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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Mar 02

Impact of Wilpon’s financial problems already being felt.

F. WILPON: There's a Ponzi connection to the field.

Some have suggested the product on the field has not yet been impacted by the Ponzi scheme, but that is hardly close to the truth. In fact, much of what the Mets are doing with their team is directly resulted in the fallout from the Madoff situation.

There were rumblings of the Wilpons being in financial straits for over a year now, with a clear sign last July at the trade deadline when the Mets, within striking distance of the wild card, stood pat and did nothing to improve their club. It takes money to win and the Mets added no significant payroll at a time when they could have improved their team and made a change in the attitude at Citi Field.

A second clear sign – although we didn’t learn of this until recently – was receiving a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball at the end of last season. This is a team, despite a new stadium, that was beginning to swim in debt. If we had known it then, we could have been spared the off-season angst of them not doing anything in the winter.

Sign three, and very significant, was the hiring of general manager Sandy Alderson at MLB’s urging. Commissioner Bud Selig took a proactive approach in getting Alderson hired by the Wilpon’s, perhaps in large part, to be a caretaker for the franchise as it explores minority ownership investors and later a possible sale.

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Jan 31

What will having new investors mean?

What we speculated since the news broke of the Madoff Ponzi scandal has come to fruition; the Wilpons are in financial straits.

To what degree, we don’t know and might not until after commissioner Bud Selig meets with the Wilpons. But, that they are entertaining the idea of bringing in new investors tells us the family has issues. One would think the Wilpon’s close relationship with Selig would preclude a complete sale of the Mets.

According to reports, selling a portion of the Mets is to raise money for Sterling Equities. What we don’t know is how much input any new investor will get for his 20 to 25 percent. And, with limited input, what is the incentive to buy in?

The Wilpons have repeatedly said the Ponzi incident has not, and will not, impact decisions made about the Mets and how they do business.

However, the hiring of Sandy Alderson as general manager at the suggestion of Selig, and how little the Mets spent this winter is indicative in their streamlining approach.

We know the Mets will not give an extension to Carlos Beltran and are hoping he’ll get off to a good start and be easier to trade. We can also bet the Mets will attempt to limit Francisco Rodriguez’s appearances to less than 55 to avoid his option kicking in. He’s also somebody the Mets will attempt to deal in July.

There’s also reasoned speculation the Mets will seriously entertain offers for Jose Reyes, the player that would attract to most in return.

What we’ve been told so far is the blueprint is to evaluate the team this year, build a competitive base and add pieces with money saved when several bulky contracts are off the books.

Alderson said several times having more flexibility next year doesn’t guarantee breaking the bank. Frankly, dealing Reyes, if it comes to that, says the Mets are starting over.

Jan 26

Santana not throwing

Despite being cleared to begin his post-op throwing program, Johan Santana hasn’t begun, yet. It is premature to say this is a setback.

General manager Sandy Alderson said last month he expects Santana to be throwing before the start of spring training, but wouldn’t specify a date. He did say Opening Day was out and the expectation was for the second half.

When we see Santana could very well depend on how well the Mets are playing by the All-Star break. If the team is playing poorly and opts to rebuild by dealing Carlos Beltran, then there’s no sense in rushing Santana.

If the Mets are competing and have realistic wild-card aspirations, then it isn’t hard to envision there might be some pressure – probably self-imposed by Santana – to come back.

Either way, the clock on Santana’s return won’t start until he starts throwing and he hasn’t yet started long-tossing.