Oct 03

Immediate Mets’ issues

There’s a sentiment the Mets over achieved this year, but that is more a case of lessened expectations. While their desired off-season budget will preclude much activity toward improvement, that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues needing to be addressed:

DECIDE ON JOSE REYES: Actually, they already have, but aren’t ready to reveal the numbers. For public relations purposes, the Mets don’t want to appear to be pushing Reyes out the door, but it is clear he is the first domino and every thing they do revolves around him. What the Mets can’t afford to do is get strung out dealing with Reyes ultimately to have him go elsewhere and have their other options get snapped up. From the direction they take on Reyes you’ll ascertain where the Mets are immediately headed. Should they determine they can live without Reyes – or need to live without him – they will be saying there’s considerably more rebuilding to be done. Bringing him back says they believe they are ready to compete, but it makes no sense to do so if they aren’t willing to spend in other areas.

THE COACHING STAFF: With manager Terry Collins’ contract extended, there’s the matter of his staff. Once again, pitching coach Dan Warthen’s future is suspect. Last year, Mike Pelfrey lobbied hard to retain Warthen, but considering his anemic performance, he won’t carry much weight this time around.

ADD TO THE ROTATION: Pelfrey regressed and surprise Dillon Gee was the only starter with a record over .500; four of the five had ERA’s of 4.40 or higher; and the staff had a composite 1.378 WHIP.  Jonathan Niese and Johan Santana have injury issues, and since there are no assurances, the Mets have little alternative but to bring back Pelfrey and Chris Capuano. There are some good names on the free agent market, notably C.J. Wilson, Rich Harden and Mark Buehrle, but they aren’t going to spend much, especially if they bring back Reyes. The Mets will likely fish from the pool where guys like Joel Pineiro, Jason Marquis and Freddy Garcia swim.

FIX THE BULLPEN: The Mets used 16 arms this summer and enter the offseason with a zero reliability factor in the pen. They’d like to see Bobby Parnell win the closer job, but he allowed 89 base runners in 59.1 innings pitched. That he strikes out over one batter an inning means he has the stuff, but his command of it is erratic.

ANGEL PAGAN: Pagan took a step back, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Mets don’t tender him a contract.  There are decent stopgap options in the outfield, such as Rick Ankiel, Nate McLouth and Ryan Ludwick, but again, I don’t see the Mets going in that direction. It would be good if they could plug in Fernando Martinez, but his injury history makes him unreliable.

SECOND BASE: Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips is the best available, but wants a lot and the Mets won’t  go there, especially if they bring back Reyes, because what would they do with Ruben Tejada? If Reyes goes, they could go with Tejada and Justin Turner as their double play combination.

If you’re getting the impression most of the Mets off-season tinkering will come from within and be of the middle-tier cost variety, you’re right. Sandy Alderson is already on record saying he sees a budget of around $110 million, which is $30 million less than this summer.

Figure with much of that $30 million differential was in the person of Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo, then it isn’t hard to reason next summer won’t be much different than this one.


Sep 01

Losing Einhorn not the end of the world.

Much like their bullpen, the Mets’ deal with minority investor David Einhorn collapsed, and with it the $200 million infusion the financially strapped franchise was banking on to help them maintain as the Wilpons fight for their team in the fallout of the Ponzi scandal.

Naturally, there’s a difference of opinion of why the deal unraveled, with Einhorn claiming the Wilpons kept changing terms of the original agreement.

Reportedly, Einhorn was concerned about the language in the contract that would have allowed him to eventually assume ownership of the Mets in three to five years if the Wilpons didn’t repay the $200 million. Einhorn wanted a clear path to ownership and bypass the approval of baseball’s other owners.

Einhorn taking shots at the Wilpons won’t help him should he pursue ownership of another baseball franchise. This is a tight fraternity, and as unhappy as many fans are with the Wilpons, they have allies in Commissioner Bud Selig and other owners.

Fans might clamor for new ownership, but it isn’t happening any time soon.

The Mets, meanwhile, insist they aren’t in dire financial distress despite the lingering Ponzi scandal. In a statement released by the team, the Mets said they have the resources to cover the remainder of the 2011 season and to continue business.

It must be remembered it was the Wilpons who walked away from this deal, a signal they don’t believe they are desperate.

However, the Mets did not say whether business would include re-signing Jose Reyes or how active they might be in the free-agent market.

Reportedly, the Mets are still seeking investors, but will explore the piecemeal route rather than try to hook somebody for another $200 million. This might prove to be a quicker way to raise funds.

This is not good news for the Mets, but not the devastating news made out to be on talk radio. For years, the Mets’ problem has not been an inability or refusal to spend, but to spend wisely. All we have to look at is the Omar Minaya era, and it wasn’t much better before him.

It ultimately lies with the Wilpons, and they seemingly put a management plan in place with the hiring of general manager Sandy Alderson. It takes time for these things to develop, but there have been encouraging signs this season, including how the team is playing and chasing .500.

After the last two years, who would have projected that progress?

We were told this would be a rebuilding, learning year, and that is what has happened. There’s been some miserable baseball, but there’s been some sound play, including the Mets’ current streak.

I know Mets’ fans don’t want to hear about patience, but that’s the way it must be. For too long the Mets have gone for the quick fix that invariably put them in this current hole.

But, I don’t believe this hole is an abyss.

Aug 20

Bay remains enigma

Jason Bay is back in the lineup for today’s game against Milwaukee following a one-day benching on the heels of an 0-for-20 funk. He might hit a home run today, or two. Or, he could have another 0-for-4 with three punchouts. Not that it matters anymore.

Several months ago, when there was still a worthwhile part of the season left and Jose Reyes at the top of his game, Terry Collins suggested moving Bay to second in the order to get him more fastballs. Collins never moved on it and now that boat has sailed.

Even when Reyes returns his legs won’t be the same and the experiment will be a moot point. The Mets have tried everything with Bay, but his mechanics are so fouled up right now that it seems nothing will work. Maybe Bay will snap out of his funk. Maybe it won’t, but for now it seems no other conclusion can be drawn other than this signing was a bust.

And, there are two more years at $16 million per to endure. Sandy Alderson managed to get takers for Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. Maybe next year he’ll get lucky again. One can only hope.

Aug 05

Tonight’s line-up; Davis to get second opinion.

Last year’s feel good story is feeling his lumps this summer. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey salvaged the rotation when Oliver Perez was shut down, but has hardly been a surprise this year.

Dickey, tonight’s starter against Atlanta, is 5-9 with a respectable 3.77 ERA – a sign he’s not getting much support – but has two victories to show for his last ten starts.

Dickey often manages to give the Mets innings, going at least six innings in 17 of his 22 starts.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Braves:

Jose Reyes, SS

Justin Turner, 2B

Daniel Murphy, RF

David Wright, 3B

Angel Pagan, CF

Jason Bay, LF
Lucas Duda, RF

Josh Thole, C

R.A. Dickey, RP

NOTEBOOK: As suggested here earlier, the news isn’t encouraging for Ike Davis, who said microfracture surgery is an option. Davis will get another non-Mets opinion Tuesday. Meanwhile, Sandy Alderson said the plan is wait at least another month before deciding what to do. It would give Davis one more month of recovery and rehab if the surgery was done now. February will be quicker than you think.

Johan Santana is with the team during the home stand, but will not throw.

 

Aug 05

Mets shouldn’t push it with Santana and Davis.

Johan Santana has a fatigued left shoulder, which is better than another tear. Ike Davis is to be re-evaluated, but he already said he doubts he’ll play again this season.

SANTANA: No need to rush him.

Given the Mets’ history with injuries, I don’t see how anybody can be surprised by any of this, and certainly not feel disappointed about the prospect of not seeing either again this season.

If anything, I don’t want to see either this year.

I want Santana to keep working at getting stronger and not worrying about pitching again this year. It’s not ideal, but I can live with him not knowing until spring training. Even should Santana pitch again, the Mets should carry on their offseason business with the assumption he’ll breakdown again and not reach his former level.

Can you say Chien-Ming Wang?

There’s nothing to be gained by pushing Santana. There will be no playoffs, no pennant race. Let him rehab, rest and hope for the best next year.

It’s the prudent thing to do.

As far as Davis is concerned, all I see with trying to get him back is what happened with Carlos Beltran. They rehabbed him and had him come back for a few meaningless games in September and he ended up having the surgery anyway and came back late.

Learn from the past. Let the doctors take care of Davis now so at least he’ll have a chance to be ready for spring training.

Do you remember one of the vows when Sandy Alderson took over about being smarter with injuries? Well, here’s an opportunity to treat and take care of two key players.

Trying to get them back this year is just asking for trouble.