Nov 22

Mets to tab Collins as manager

Terry Collins is 61 years old and hasn’t managed in the major leagues in 11 years, but will become the 20th manager in Mets’ history.

I’m happy about the selection and don’t believe for a second the team doesn’t have its fingers on the pulse of its fans, many of whom remain infatuated with 1986 and preferred Wally Backman get the job.

I’m pleased with the selection because it showed the Mets followed through on their promise to make a thoughtful decision and didn’t cave to make the popular pick, the easy pick just to placate the emotions in the stands.

Doing so could have set the team back several years.

Sandy Alderson knows more about what’s going on than the fans and the media. He has a proven track record and was hired to rebuild this franchise. I trust he knows what he’s doing and want to see how things develop before trashing his pick.

Alderson conducted an exhaustive search of ten candidates before narrowing it down to Collins, Bob Melvin, Chip Hale and Backman. Collins’ reputation is one of being fiery – the description of Backman, who has 444 less career major league wins as a manager – and of being solid in player development, essential for a team looking to rebuild.

Hale is expected to remain with the organization, but no word yet on what will become of Melvin and Backman. Both worked for the Mets last season and could be brought back.

Alderson has a rebuilding plan and it won’t happen overnight. Collins will be given a two-year contract, time enough to lay a strong foundation.

The Mets are a team in transition. Their first step was to add a well-respected front office, which has now made it first move.

Let’s see how it works.

Oct 28

Mets’ Alderson has a long list ahead of him.

It won’t be an easy task for Sandy Alderson to turn around the Mets. Naming a manager is on everybody’s mind now, but that’s just one of the issues on a lengthy things-to-do list.

ALDERSON: A long list of things to do.

No doubt all these things were discussed during the interview process:

1) ORGANIZING HIS STAFF: John Ricco is already on board as assistant general manager, but Alderson has thoughts of his own for the remainder of his staff. Alderson’s reputation is having his hands in everything, and that means surrounding himself with people he trusts.

From scouting to minor league operations to the medical staff, Alderson has his own ideas and won’t blindly inherit Omar Minaya’s staff and the remainder of the Mets’ organization. You might see in the upcoming weeks, perhaps even ahead of naming the manager, announcements on Alderson’s staff.

There’s little doubt Alderson hasn’t already begun the evaluation process, and there should be a minimum of time before naming any new pieces.

Is it possible for some of the Mets’ organization to stay in place? Absolutely. He’s been around; he knows who’s good or not from the existing staff. Part of the process will depend on his conclusions as to how much Minaya was responsible to the existing mess.

2) NAMING A MANAGER: I appreciate the sentiment naming Wally Backman might cause the perception the Wilpons are still calling all the shots, but the former Mets’ second baseman is reportedly on his list.

Alderson already has his short list, which he’s keeping close to the vest. Jerry Manuel was too passive in many areas, and the choice should be someone with a firmer hand. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a dictator.

A candidate without a Mets’ background will also be one of the things he’ll consider. Alderson, by himself, represents change, so I don’t think they’ll name a manager just to sell tickets. That is part of the rationale in Backman.

BACKMAN: Don't count on him.

Whomever is chosen, he should be a teacher with an ability to work with young talent as the Mets have a core in Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Mike Pelfrey, Ruben Tejada and Jon Niese. The right balance between motivation and patience must be made.

3) DECIDING ON WHERE ARE THE METS TODAY: Are the Mets a .500 team that needs a minimum of rebuilding to be competitive next year or are they a team that needs an overhaul?

Alderson must decide on what being competitive means in 2011. Is .500 good enough or should they wait until 2012 when he has more salary to work with?

The decision on where the Mets will largely be dependent in part on Alderson’s budget. With $130 million earmarked for 2011, just how much flexibility will he be given?

They have the pieces in place to improve if Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran are healthy and productive, but those are just two of several things that must break right. The Mets learned since the end of the 2006 season that hoping isn’t a sound strategy.

There are holes in the rotation, and bolstering the bullpen and bench is a must. They are closer to last place than first place.

The answer to this issue will determine just how much work needs to be done.

4) ASCERTAINING JOSE REYES: He’ll probably stay, but if Alderson decides the team is far away he’ll have to consider whether Reyes is more valuable on the field or with what he might bring in a trade.

You just don’t deal a player like Reyes without considerable thought, and Alderson has to look at the injury history the past two years and whether there’s still a ceiling for him.

REYES: What's his real value?

If Alderson believes dealing Reyes could fill two or three holes, then that has to be on the table. The flip side is having somebody to replace him, and right now they don’t.

Reyes can be, and has been, a dynamic talent for the Mets, but it also must be remembered the Mets haven’t won with him. Ditto David Wright.

5) DECIDING ON A PITCHING COACH: Mike Pelfrey and RA Dickey endorsed Dan Warthen, but that’s not enough. The manager should have the right to name his pitching coach and the rest of his staff.

Assuming Alderson is already reaching out to potential managers, it is a safe assumption the new pitching coach is already on the radar.

The Mets pitching staff statistically improved last summer under Warthen, but how much of that was not having Oliver Perez and John Maine? I would say plenty.

6) WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEADWOOD: I think the sooner they are rid of Perez and Luis Castillo, the better. However, just ditching them as suggested the other day might not be a prudent move.

Alderson needs to change the culture and not having Perez would do that. However, Perez rarely pitched last summer and was coming off an injury. The rational thing to do would be to add to the pitching staff thinking Perez won’t be there, but allow him to work on his mechanics and strength in the winter leagues.

There are no games being played now, and either way Perez will get $12 million in 2011 from the Mets. If they have one more opportunity to see if Perez can turn it around they should take it.

Castillo, at least, wanted to play. The Mets don’t like eating salary, but $6 million is more palatable than $12 million.

7) BUILDING THE ROTATON: The assumption must be made Johan Santana will be out for much of the season if not all.

Nobody thinks they’ll sign Cliff Lee, but there’s no harm in contacting his agent.

The current rotation consists of Pelfrey, Dickey and Jon Niese. Is Dillon Gee a real option? We don’t know, but he’ll get a shot. The prudent thing to do with Jenrry Mejia, since they misused him last year, would have him start in the minor leagues.

The Mets need to add two starters, which is why giving Perez a chance in winter ball is a prudent thing. Then they can attempt to add some middle-tier arms in the offseason so the team would at least be competitive.

8) DECIDE ON CARLOS BELTRAN: It’s highly doubtful Alderson will find a taker for the injured and highly-priced – $18.5 million for 2011 – Beltran.

Any deal they might make would necessitate them picking up a considerable piece of the remaining salary, and with that being the case they are better off hoping he has something left in his walk year.

However, it is clear Beltran, as he is now, can’t play center field on a regular basis. Alderson, with the new manager, must meet with Beltran to discuss a move to right field.

This can’t be a thing to be debated during spring training. The decision must be made before.

9) THE BULLPEN: The Mets’ reaching a settlement with Francisco Rodriguez only tentatively answers the closer question. Assuming things work out for Rodriguez in court then the Mets can address the rest of their bullpen.

The Mets need to make a decision on Hisanori Takahashi by Oct. 31, and it is believed they will offer him two years. An ironclad promise to start can’t be made because they won’t have a manager by then, but bringing him back is important.

Bringing back Pedro Feliciano is also necessary, as is finding a role for Bobby Parnell.

The bullpen has been mix-and-match the past few seasons and this winter will be more of the same.

10) EVALUATING THE MINORS: By most accounts, the Mets are stronger in the lower levels of the minors than they are in the higher classes.

A lot was made after the season about developing a “Mets Way,’’ in the farm system where a certain philosophy and style of play is adapted and taught at all levels.

I would like to see that with the Mets, where it is ingrained in the young players that they play an aggressive, fundamental style of ball. The transition from level to level must be as seamless as possible.

The Mets are starting over with Alderson, and that includes on all levels.

Oct 26

Changing the culture should be new GM’s first step.

PEREZ: New GM must cut ties right away.

The Mets could name Sandy Alderson as their new general manager, with the announcement coming as soon as Friday, the first travel day during the World Series. That’s the likely day as MLB requires teams from withholding such announcements as not to disrupt the World Series.

Alderson is having his second interview today.

Assuming it is Alderson, the most important thing he can initially do is change the culture of the Mets and that won’t be with the announcement of the new manager. The single most critical action stop the new general manager can do to signify change to the Mets’ players and their disgruntled fan base would be to convince ownership Oliver Perez has to go.

Perez personifies the mistakes of the Omar Minaya regime and sucks the life and energy out of the team. The Mets played with 24 players for much of the season because of Perez’s refusal to help himself. It was an intolerable situation, one that can’t repeat itself.

Getting rid of Perez will not change the fact the Mets still must pay him $12 million for 2011, but having him gone rids the organization of a disruptive, non-productive and selfish player. Such a move immediately screams the culture is changing. It says the Mets “are as mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.”

The new general manager will have a myriad of decisions to make, but nothing that would change the perception of the organization, both inside and out, as significantly at first as getting rid of Perez.

Such a move would tell Mets’ fans the organization is willing to break with its past reputation of not eating bad contracts. It acknowledges the team made a disastrous mistake and is willing to move on.

Above all, it is a proactive move. There is no more hoping or wishing for Perez to turn it around. Wishing is not a strategy. Wishing prohibits doing and the new general manager must be about doing.

And that message must come right away.

Sep 28

Reflections of Willie

With the Milwaukee Brewers in town, and Jerry Manuel presumably in his last week as Mets manager, it is not surprising the attention being placed on Willie Randolph and the inevitable comparisons to his successor.

RANDOLPH: Looking back.

I covered Randolph in 2006 until 2008 when he was unceremoniously fired, and found him to be knowledgeable but sometimes too thin skinned. I won’t use the word paranoid because I’m not a psychiatrist and believe that’s too harsh and unfair an assessment.

I attributed Randolph’s demeanor to it being his first job and his inability to let go of being passed by for other opportunities.

And, to be fair, Randolph had reason to be cautious as the Mets presented him with several untenable obstacles. Willie spoke highly of Omar Minaya the other day, but part of that was being a gentleman. Fact is, there was an uneasy tension between Randolph and the front office caused in large part by the constant undermining presence of Tony Bernazard, who literally was a management spy and who fed information to players that caused a gap in the clubhouse.

Minaya was at fault for letting that situation develop and not pulling in the reigns on Bernazard. Eventually, Bernazard did himself in and his reputation has kept him from landing another baseball job.

That Carlos Delgado sabotaged Randolph’s relationship with the Latin players, and it was allowed to happen by the front office, was distasteful and really despicable. Delgado’s presence undoubtedly hampered Randolph’s relationship with Jose Reyes to name one. It was information fed by Bernazard to Delgado that damaged whatever relationship the player could have with his manager.

The Mets came within one hit of reaching the World Series in 2006, then collapsed in 2007. The collapse that summer was historic, but traceable to the front office not addressing the needs of starting pitching and not bringing back the bullpen that was a strength of the 2006 team. The collapse would have happened sooner, and perhaps not been as dramatic, if not for the strong start that spring.

The bullpen was again a problem in 2008, but the Mets hung around until the final weekend. There was another collapse that year, but not as dramatic. The team hung around long enough for the interim tag to be removed from Manuel.

The Mets have addressed needs piecemeal, from Johan Santana to Francisco Rodriguez to Jason Bay, but never gave Randolph a full deck after 2006. The feeling was that they came close and to take the next step with essentially the same team. Hoping for improvement is not the same as adding the proper pieces to improve.

Gradually, by sticking with Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez too long, by not rebuilding the bullpen after Duaner Sanchez’s injury described in his EMR (electronic medical record) as a  fractured coracoid bone in the shoulder, by misjudging the progress made by Oliver Perez and John Maine after 2007, by hamstringing the bench with the likes of Julio Franco, poor contracts given Perez, Franco and Moises Alou, and numerous injuries, the window has slammed shut on the Mets and it doesn?t matter who is manager.

Had Randolph stayed, he couldn’t navigate through this mess, and Manuel has proven to be less capable. Let’s face it, today’s Mets are a house of cards. Their record will be better this year, but in some respects the team overachieved because of RA Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi, and Mike Pelfrey’s step forward.

With the payroll as it is, the injury to Santana and questions in the pitching staff, and the health issues of Carlos Beltran and Bay, this team could go south again next year.

Randolph deserves another chance to manage in the major leagues, but bringing him back isn’t the best idea. Been there, done that. Just like with Bobby Valentine.

Randolph has his faults as does Manuel, but the fact is this front office will be going on its fifth manager in ten years next season, a sure sign that the instability that comes from up top.

Sep 01

Tonight’s lineup at Braves

Interesting lineup tonight in Atlanta with both Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan not playing because of injuries.

Tonight will be Lucas Duda’s debut as the Mets are going younger. Duda’s reputation is that he can punish the ball, and power is something this team desperately needs.

Also, Josh Thole, who has good bat control will bat second. I don’t envision this being a permanent spot in the batting order for him, but the more information the better, especially in games when Pagan might hit third.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Luis Castillo, 2B

Josh Thole, C

David Wright, 3B

Chris Carter, RF

Carlos Beltran, CF

Ike Davis, 1B

Lucas Duda, LF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Mike Pelfrey, RP