Feb 14

Wilpon Said Mets Will Spend, But Doubts Are Raised

Fred Wilpon’s proclamation in Port St. Lucie yesterday the Mets are now out of debt and ready to jump into the free-agent market brought a skeptical response.

The feeling wasn’t  “oh boy, let’s go get Jacoby Ellsbury next year,’’ but rather “I’ll believe it when it see it.’’

Remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and not re-signing R.A. Dickey spoke volumes about immediately competing.

I never thought the Wilpons were cheap. I thought they didn’t always spend wisely and gave Omar Minaya almost carte blanche to bring in whoever he wanted.

The Wilpons once were spending over $140 million in payroll and meted out generous contracts to guys like Oliver Perez, Johan Santana, Luis Castillo, Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez.

That’s not being cheap.

They also gave long-term contracts early in their careers to Jose Reyes and David Wright when they could have had them for much cheaper. That was good business.

Also, don’t forget lesser tier contracts to guys like Scott Schoeneweis, Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, Guillermo Mota and Julio Franco. That’s more misguided than cheap.

Wilpon’s name was on all those checks, so let’s dispense of the notion they aren’t willing to spend. Isn’t going after Michael Bourn some indication?

The Mets are committed to stocking their farm system, which is the right way to go. The minor leagues represent a two-pronged approach to building a franchise: 1) to develop the talent to play on the major league level, and 2) to have the trade chips to deal for proven talent.

The Mets have some good, young pitching with potential, but are thin on position player prospects. They don’t want to deal their pitching and have few major players of value to trade – they don’t want to part with Jon Niese or Ike Davis and can’t trade Wright now – so their primary route for immediate improvement is by the free-agent market.

Sandy Alderson was an austerity-driven general manager while with Oakland and San Diego, and his first two years with the Mets. If Wilpon is willing to spend, it will be interesting to see how Alderson will react.

I don’t expect him to abandon his method of evaluating players, but hope he’ll show some daring if there is a big-ticket player available. Curtis Granderson could be had next winter, but are all his homers – figure a decline moving out of Yankee Stadium – worth all his strikeouts? I don’t think Alderson would agree.

Ellsbury would be ideal for Citi Field, but won’t come cheaply.

But, that’s next year.

The first test to the believability of that statement will come at the end of spring training when players are released to create a new free-agent market. That’s a wave of available talent, and I would guess, there could be an outfielder or two that could start for the Mets. Nothing great, but better than what is there now.

There could also be a reliever or two.

The second test will be at the trade deadline if the Mets are competitive. Alderson waited too long yesterday in the hope the Mets’ bullpen would right itself. It didn’t happen and soon after the All-Star break the season began to spiral out of control. By the deadline it was clear the season was lost.

The first two tests are important because they will show the Mets’ true intentions as to fielding a competitive team.

Wilpon also said yesterday spending would in part be contingent on attendance. Attendance has steadily declined and the way the roster is presently constructed doesn’t inspire confidence.

Signing Wright was the first step, but there are so many more to take.

Feb 13

Mets Shouldn’t Be Surprised At Francisco Injury And Losing Bourn

Two days into camp and the Mets have already taken two shots.

The first was inevitable, that Michael Bourn signed elsewhere. Come to think of it, so was the second when Frank Francisco was shut down with elbow inflammation. The proviso was Francisco would be the closer if healthy and he is clearly not.

How long he’ll be shut down is anybody’s guess, and opening the season on the disabled list is a fair place to start. In the interim Bobby Parnell will close. Again.

I like Parnell over Brandon Lyon or Josh Edgin because he has the greatest upside. Parnell has pitched in several capacities for the Mets, ranging as a starter to a set-up role to closer, and hasn’t excelled in any of them for a variety of reasons.

First, he has been overly reliant on is fastball, which, if it isn’t darting is hittable, regardless of how fast he throws. As a starter, he didn’t develop his secondary pitches. Also, it isn’t unrealistic to think how the Mets bounced him around from role to role didn’t have an accumulating impact on his confidence.

Remember, over the past few years the Mets have not been contenders so there wasn’t really any harm in letting Parnell learn on the job, even if it meant taking his lumps.

The Mets initially wanted Parnell as a starter, but then-manager Jerry Manuel – managing only to save his job – yanked Parnell from the rotation in September.

Parnell never had clear stake to the closer role. Yes, there were times he pitched terrible, but for a team going nowhere it was a chance to learn and turn it around. Don’t think that couldn’t have happened. Parnell closed at the end of last season when Francisco was injured and pitched well holding opponents to a .196 batting average over 17 appearances.

There’s no reason to rush Francisco back other than to attempt to salvage something for his $6.5 million contract (count that as a Sandy Alderson mistake).

So, the Mets will move on for now without Francisco, and also without Bourn, who was a long shot in the first place.

Assuming the Mets could have worked out a deal with agent Scott Boras – the Indians got him for $48 million – there was the matter of Bourn waiting for an arbitration hearing to determine whether they would surrender their draft pick.

If they had to, there would have been no deal. There is no way Bourn would have waited for that outcome and miss another offer. Bourn was never going to happen, and if I were a cynic I’d be thinking going after him was a smokescreen to suggest action.

That would have been a pipe dream, as is thinking Francisco wouldn’t go down again.

 

Dec 18

I’m Satisfied With The Mets This Winter, Aren’t You?

Presumably, Sandy Alderson knows more about baseball scouting than we do, so what’s not to like about the trade of R.A. Dickey for prospects?

Based on surface viewing, the Mets’ desire to trade Dickey was to maximize what they could get for a 38-year-old with a trick pitch and only one outstanding year on his resume.

ALDERSON: Why is he smiling?

That’s all understandable and a move to be cheered, perhaps in three or four years when Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard rock our world and become stars.

No, make that future All-Stars, you know, like Mets’ prospects before them: Mike Pelfrey, Lastings Milledge, Francisco Martinez, Jenrry Mejia and Carlos Gomez.

And, add them to stellar free-agent signings and trades for Jason Bay, Kaz Matsui, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Guillermo Mota, Moises Alou, Julio Franco, Orlando Hernandez and Johan Santana. In fairness, Santana had his great Mets’ moments, but he’s also had a consistent run of injuries. Injuries are hard to project, but the Mets knew he logged a lot of innings before giving him all that money. I mention injuries, because that’s the red flag on d’Arnaud.

The sum total of those parts is a track record of skepticism and non-believability of Mets’ management, and it isn’t just Alderson. Fool me once shame on you; fool me a dozen times then shame on both of us. Alderson, the supposed baseball genius, is still a front man for ownership.

Quite simply, the Mets guessed and projected wrong so many times before so why should we believe them now when they say d’Arnaud and Syndergaard will be different?

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Dec 13

Mets To Blame For Party Fallout With Dickey

The Mets remain peeved at R.A. Dickey for using their holiday party as his forum to discuss their contractual stalemate. Dickey is annoyed with the Mets for playing hardball with him, and wasn’t shy in bringing that up despite wearing elf ears. Cute or not, his true feelings emerged.

This isn’t a matter of sharing blame because this is all the Mets’ doing. It was their party and they knew how it work.

DICKEY: This impasse is ridiculous.

The Mets use their holiday party every year as a charity event, but to make it work they need player participation. It’s even further proof the sport is about those playing it, not those with the fortune to buy the shiny toy of a team.

If the Mets didn’t want Dickey talking bad about his situation, they should have either signed him or not invite him. Simple, actually.

When the Mets chose to have Dickey participate, they knew reporters would have access and ask the inevitable questions. They can’t be that naïve to believe otherwise.

The Mets couldn’t have seriously thought Dickey would clam up about his contract. If so, what planet are Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons from anyway?

They can’t have Dickey there to support their charities and not expect him to talk. They can’t have it both ways.

They also can’t have it both ways by demanding a lot for him in the trade market – after all, Cy Young Award winners don’t come cheap, they say  – yet lowball him in their negotiations.

It doesn’t work that way.

I understand the Mets’ apprehension about extending the 38-year-old Dickey, who has had only one stud season, and that with what the sport regards as a gimmick pitch. Even so, his two previous years were representative of a fifth starter, which is what they’ve always envisioned of him.

The Mets weren’t prepared when Dickey screwed up their thinking by winning 20 games.

Despite their concerns, Dickey is entrenched in the community and has a strong following. Even if he faltered in 2013, he wouldn’t be the clubhouse distraction turned pariah that was Oliver Perez or Frankie Rodriguez.

Those two came with high expectations. Not Dickey. The knuckleballer more than repaid the Mets for rescuing him from baseball’s scrap heap. Yes, they gave him an opportunity, but they did so with the idea of always trying to find somebody better.

Only they couldn’t. Dickey surprised them all in last year’s feel-good story. He more than repaid his debt to the team. Dickey owes the Mets nothing.

Dickey is a solid, stand-up guy who wouldn’t embarrass the organization. He supported the Mets in their charity function despite being at financial odds with them. That should say something about his character, as does everything he does off the field.

And, besides that, even if it turns out he is a one-year wonder, it would come a lot cheaper than what they paid out to Perez and Rodriguez.

It is stupid this has lasted this long.

Dec 12

Mets All But Showing Dickey The Door

R.A. Dickey is too much a gentleman, has too much class to do things differently than he did yesterday, when he played an elf at the Mets’ annual Christmas party. There is was, putting on a good face to help the charities of the team applying the screws to him.

DICKEY (L): With Ike Davis. His last appearance in a Mets’ jersey? (Mets)

This is a team trying to lowball him, and yet he helps them, because it was in the best interests of the kids at the event. No Scrooge is Dickey; he’s forever giving and thinking of others. He’s a rare breed in today’s spoiled, me-first, self-congratulatory athlete. He’s what we want our sports heroes to be.

It’s a shame he likely won’t be here after next season. He might not even make it to July if the Mets can swing a trade. Hey, if I were him I might thinking of giving the Mets a week to get it done or demand a trade on the spot. But, he’s not an ultimatum type of guy.

The Mets are playing hardball over a reported $6 million, which is chump change in today’s market. That is, of course, if you’re not behaving as a chump as is Sandy Alderson and the Mets are during the holiday season.

Dickey says he won’t negotiate during the season, and yesterday told reporters if a deal isn’t done this winter he’ll likely be gone. Too bad, as he’s one of the good ones.

“If that’s the decision they feel like is best for the club, and that’s the decision that they make, I feel like it would be unfortunate, because it probably is going to mean I’m not going to be back,’’ Dickey said, ever serious despite the elf ears.

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