Jan 02

The Dirty Dozen: Twelve questions for 2012.

We are seven weeks from the start of spring training, and that time will fly. The NFL playoffs start this weekend, and when they conclude pitchers and catchers aren’t far behind.

The Mets will face a myriad of questions and issues this spring, with the following dozen the most prevalent:

1) QUESTION: To what degree will the Wilpon’s financial problems impact the Mets?

SPECULATION: To think fallout from the Ponzi scandal won’t influence things is naïve. Jose Reyes is gone because the Mets didn’t have the resources to compete. GM Sandy Alderson anticipates a payroll of close to $100 million, which would be $40 million less than in 2011. Maybe the Mets should consider a bake sale outside Citi Field this summer.

2) QUESTION: Will the roster significantly change between now and spring training?

SPECULATION: I doubt it. There’s been no indication of them pursuing any name talent, and who expects that to change? Any additions the Mets do will be strictly tweaking, which doesn’t help when there are positions needing an overhaul.

3) QUESTION: What will we get from Johan Santana?

SPECULATION: I’m not counting on it. Santana’s shoulder injury is similar to that which effectively ended Mark Prior’s career. Santana  has already had several setbacks and regardless of Alderson’s spin, nobody can say definitively when Santana can, or if, he can pitch again.

4) QUESTION: How long will David Wright remain a Met?

SPECULATION: I can’t see him being traded prior to spring training, and believe he’ll be here for the entire season because there’s an option for 2013, which means they don’t have to do anything this year. The Mets want to be sure of Wright’s health and his production (with the fences brought in) before doing anything. If Wright is sound and hitting, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s dealt. At this point, expect anything to happen.

5) QUESTION: Which Mike Pelfrey will we see?

SPECULATION: Your guess is as good as mine. After a seemingly breakthrough 2010 season, Pelfrey regressed dramatically last year. I don’t have that much more confidence in Pelfrey than I had in Oliver Perez, which pretty much says it all. The Mets must do some serious soul searching on all levels concerning Pelfrey, including whether pitching coach Dan Warthen is the answer to if they should cut ties with him. Clearly, he has not lived up to expectations.

6) QUESTION: What is the configuration of the bullpen?

SPECULATION: The depth chart on the Mets’ official web site lists 10 relievers, which is about right. The Mets have long hoped Bobby Parnell would seize the closer role, but that hasn’t come close to happening. Former Blue Jays Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco are expected to compete for the closer role, but one can’t forget why Toronto didn’t want to keep them in the first place.

7) QUESTION: Is Ruben Tejada the answer as Jose Reyes’ replacement?

SPECULATON: Absolutely not. Trying to fill the hole left by Reyes’ departure probably puts as much pressure on Tejada as any other Met. Reyes is a unique player not easily replaced. The Mets probably won’t see a fall off defensively, but Reyes has a dynamic offensive presence. Losing Reyes will gnaw at the Mets all summer and there’s nothing Tejada will be able to do.

8) QUESTION: Can Daniel Murphy make it at second base?

SPECULATION: Murphy was having an outstanding season at the plate before he injured his knee covering the bag. There were times it appeared Murphy was making defensive strides, but he had enough head-scratching moments, also. Murphy didn’t take to the outfield, his natural position is third, but that won’t happen because of Wright and he played well at first, but Ike Davis precludes that from occurring.

9) QUESTION: How healthy is Ike Davis?

SPECULATION: A freak ankle injury cost the Mets Davis for most of the season and any off-season prognosis is simply a guess. If Davis can’t play for some reason, Lucas Duda will play first which will create a hole in right field. Davis has loads of potential and doesn’t cost much, which is the kind of player the Mets need.

10) QUESTION: What’s the make up of the rotation?

SPECULATION: There were stretches last season when the rotation pitched well, but not enough of them and there are significant issues with every arm. Santana and Jon Niese are coming off injuries; Pelfrey is an enigma; RA Dickey was 8-13 last year and 41-50 in his career; and Dillon Gee has only 32 lifetime starts.

11) QUESTION: Will it ever happen for Jason Bay with the Mets?

SPECULATION: This is an annual question, and there’s nothing to suggest he’ll ever become the player the Mets have hoped. So far, this looks like $66 million flushed down the toilet.

12) QUESTION: Will moving in the fences matter?

SPECULATION: No. The theory is to add power, but the Mets actually showed they could score last year. Then again, they had Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Perhaps the new dimensions will help Wright and Bay, and maybe provide them a jolt of confidence. Could happen. Then again, bet on the opposition hitting more homers, too. Count on that.

 

Nov 10

Mets’ manager interviews to have second phase

The Mets’ managerial search will include a second round of interviews with Terry Collins, Don Melvin and Wally Backman. No word on any others getting a second round.

Speculation is with the hiring of Paul DePodesta to oversee the minor leagues and player development departments, Collins has become a frontrunner for the managerial job.

Collins, the Mets’ minor league field coordinator last season, has a better grasp of the Mets’ minor league system overall than the other candidates overall. Melvin was a major league scout last season for the Mets and Backman was manager of their Single-A Brooklyn affiliate.

Both Collins and Melvin have major league managing experience.

Initially, it was thought the new manager should not have ties to the Mets, but all three do, as does Tim Tuefel.

Oct 29

Alderson makes good first impression

Sandy Alderson concluded his introductory press conference less than an hour ago at Citi Field and made a positive first impression in laying out the groundwork for the first year of his four-year contract with the Mets.

Among the topics he addressed:

FRONT OFFICE: As suggested here yesterday, Alderson said a priority would be in piecing together his staff. He stressed the word “collaborative,’’ meaning he’ll bring in some quality people and delegate responsibility. It figures to be a staff that encourages the free flow of information and ideas, but Alderson didn’t leave any doubt that wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a decision. The farm system, he said, produced players last season, which could be interpreted as a plus for Terry Collins.

MANAGER: The impression is Alderson isn’t keen on bringing in a celebrity manager, which isn’t good news for those stumping for Bobby Valentine. Alderson did say he wasn’t averse to hiring a fiery personality, which leaves the door open to Wally Backman. The new manager should reflect the organization’s philosophy, and should have an intellectual and analytical side to him. Alderson mentioned no candidate by name, but speculation is Bob Melvin has emerged as a favorite. The interview process is expected to begin next week.

THE FUTURE: Alderson said he’s not focused beyond 2011. He admitted he doesn’t expect to be a big player in this winter’s free agent market, but that the Mets expect to be players in the future. Alderson acknowledged the team has financial constraints with up to $130 million earmarked in salary for next season. He also said the team should be competitive in 2011, and with increased production from Jason Bay and others (Carlos Beltran for one, but he didn’t mention him by name) the Mets could be better.

THE DEADWOOD: Alderson said: “I think we want to be thoughtful about everything we do.  I’m mindful of public opinion, but I think we have to be circumspect here. I think we need to be careful about writing off any player or any asset we have without thinking about it carefully.’’ Alderson left the impression he would speak with Oliver Perez about 2010. Alderson didn’t say Perez had a role for next season, but he also didn’t say he didn’t, either. Unloading Perez in a deal will be next to impossible, so he’s not about to hurt himself in trade talks by trashing Perez now. Alderson is simply keeping his options open, which is the smart thing to do.

It was a good first impression, but considering where the Mets have been, it would’ve been hard for Alderson to not have impressed this afternoon.

I, like a lot of others, want Alderson to turn around this franchise. A competitive Mets team is good for the city and for baseball and today was a positive.

Oct 21

Will new GM consider Sandberg?

Whomever the Mets choose as their general manager –  indications are Sandy Alderson has the inside track – he’ll have a long list of managerial candidates to consider.

SANDBERG: Could be considered for manager job

Add Ryne Sandberg to that list. The Cubs bypassed Sandberg for Mike Quade, and the Hall of Fame second baseman is not pleased and he’ll obviously listen to other offers.

He’s done everything the Cubs asked of him in preparation for the opportunity to manage in the major leagues, including working his way up the minor league chain, from Single A to Triple A, with success, including being named Pacific Coast League manager of the year.

Sandberg does not have the major league experience advocated here and in other forums, but we don’t know how much that criteria will be weighed by the new general manager. If that is lower on his priority list, Sandberg would undoubtedly receive consideration, as will Wally Backman.

It’s all speculation for now, and some of it will fall on Sandberg.

Jul 27

Mets Chat Room; Cardinals in town.

Game #100 vs. Cardinals

Things can always get worse. The question is: Will they ever get better? I mean, this year.

The weak-hitting Mets – who were shut out four time on their disastrous West Coast trip – open a three-game series tonight at Citi Field against St. Louis and Adam Wainwright, who is 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA over his last five starts and hasn’t allowed a run in 25 straight innings.

That’s whom the Mets will try to get better against.

The Mets went 2-9 on the trip, hit .196 and scored just 23 runs. One of the games they won was a gift from a bad umpire’s call.

“There’s no question that everybody’s frustrated,’’ said David Wright. “I think it adds to the frustration that our starters have been throwing the ball extremely well and our bullpen’s been solid. We just can’t get any runs for them. But now is not the time to hang your head or mope around.’’

Needing to pitch a shutout tonight – or at least it seems that way – will be Jonathon Niese, the beneficiary of all of four runs over his last three starts. He is 0-2 with a 3.20 ERA in that span.

The Mets return home with their coaching staff intact. There was speculation Howard Johnson would take the fall for the offense, but they decided that since their offense clicked in June that it would again.