Nov 16

Alderson shows leadership in managerial search

That Sandy Alderson is continuing the search for a new manager in the aftermath of his father’s death shows true leadership and commitment; it shows the taking of responsibility. I have a feeling whomever he chooses will be a sound choice, one who is probably every bit the leader Alderson is proving to be.

I’ve read with great interest about the lack of discipline in the Mets’ clubhouse and the need for an iron hand. This is another point in Terry Collins’ favor.

If there was a lack of discipline, it stems from the previous administration. Both Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya were passive and too easy going and the players knew what they could and couldn’t get away with. Give a child an inch and he’ll take a mile.

Never was this more evident than in the case of Oliver Perez, whose selfishness forced the Mets to go with 24 players. Minaya was supposedly tight with the Hispanic players, but had no influence in the Perez case. Manuel, it was clear, had already lost the clubhouse at the end and couldn’t exert any authority, whether it be with Perez or anybody else for that matter.

To see Perez impose his will killed the clubhouse and the concept of team. But, too many other players had their own agendas long before Perez strangled the team.

It was obvious as the season faded that the Mets played with a lack of discipline. I don’t know if you’d call it a sense of entitlement as you would playing without passion or a fundamentally sound base.

Part of discipline should come from within, but a strong willed manager is essential in the molding part of a team. With some teams, you know there’s no questioning the authority of the manager. It’s that way in Boston and Philadelphia and St. Louis. It hasn’t been that way with the Mets.

When concentration wanders and at-bats are given away, both by the hitters and pitchers, a team looks lackluster and players fail to take accountability.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to play the game, and too often the Mets played the wrong way. And, there’s not a player not at fault.

Nov 11

Beltran willing to move to right

One of Sandy Alderson’s objectives is to convince Carlos Beltran to accept a move to right field and it looks as if that might happen.

In a conference call Thursday, Beltran said he would be open to moving to right field and waiving his no-trade clause.

BELTRAN: Open to move and trade

“I still feel that I can play center field,’’ Beltran said. “But, if the organization has different things in mind, then we have to talk about it.’’

Beltran wants to finish his career with the Mets, but is aware the club would like to shed his $18.5 million salary.

“If the organization is looking at different options, I have to be aware,’’ Beltran said. “So if a situation comes between them and us, we’re going to handle it in a very professional way.’’

The talking could start Saturday when Alderson travels to Puerto Rico for Beltran’s fundraiser for the construction of his baseball academy.

Continue reading

Nov 09

Mets laying a good foundation

I really like what the Mets have done so far as it shows thoughtfulness and the implementation of a real plan as opposed the quick-fix mentality.

Sandy Alderson was the best available general manager candidate and has not disappointed with the hires of Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi to the front office.

The Mets are laying a strong foundation, one that will carry them beyond the checkbook mentality of free agency. While it is premature to say theirs is the best front office in baseball, it isn’t to suggest they are showing signs of putting together a unit that could become one of the elite.

They are doing all the right things also in their managerial search and not giving into jumping at the hot name. The names being interviewed are solid candidates who could thrive in the right organization. The hiring of DePodesta to work the minor league system could open the door for Terry Collins to move out of that area and move into the manager’s seat.

Not caving into Hisanori Takahashi’s demands was also the prudent way to go. Giving into Takahashi, at his age and with only one year in the majors, would have been duplicating the acts of the previous regime.

As much as I like what Takahashi did last year, giving him three years would have only burdened the Mets with another contract they might want to unload in a year.

The Mets will still be bogged down in 2011 with a heavy payroll, but at least they are putting themselves in the right position to roll when they finally gain some financial flexibility.

So far, the first impression has been a good one.

Nov 06

New York Mets notebook

A lot of things happening with the Mets right now, beginning with the managerial interviews:

1) BACKMAN INTERVIEWS TODAY: Sandy Alderson will interview Wally Backman in California today and it is not a courtesy interview as the general manager doesn’t have time to waste. I’ve been hearing the Wilpons have some apprehensions concerning Backman, but nothing specific other than his lack of major league experience has come to light.

I’m still wary about Backman because of the experience factor, believing there are others that bring more immediately to the table.

2) COLLINS THE FRONTRUNNER: I don’t see how anybody can come to the conclusion Terry Collins is the frontrunner without all the interviews being conducted. The Mets do like Collins in his current role working with the minor leagues and could prefer him to stay in that role. Don’t forget, if Collins is reassigned then the Mets will need somebody else for the minor league job.

3) TAKAHASHI GONE: The Mets did not bring back reliever Hisanori Takahashi. The difference in gap  isn’t $1 million as people have suggested, but closer to $10 million if what has been reported is close. At 36, three years is a long time to give to a reliever with only one year in the major leagues.

4) CHARLIE SAMUELS: What was he thinking? The gifts Samuels received from the players is irrelevant. It’s the position he had and the betrayal factor. How much he bet on baseball, or if he bet on the Mets, is uncertain. The argument if he bet on baseball it would be OK if he wagered on the Mets doesn’t make it because of the message it sends if he didn’t bet on the Mets. Why?

I’ve always liked Charlie, but investigations like this don’t happen if there isn’t some degree of truth to the claims.

Too bad.

Nov 03

What will be the “Mets Way?”

Sandy Alderson’s first hire is former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi as his special assistant, with presumably one of his responsibilities to help implement a “Mets Way,” throughout the organization, beginning with the lower levels of the minor league system.

Considering the dimensions of Citi Field, presumably an organizational philosophy will place an emphasis on pitching and defense first, followed by situational hitting, and down on the list power.

As the Giants proved, power is not essential to win, and the Mets have enough to get by with David Wright, Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran (presuming all are healthy, each has 30 homer potential) followed by Ike Davis.

It must begin with pitching, with the first step pounding the strikezone and getting ahead of the hitters. Hopefully, it will include instilling the mindset of working deep into games. When Mike Pelfrey was winning in June he worked fast, efficiently and kept the ball down. When he struggled in July he was the opposite and lost confidence.

The Mets have some talented arms below and I’d like the organization to keep them and not rush their progression. Let them develop a variety of pitches and not be reliant on just one pitch. The prime example is Mike Pelfrey, who gradually developed his secondary pitches, and Jenrry Mejia, who still has a way to go.

If the Mets are able to harness arms and pitch to contact, they should then let the defense take care of them. The Mets still gave away far too many outs, and this must be addressed in spring training. There were still instances of overthrowing the cutoff man and not knowing ahead of time of what to do with the ball.

Defensively, there must be more of a concentration on fundamentals, and this also pertains to the offense, where at times it was glaring as emphasized with the amount of strikeouts.

Offensively, way too many at-bats were given away because the hitter lacked patience and didn’t have a mastery of the strikezone. On-base percentage is a statistic that could be improved by nearly every hitter on the team, including Jose Reyes and Wright.

When the team was winning in June Reyes and Wright were on their games, which meant forcing the play and using the whole field. When they hit the skids in July, their situational hitting as a team was non existent.

Wright, Davis and Bay must reduce their strikeouts, which would automatically increase the on-base percentage and lead to more productive outs.

Power is baseball’s great eraser and always has been. The three-run homer can overcome a lot of things. However, being consistent fundamentally applies continuous pressure on the opposition and that’s the way to go.

I want players who’ll force the action, who know how to take the extra base, who’ll make the correct decisions and not take plays off. I want to see a hustle that was absent at times. We saw Angel Pagan have a horrific season fundamentally in 2009, but he greatly improved last year so it can be done.

I want pitchers who’ll throw strikes and not beat themselves with walks. I want pitchers who’ll go after hitters, and not lose concentration after an error, bad umpire’s call or poor pitch.

This must be emphasized on the major league level, with consequences when it is not. It must also be taught and drilled in the minor leagues.

It’s not an overnight process, but if strongly implemented we should see results the first year.

The Mets’ Way should be to play smart, aggressive, fundamental and relentless ball. It shouldn’t be a novelty when a player advances a runner, hits the cutoff man or doesn’t get lazy in the strikezone with a pitch when he falls behind in the count.

It should be an all time thing.

Let’s face it, the Mets don’t have a rotation like that in San Francisco. They don’t have the power or the ability to buy their way out of trouble like the Yankees.

The Mets have talent, but to win they must out hustle and out work their opposition.