t allowed to stay in the game.

“I’m in no position, I don’t have enough clout,’’ said Maine. “I don’t have enough star power to say anything. So what happens happens.’’

While Maine’s verbal explosion might doom him with some organizations, what might save him was how this was bungled by Manuel and Warthen.

“I just didn’t think John had enough to compete tonight,’’ Warthen said. “If he’s throwing that way, then there’s got to be something incorrect in that arm. … He wants to go out there and pitch. But we have to be smart enough to realize this guy isn’t right.’’

How come then, if his warm-ups were so bad, weren’t they smart enough to pull the plug before he took the mound?

Warthen told Manuel that Maine wasn’t throwing 80 mph in the bullpen. When Maine bounced a warm-up pitch, Manuel immediately got Raul Valdes up and throwing.

Manuel talked so much about wanting to protect Maine, but he let him start the game anyway? If one pitch could blow out his shoulder, then why take the chance?

Maine said he was never asked how he felt or that he was scheduled to see a doctor today. There’s a protocol in dealing with pitcher’s injuries and it wasn’t followed.

To be sure, Maine didn’t handle things properly, but neither did Manuel or Warthen, and the ice they are skating on is thinner than Maine’s.

May 19

May 19.10: What’s wrong with Wright?/Adding tonight’s lineup.

Pedro Martinez once told me one of his greatest weapons as a pitcher is the fear he instilled in the batter’s mind about being hit.

“If the batter is afraid of being hit, then I can pitch him any way I want,’’ Martinez said.

That’s the way it seems these days for David Wright even though he will never admit it. That’s all right, because what the mouth won’t say body language does, and there have been numerous times when Wright bails out.

We see him more turning away from the inside fastball rather than turning on it and ripping it to left. Once a pitcher knows he has the inside half of the plate, there’s no reason to go to the outside.

The Matt Cain beaning last season has had a residual effect of Wright, and it mostly is mental, which leads to bad physical habits.

I’ve seen Wright pull off pitches he used to hammer, and I see him get too anxious when he does get a ball on the outside half and middle. His swing is long with a noticeable uppercut.

Statistically, Wright has made enough contact to be on a pace to hit 32 homers and drive in 105 runs. He’s also on pace to strike out 223 times and hit for a .262, some 43 points below his career average.

Those aren’t the results Wright is seeking.

“If you don’t see the results a lot, you start pressing a little bit,’’ Wright said last night after his three strikeout game in Atlanta. “It’s tough when somebody is out there playing as poorly as I am right now, costing us both offensively and defensively.’’

Wright was having an off-year in 2009 even before the beaning, which some of it being written off as adjusting to the new stadium and him being on an island in the line-up. There was no Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado or Jose Reyes for much of this year. There’s no Beltran this year, Jason Bay has done nothing to protect Wright and Reyes hasn’t been on his game. The situations are very similar, as are the results.

Wright called baseball a “humbling” game and right now the man is humbled.

It all boils down to this, that regardless of the psychological and statistical theories, if Wright is the player the Mets and he believes himself to be, things have to dramatically change. These reasons, or excuses, for him not hitting must be pushed aside.

It could start with something small, like hitting a sacrifice fly instead of striking out.

Here’s tonight’s line-up”

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
Angel Pagan, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Henry Blanco, C
RA Dickey, RP

May 16

May 16.10: Chat Room, Game #38 at Marlins: Juggling to stop a slide.

It is Oliver Perez’s right – via collective bargaining – to refuse a demotion to the minor leagues. That doesn’t mean he’s any less selfish in refusing.

“I don’t like going to the bullpen,’’ said Perez. “But, I think that’s what’s best for the team.’’

What nonsense.

What’s best for the Mets is the minor leagues, because that’s where he’ll get the most consistent work, and therefore, have the best chance to get himself righted.

However, they can’t make him go. And, despite it being his right, it’s a selfish decision because he’s wasting a roster spot better left for somebody else. Should the Mets decide to bring up somebody from the minors to start, somebody would have to be optioned out. A possible option is Jenrry Mejia to develop him as a starter.

Another aspect of this is it might force them to use Hisanori Takahashi, which weakens the bullpen. A straight change of roles between Takahashi and Perez is possible, but the former pitches when the games are in the balance. The Mets would only want to use Perez in games out of control.

A trade would have been nice, but let’s face it, any trade would either entail the Mets paying a bulk of the balance of his due salary, or an exchange of bad contracts. The guy is a power pitcher who can no longer bring it; he’s not going to net much in return.

Another shake-up with the Mets is overdue, and that’s returning Jose Reyes to the leadoff spot. Reyes’ comment, that it’s like returning home, indicated he was never on-board with this.

It also means Jerry Manuel, however well intentioned, didn’t know Reyes’ temperature on this and that’s not good managing.

A manager has to know how to put players in the situations where they are most apt to be successful and Manuel has wasted Reyes for the better part of a month.

The Mets close their series in Florida today with Jon Niese on the mound in the hope of stopping the losing streak at four games.

Here’s today’s line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Alex Cora, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Chris Carter, RF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Angel Pagan, CF
Henry Blanco, C
Jon Niese, LP

PLEASE FORGIVE THE PROBLEMS WITH UPLOADING ART TODAY

May 13

May 13.10: Chat Room, Game #35 at Marlins: Classic pitcher’s duel.

The Mets begin an eight-game road trip tonight in Florida in a classic pitcher’s duel: Johan Santana vs. Josh Johnson.

Something has to break because both pitchers dominate the opposition, with Santana 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA in eight career starts against the Marlins. Johnson is not the type of pitcher a team in a hitting funk likes to face. He is 7-1 against the Mets, including 4-0 with a 2.14 ERA in five home starts against them.

The Mets’ lone victory over Johnson came Opening Day at Citi Field. The Marlins, however, won the next two games of that series.

The Mets need to get Jose Reyes going. Reyes is mired in a season-long slump, which hasn’t been helped by the move to third in the batting order. Reyes is batting .228 with a .283 on-base percentage. He is hitting .242 since being moved out of the leadoff spot.

Clearly, he’s not performing well hitting third. He’s trying to do too much with the ball. He’s better off going back to first where he’s more comfortable. Hitting is all about comfort, and Reyes looks uncomfortable at the plate. He’s reaching for pitches and is swinging with more of an uppercut than he has in the past.

However, manager Jerry Manuel is insistent on leaving Reyes third in the order ahead of Jason Bay. Manuel’s theory is Bay will see more fastballs with Reyes on ahead of him. The problem is Reyes isn’t on much these days. And, Bay only has one homer on the season, so where he has benefitted I’m not sure.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Johan Santana, LP

NOTE: I have my class tonight and won’t be home until nine. Hope to see you then.