Apr 15

Can’t anybody here play this game?

My title is one of Casey Stengel’s most memorable quotes and is applicable to how this season has started for the Mets. Yesterday’s doubleheader loss, coming hours after Terry Collins’ closed doors meeting, was a study in bad baseball.

CASEY: What would he think of this?

It made me wonder what would have happened had the Mets not focused on fundamentals during spring training.

From the outfield defense – what were you thinking Scott Hairston? – to Brad Emaus butchering a  ball at second, to the Daniel Murphy’s inexplicable baserunning, to the lack of clutch hitting and pitching, the day was a complete washout.

They were competitive, but still lost. The Mets have not learned to put away a team – they lead in every game of the four games they lost to Colorado – from either an offensive or pitching perspective.

Talent-wise, we knew going into the season that the Mets didn’t have enough to compete with Philadelphia and Atlanta in the NL East, but I, like most, bought into Collins’ emphasis on fundamentals.

It just hasn’t happened, and had they been able to execute fundamentally on defense and at the plate, they might have overcome some of their pitching weaknesses. It hasn’t happened that way.

What was Murphy thinking trying to go to third from second on a ball hit in front of him? He clearly lost track of the outs. How hard is it to count to three? Hairston’s effort on that fly ball was weak. A veteran like that needs to show more.

Bottom line: Game 1 never should have come down to David Wright’s fly ball to the warning track.

As much as baseball is a team sport, it is also an individual one. Before each pitch, a player should know what his responsibilities should be. And, prior to each at-bat, he should know what his objective should be, such has hitting a fly ball or advancing a runner.

These guys have coaches to remind them, but their objective is something they should have long since known since high school ball. It’s not Collins or the coaches, it is them. They should know to hit a ground ball to the right side with a runner on second and no outs. They should know not to chase on 2-0 at the plate. They should know where to position themselves and what base to throw to. They should know whether or not they should run depending on where the ball is hit.

And, at the plate, they should have better command of the strikezone and know how to work a walk. Again, not enough walks and too many strikeouts.

These are major league players and they should show more beyond their skill set.

And, I haven’t begun to think about the pitching, which has been atrocious. By the way, my confidence level on D.J. Carrasco tonight in Atlanta isn’t good. When Tuesday’s game was rained out and the Mets knew they had a doubleheader yesterday, and definitely when Chris Young was pushed back, they should have held back one of their minor league starters.

The bullpen was taxed already, even prior to the doubleheader, and realistically they will go deep into their pen with Carrasco pitching (considering he’s one of the relievers). Also, with Mike Pelfrey not showing much so far and Young’s arm tender, they will use everybody this weekend.

Not a good job anticipating by Sandy Alderson and Collins.

However, after yesterday’s lost afternoon, the one thing that separates itself from the bad baseball was the use of Francisco Rodriguez in the second game. With the game out of reach, and knowing Rodriguez’s contractual status of needing 55 completed games for his $17.5 million to kick in, why would the Mets let him finish a game in a non-save situation?

It made no sense whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

Mar 22

No kudos for Alderson on Perez, Castillo.

Let’s be careful not to go overboard in praising the Sandy Alderson regime for the sacking of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. Credit to Alderson goes in finally convincing the Wilpons eating $18 million in salary was the prudent option.

The actual decision itself was a no-brainer in that neither would be a viable contributor to the team, both were an emotional and psychological drains in the clubhouse, and to adequately change the culture of the Mets they must be purged.

There was no real thinking that had to be done and the key was in the timing. Alderson knew he couldn’t trade either in the off-season because of their salary, performance and injury histories. His only hope for Castillo was he could find his game and prove enough in spring training to warrant going north; for Perez was he could regain his fastball and hook on in a relief role.

Both were long shots, but Alderson had no choice to bring them to spring training and let it play itself out.

Since neither distinguished himself in the positive, it was time to make the move. With Opening Day rapidly approaching and the Mets playing at a .500 pace and little room for optimism, Alderson needed to make a spark and this was it.

This was a move the Mets needed to make so let’s not throw roses at Alderson for doing the obvious.

Mar 20

Waiting out the Mets

ESPN is reporting the Phillies are close to signing Luis Castillo to fill in for the injured Chase Utley. If not the Phillies, it would be somebody else. The same goes for Oliver Perez when the Mets finally release him, presumably on Monday.

There was no chance the Mets had of trading either because teams knew they were dealing from a position of strength with Sandy Alderson. There is no reason for any team to offer a player to the Mets when they know they could wait them out and just sign them when they were cut loose. More importantly, by waiting out the Mets the new team wouldn’t assume those contracts, but only be responsible for the major league minimum of $414,500.

Sandy Alderson admitted Castillo was released in large part because of his perception by Mets’ fans. The same reasoning will also apply when it comes to Perez. Alderson and manager Terry Collins will meet Monday to discuss Perez’s fate. After giving up back-to-back homers Saturday, the inevitable is probably hours away.

 

Mar 18

Mets drop Castillo like that pop-up

The inevitable finally occurred..

Luis Castillo, who wasn’t having a bad spring offensively, was finally released today. However, staying with the Mets, unless somebody picks him up, will be the $6 million the club owns him.

CASTILLO: The play that defined his Met career.

The Wilpons frequently have been criticized for refusing to eat bad contracts and there was speculation Castillo might stick. I thought he’d at least last the weekend.

However, in the end, the negativity Castillo brought, his declining defensive ability and the belief he wasn’t much better – if at all than his competition – were the overriding factors in ridding the organization of one of its most scorned players in its history.

Sandy Alderson made the announcement: “After a long evaluation during spring training, after consulting with [manager] Terry [Collins] and the coaching staff, I made a recommendation to ownership in the best interest of the organization and Louie that he be released. Ownership approved.’’

Indeed, the culture has changed.

Collins was never enamored with Castillo, starting for his failure to notify the manager he wouldn’t report early because of a family emergency. A simple phone call could have diffused things.

Twice Castillo reported to spring training out of shape. There were times he didn’t hustle, including this week when he failed to cover first base. His defense and range were in decline. He was injury prone. He had one good season with the bat, hardly enough to justify the four-year, $24 million contract former GM Omar Minaya awarded him.

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Mar 13

Mets must prepare for life without Santana

When it comes to injuries, especially to the shoulders of pitchers, always bet the over. That’s my feeling after Mets pitcher Johan Santana refuted a published report his season could be in jeopardy.

SANTANA: Will we ever see him again?

Santana turned 32 today, and naturally the Mets are concerned about his recovery from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. They’ve been worried since he walked off the mound last summer in pain, and it being his birthday simply makes it a logical time to revive the issue.

“We’re right on the right track,’’ Santana told reporters today.  “Whoever is saying I’m not ready, I think is lying. We are all on the same page here. … How can you have a setback at this point, where I’m just beginning to throw? I haven’t even got on the mound. I haven’t even forced my body to try to throw hard.’’

We knew from the outset the recovery would be painful with no real timetable. There are always setbacks and days when Santana might feel better than others.

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