Jan 03

Wilpons To Refinance; They Aren’t Going Anywhere

As you greet the third day of the new year, Mets fans can digest the reported news (ESPN and The Post for starters) that ownership has refinanced $450 million in loans borrowed from SNY.

How this is structured, I don’t know, but it protects the Wilpons from having to make an overwhelming payment that would prevent them from retaining the team.

Presumably, the money will be used to pay off existing debt – including the structured court-ordered payments from the Ponzi scandal – with little going in the direction of player additions. (Save $25 million owed Johan Santana in his final season with the Mets).

It basically means what you think it means, that things are likely to remain the same in the foreseeable future. Look for nothing substantial in the rest of the free-agent market, and as in previous years for management to sit on their hands at the trade deadline.

GM Sandy Alderson has successfully slashed $50 million from the budget of the team he inherited, which was what he was hired to do.

The Mets were willing to commit up to $20 million to R.A. Dickey before they traded him for prospects, but now without that obligation there’s no word what they will spend that money on. Alderson said the team will have greater flexibility after the 2013 season when Santana is off the books, but he also said not to look for a big splash in the free-agent market.

With FA spending not an option for at least two years, and the Mets refusing to part with their young pitching in trades, and having little else to deal on the major league level, the team’s direction is to wait … and wait … and wait, until their prospects develop. And, of that there are no guarantees.

When you look at the Mets in comparison to the rest of the NL East, Washington has shown a willingness to spend, and Atlanta and Philadelphia proactive adding to a superior core. The Marlins seem in comparably bad shape – if not worse – than the Mets, but at least they are warm down there.

When you look at the rest of the National League, the Dodgers, Giants, Reds and Cardinals are all immediately better, financially more solvent and better run than the Mets. Even Pittsburgh, which hasn’t had a winning season in two decades, is more aggressive.

So, when people ask how long it will be until the Mets are competitive or relevant again, it is difficult to forecast. It might be two, three years before Matt Harvey blossoms and Jon Niese reaches his potential. There’s room for growth with Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada and Bobby Parnell.

But, even if those things happen, we still don’t know who’ll be in the outfield or bullpen. We don’t know who’ll be in the rotation. We don’t know about catcher. We don’t know where David Wright will be in his career.

What we do know is the Mets have a myriad of questions, aggressive teams in their division and no definitive spending timetable.

We do know we have a long wait.












Dec 28

Top Ten Mets Stories For 2012: Dickey, Wright, Santana And Others

The clock is winding down on 2013, which, if you’re a Mets fan is a good thing because it was another fruitless season at Citi Field.

Before we kiss the year good-bye, or as Gary Cohen would say, “It’s outta here!’’ let’s go back and look at the top ten Mets stories of this very forgettable season:

1. TRADING R.A. DICKEY: My argument for it being the top Mets story is it defines and underscores what is going on with this franchise.

Dickey had arguably one of the most remarkable seasons for a Mets pitcher in winning 20 games and the Cy Young Award with a knuckleball, and as it would turn out, pitching hurt.

Dickey was a feel-good and inspirational story, and despite roughly a $5 million difference, the Mets dealt him for prospects – the key one coming off an injury – that are two or three years away.

The message sent wasn’t Happy New Year, but this team is still not ready for prime time.

2. RESIGNING DAVID WRIGHT: They were supposed to sign both Wright and Dickey to tell its disgruntled fan base that the Mets were building for the future.

Wright was imperative because he’s the most popular Met and the face of the franchise. We shall see how the Mets will build on extending Wright. The first move was to deal Dickey.

3. DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SUMMER: Once thought of as a stop-gap fifth starter, Dickey pitched to elite status this summer in winning the Cy Young Award.

However, Dickey was more than a pitcher, but a symbol of persistence who could identify with the common fan. More than any other Met, Dickey is us and showed his guile and grit every fifth day.

4. JOHAN SANTANA’S NO-HITTER: Perhaps in other seasons it would rank higher, but it came with several asterisks.

First, it was tainted, preserved by a blown umpire’s call that ironically robbed former Met Carlos Beltran. Then, there were the 134 pitches as the game was extended by the bad call.

Santana followed the no-hitter with a career-high six straight losses and again ended the season on the disabled list.

Santana has pitched well in spots, but it will always be remembered that for the $134 million contract he never pitched in a playoff game for the Mets and frequently was injured.

The last three years was a matter of merely counting down to the end of his contract.

5. JASON BAY BOMBS OUT: Santana’s contract might be arguably the worst FA deal doled out by the Mets. If not him, then definitely Bay, who between injuries gave the Mets no production.

The Mets were eventually able to buy out Bay on a differed basis, which considering what he gave the team, really doesn’t leave them in a hole for 2013.

As with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, it was best to move on.

6. ALDERSON SITS AT THE BREAK: After letting Jose Reyes leave without an offer, GM Sandy Alderson vowed the team would have the resources to add pieces at the trade deadline if it were competitive.

Before the break the Mets once were eight games over .500 and 46-40 at the break. However, cracks in the bullpen were forming and Alderson did nothing. By the time he was inclined to make a trade, the second half-collapse had begun and it was too late.

7. SECOND-HALF COLLAPSE: At one point the Mets went 15 games at home in which it scored three or fewer runs. Hard to fathom, but true.

Dickey and Ike Davis’ strong second half is what the Mets needed to struggle to finish 14 games under .500.

The second-half collapse included Santana’s six-game losing streak, Dillon Gee’s season-ending injury and the bullpen’s implosion.

8. IKE DAVIS HITS 32 HOMERS: It was frequently written Davis has 30-homer potential. Now, it is true and he’s the singular most power threat in the line-up as Wright’s homer production has dropped and Lucas Duda is still a question.

There were trade rumors of Boston having interest, but with the Mets basically void of power, Davis isn’t going anywhere.

9. METS SURVIVE REYES’ DEPARTURE: One of the more overriding issues with the Mets entering the season was how it would adjust to losing Jose Reyes.

Ruben Tejada more than ably filled the role as the Mets proved they could lose with or without Reyes. Tejada won’t become an offensive match to Reyes, but he was more than adequate and definitely was on a par defensively.

10. TEAM DOES NOTHING AT WINTER MEETINGS: The Mets didn’t counter losing Dickey with anything productive.

In fact, the Mets end 2012 in worse shape than it started the season. In addition to the normal injury-related questions to their pitching, the Mets now need to add a starter to replace Dickey.

The Mets aren’t likely to bring back Scott Hairston, who was a role player for them in the first place and have three questions in the outfield. There’s also concerns in the bullpen and at catcher.

So, the biggest story for the 2012 Mets is they’ve gotten worse.

Nov 29

Wright Should Take Offer, But What Happens Next For Mets?

If the latest numbers are to be believed, then the Mets have done their due diligence and David Wright should have the deal that could enable him to finish his career in Flushing. If he plays in the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field wearing another uniform, then that’s his decision.

The reported seven-year, $125-million contract would give him the longevity he craves while making him the highest-paid, fulltime third baseman in the sport. Afterall, Alex Rodriguez does split his time as a DH and on the disabled list. Nobody will ever get a contract like Rodriguez’s again.

Wright has been adamant about wanting to be like future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, and a player he grew up idolizing – Cal Ripken – in wanting to play his career with the same team.

Wright is one of the few players I believe in when he says things such as that. Jose Reyes, I always thought, would take the last dollar possible. Wright never struck me as such.

There is a question about deferred money, but I don’t think of that as anything more than a retirement plan. That shouldn’t that insurmountable an obstacle.

I understand the need to retain Wright and have long been on board with it. However, it stands to reason that keeping him – and hopefully, R.A. Dickey – means absolutely nothing it the Mets remain the same.

Based on his numbers the past three seasons, that’s an extremely generous offer from the Mets. Yes, they would be overpaying, but they would be purchasing more than just a third baseman. Wright is the face of the franchise and should represent a commitment toward winning.

Keeping Wright and doing nothing else to build the team accomplishes nothing. The Mets’ current plan appears to be keeping Wright, perhaps Dickey, and a lot of hoping, such as:

* Johan Santana remaining healthy and productive in his final season as a Met.

* Breakout seasons from Jon Niese and Dillon Gee.

* A strong full first season from Matt Harvey.

* Josh Thole learns how to hit, hopefully with some power.

* Ike Davis adds to last year’s 32 homers.

* Ruben Tejada at least duplicates last year.

* Wright, for all that money, returns to becoming a power hitter.

* The outfield trio – if the season started today – of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter can play as starters instead of role players. And, if not, somebody falls into their laps.

* They somehow, some way, piece together a bullpen.


Nov 05

2012 Mets Player Review: Ruben Tejada


PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Perhaps no Met endured as much preseason scrutiny as shortstop Ruben Tejada. Although he played well in 2011, hitting .284 in place of the injured Jose Reyes, this year the job was his and he would be judged as a starter. Tejada played a combined 105 games at second base in 2010 and 2011, but would be the fulltime shortstop last summer as the Mets began a new era. The Mets were satisfied with Tejada’s defense, with some in the organization favoring him over Reyes. However, Reyes is an offensive presence and the Mets were pleasantly surprised at Tejada’s average and .360 on-base percentage in 2011, but didn’t know if his numbers were a fluke or a real indicator of what could be expected. A player with no power, Tejada should help himself by being patient, but strikes out too much and draws too few walks.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: With so much going on with the 2012 Mets, they were fortunate not be saddled with a shortstop hole. It would be foolish to say Tejada completely replaced Reyes, but considering the void left the Mets got more than they could have expected. Tejada committed only 12 errors with a .974 fielding percentage. Tejada has good range, which is especially important considering he needed to shade towards second to compensate for second baseman Daniel Murphy. Tejada hit .289 after hitting over .300 for much of the season. However, his on-base percentage fell 27 points to .333 and his OPS dropped 11 points to .685. Tejada provided little run production (one homer and 25 RBI) and struck out 73 times compared to 27 walks. Tejada hit mostly first or second in the batting order, and was equally effective, hitting .293 and .292, respectively. Like most Mets, Tejada had a dramatic drop-off in the second half. Tejada hit .325 with 30 strikeouts in the first half, but fell to .269 with 43 strikeouts after the break.

LOOKING AT 2013: Tejada gave the Mets enough this summer to where they don’t need to concern themselves with shortstop in 2013. The Mets realize Tejada’s offensive limitations as far as run production. Andres Torres did not show anything as a leadoff hitter and likely won’t be brought back, so expect Tejada to get a shot at that responsibility. Hitting .289 again would be welcomed, but Tejada must increase his on-base percentage by cutting his strikeouts and walking more. Tejada should also attempt to be more aggressive on the bases. Considering the type of player Tejada is, he must also cut down on his frequency of fly balls, which is almost equal to that of balls hit on the ground.

NEXT: David Wright

Sep 23

Mets Matters: Dickey Closing In On 20

I root for good story lines and people, and that’s R.A. Dickey. I was hoping Terry Collins would let him finish but he was gassed. Winning 20 games has become almost obsolete these days, but Dickey has a chance.
Winning 20 indicates perseverance, talent and a little bit of luck, too. To accomplish it on a team that could almost finish 20 games below .500 makes it even more remarkable.
Switching his turn this weekend will give him a chance to do it at home Thursday in the Citi Field finale. If he does it, that’s a positive send off for the winter.
More Mets Matters:
* Lucas Duda was pulled for not hustling on a pop-up in Friday night’s game, less than 24 hours after Collins intimated the Mets had quit. It was apparent Duda didn’t get the message, so good for Collins to put his foot down.
These guys, even the young ones such as Duda get paid a lot of money to play a game. There’s never any excuse for not hustling. I don’t know how many times a Met failed to hustle this season. Duda certainly wasn’t the first. Ruben Tejada has done it several times, I know. But, for the remainder of this season and next year, Collins must have a kick ass attitude when it comes to not hustling and botching fundamentals.
That’s the only way the culture will change.
* Closer Frank Francisco has elbow tendinitis but is available. Why not shut him down for the rest of the season and do some experimenting the final week? It’s not as if Francisco is going to show us something we don’t already know.
* Jason Bay homered yesterday. Collins said his power and bat speed are still there and they’ll continue to search for answers. It’s been three years and the Mets have gotten nothing from Bay for the $66 million they are paying him. If the Mets are to start fresh next season, releasing him if he has a poor spring training is the best way to go. I like Bay’s hustle and defense, but he’s got to hit.