Dec 14

Phillies land Lee in stunning turnaround

On a day Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Johan Santana won’t  be available until July at the earliest and Oliver Perez had a chance of going to spring training with a chance to compete for a job, the Philadelphia

LEE: Back in Philly

Phillies stunned the sport by bringing back Cliff Lee.

Ouch.

Lee left money and years on the table to return to Philadelphia, the place where he was most comfortable, now even more cozy because he’s joining  a rotation that includes Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. The Phillies’ team he left is better now than when he was there, and now arguably is the best in baseball.

Never mind that the Yankees were spurned. No tears for them as they’ll sign Andy Pettitte as a stop gap and add somebody at the All-Star break. I feel a little for the Texas Rangers, but they probably made off better in the long run by not being saddled with a huge contract. With Lee, they might have become the Mets in four years.

The Mets and Phillies are close in payroll, but there’s such a disparity in talent. So much so, that adding Lee wouldn’t have put them over the top. Adding Santana didn’t put them over the top, either.

You can try to convince yourself  Halladay and Lee are 32, that Oswalt is showing breakdown signs, that Lee had a bad back, and Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, that Jayson Werth is gone so there is a closing window in Philadelphia. Maybe so, but before it slams shut the Phillies will have played a lot of October baseball games. Maybe even spilled some champagne.

For the past four years the Phillies have been more aggressive and smarter than the Mets, and eclipsed them in the standings despite similar resources. The Mets have spent money since 2006, but not wisely. The Mets, in essence are starting over with a plan to make up for the poor choices of the past. The Phillies’ choices in that span have worked and they continue to feed the monster.

Maybe, when it is done eating, the Mets will be in position to do something. But, it won’t be anytime soon.

Nov 30

Updating the mess that is Perez

News Oliver Perez has thrown 10 scoreless innings in the Mexican Leagues is best greeted with a who-cares yawn. Afterall, we’ve heard news of such prowess during spring training and rehab assignments before only to watch him unravel when facing major league hitters.

Word his fastball barely touches 90 isn’t encouraging news. Low-velocity pitchers can be successful, but only if their control is impeccable and they know how to set up and work hitters. That has never been the case with Perez.

When Perez was having problems several years ago, I wondered how he might do in situational relief because he still had his fastball. But, that’s gone and he must rely on guile and smarts, both of which he has in short supply.

Even so, Perez will probably get a chance to earn a role in spring training because the Mets don’t have many options and it doesn’t appear as if they’ll be signing anything significant this winter.

They’d love to trade him, but that’s not going to happen. Nobody wants to pay $12 million for all that baggage. Even if the Mets eat a large portion of his contract, Perez isn’t attractive based on what has happened.

Cutting him loose is something we all think about, but Sandy Alderson isn’t likely to do that because the Mets don’t want to pay for nothing. Solution? They will role the dice in the hope Perez finds something that will make him viable. With Hisanori Takahashi gone and Pedro Feliciano declining arbitration today, Perez will get an opportunity by default.

Even when he was Coin Flip there was a chance of him throwing a good game. Now, there is none.

If Perez doesn’t have it in the spring and refuses a minor league assignment again, then I can see the Mets ditching him. Alderson is here to change the culture and I don’t see him putting up with another year of carrying Perez on the major league roster and not using him.

Perez’s attitude and performance last year was poisonous and no good can come with duplicating last year.

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.

Oct 20

Mets need to make most of K-Rod situation

Of course, the Mets would have preferred not to pay Francisco Rodriguez anything, but they obviously didn’t think they’d win that battle which is why they worked out a settlement. If they were confident of winning it stands to reason they would have pursued this matter further, even to the point of arbitration.

So, they save $3.1 million in salary for the end of last season, but will owe him $11.5 million for 2011, with an option for $17.5 million for 2012 should he finish 55 games, something he is sure to do if he’s healthy and the Mets are competitive.

Based on what they did this summer, I see the Mets being in a competitive situation meaning Rodriguez will get his opportunities. I can’t see the Mets playing games and shutting him down to avoid the appearance clause if they are having a good season.

That a solution was reached was desirable, and that Rodriguez will play winter ball to test himself rather than wait until spring training is a good decision.

Unlike Oliver Perez, Rodriguez can still be productive and if winter ball answers all the pertinent questions it alleviates a potential hole.

Rather than a protracted fight which does nobody any good, this was the best possible solution.

Oct 07

Mets never had chance at Halladay

Watching Roy Halladay make history yesterday made me wonder if he could have made it for the Mets.

HALLADAY: Never would have been a Met

Reportedly, the Mets rejected a trade proposal from Toronto that would have had them sending Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Ruben Tejada and Fernando Martinez to the Blue Jays.

It would be great to have Halladay, especially in light of Johan Santana’s injury, but it never was going to happen.

Why?

Because it wasn’t true, said then Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

It was absolutely wrong,” Ricciardi told USA Today. “We didn’t exchange names with the Mets. I felt so bad for [Mets GM] Omar [Minaya] because there was no truth to it. None. Now, he’s the one who has to answer why they didn’t get Halladay.’’

Trade talks never got to the name-exchanging stage for several reasons, beginning with Halladay having a no-trade clause in his contract with the Blue Jays and there was no hint of him wanting to come to New York.

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