Jan 10

Do you still have faith in the Mets?

There have been countless lost seasons in this franchise’s history, many of them gone before pitchers and catchers report in February. This is looking like another one of those years.

The Mets only did minor tweaking this winter and are no better now than they were when the season ended. They are putting their stock in the season in the hopes of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran staying healthy, the continued development of Mike Pelfrey and some of their younger players, and encore seasons from RA Dickey and Angel Pagan.

In short, they are hoping everything breaks right, and even if it does, there are two holes in the rotation and a weak bullpen.

Still, the Mets are asking you to believe, with perhaps our biggest wish is for them to get rid of Oliver Perez before Opening Day.

As I look at the drifting snow and feel the cold, the warmth I usually feel this time of year because of spring training has slipped away like me on the ice this morning. Spring training is a time for optimism and hope, but this year realistic hope is around .500 at best. But, we knew this with the hiring of Sandy Alderson, who told us there would be no big spending this winter and he hoped the team would be competitive. That probably means a lot of close games before losing in the late innings.

Still, we follow the Mets because they are our team and are woven deep into our lives. We still love them like the gangly younger brother that embarrasses us. We are loyal to them because we know loyalty is about acceptance and we believe things will improve next year.

As we are distracted by football, we try to envision the snow gone, the grass green and lush and baseball occupying our spring nights. And, somewhere there is the hope this could be a fun summer regardless how it looks on paper now.

Dec 13

Are you ready to sacrifice 2011?

Sandy Alderson insists the Mets will compete in 2011, but at the same time acknowledges limited resources and holes in the rotation and bullpen. The plan is for those injured to bounce back healthy and the others to play at the top of their game.

Don’t expect Johan Santana before the All-Star break at the earliest. We’ve known since he joined the organization this would be the case, but it is sinking in after coming home with scraps from the winter meetings. Yes, the Mets needed a back-up catcher and another bullpen arm, but that’s not enough to get it done.

Alderson said today he’d like seven or eight arms to compete for starter roles but came up with only Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, John Niese, Dillon Gee and Pat Misch. Jenrry Mejia, he said, isn’t ready. Alderson didn’t say where the other arms would come from. Chris Young is somebody they are looking at, but he’s a project and wants more than what the Mets want to give.

Everything has to break right for the Mets to have a competitive season. That much Alderson has told us. He just hasn’t said how this is to happen.

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 01

What exactly is Sandy Alderson’s definition of competitive?

Sandy Alderson expects the Mets to be competitive next season, but did not define that to mean they’ll be in the playoff hunt. He also said he doesn’t foresee the Mets being big players in the free-agent market.

There’s nothing down below that is major league ready to drastically improve the team, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll deal any of their three biggest major league commodities – David Wright, Jose Reyes or Mike Pelfrey.

Translated: Alderson believes the Mets can be competitive with pretty much the same team they had this season if their injured players can return productive and sound, which is what Omar Minaya said last winter. The Mets won 79 games this year, two below .500, which is merely average. They would figure to improve with full and healthy seasons from Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Reyes, but there are no guarantees.

But, how much better? Ten games? That would be 89, but the NL wild card team, Atlanta, won 91 games. So, winning ten more falls short, and that’s even before considering their other issues.

The first, and most important, is the expected absence of Johan Santana. Some projections have him missing most, if not all of the season. Assuming no Santana, the Mets will need two other starters to fill out their rotation.

If the Mets go the same route as they did last winter and not add an arm in the free agent market, we’ll be looking at a front end of the the rotation with Pelfrey, Jon Niese and RA Dickey, with Dillon Gee and Pat Misch among those competing in the back end.

Other issues will be hoping for the continued development of Ike Davis, Josh Thole and Angel Pagan.

Alderson has already told us he won’t have a lot of payroll flexibility this winter, but even if he were to shed the Mets of Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo, that doesn’t mean he’ll find an extra $18 million to play with for 2011.

So far, the first impression has been a good one of Alderson, and part of that has been him being forthcoming about the obstacles.

We’re all assuming the Mets will make major moves for the 2012 season. That doesn’t mean they can’t take a step up next season. How big remains to be seen.

Oct 25

Mets’ GM search in second phase

Mets fans might have celebrated hollow victories over the weekend when the Yankees and Phillies were eliminated from the postseason on consecutive nights, the final out in each game coming on a called third strike. Alex Rodriguez one night; Ryan Howard the other.

Of course, rooting against the Yankees and Phillies is futile work, as it does nothing toward the improvement of the Mets.

However, the most important development lately has been the narrowing of the GM candidates to Josh Byrnes and Sandy Alderson.

Byrnes will interview with ownership, including Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, today, and Alderson will be on stage tomorrow. Both are highly regarded and will inherit a team with a high payroll and a myriad of issues.

Neither will be able to turn the program around in a year, and such a promise hasn’t been made by either in the first round of interviews.

Both GM candidates indicate Wally Backman is on their list of prospective managerial candidates, which parallels the Wilpon’s thinking. That is not to say Backman is a given, but he will get an honest shot. There are several things about Backman that concern me, most is the perception he is the Wilpon pick and he’s being forced on to the new general manager. My preference for Backman is to be promoted to bench coach and work under an experienced manager.

The new GM will inherit a team slightly below .500, meaning there is reason to be optimistic about improvement should all the pieces fall into place, notably the healthy returns of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran, continued development from Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese, and an encore from RA Dickey. The Mets aren’t void of talent, and improvement should occur, but they are still behind the Phillies and Braves, but those teams have their own issues.

A GM decision could be made as soon the off day following Game 2, which is a travel day in the World Series. As written here before, the GM candidates have their thinking on the manager, so that process should turn around rather quickly.

The first order of offseason business might night be conducted by assistant GM John Ricco and Jeff Wilpon, and that would be the re-signing of reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The Mets have until Oct. 31 to re-sign Takahashi, otherwise he can become a free agent.

Takahashi did everything the Mets asked of him last season as a starter or in a variety of bullpen roles, but the left-hander prefers to start. The Mets could promise him a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training or they could overpay to keep him in the pen.

Reportedly, Takahashi is seeking a two-year deal and he’s worth it based on what he did in 2010.