Aug 18

Questions for 2011

Let’s face it, we’re down to miracles and hoping for historic comebacks now. The Mets lost with their ace last night and find themselves 11 games behind Atlanta.

How many days before spring training?

As far as I’m concerned the next six weeks should be about laying the ground work for 2011, a time to find some answers. Here are the most important issues:

JENRRY MEJIA: Mejia is pitching in Double-A, experiencing no shoulder problems and will be recalled when the rosters expand Sept. 1. He should immediately be slotted into the rotation to find out what is there. And, if he takes his lumps, well, that’s part of the learning process.

PELFREY: Can he finish strong?

MIKE PELFREY: Once again, Pelfrey has shown us two personas. After a 9-1 start he’s 1-5, but has pitched well in his last two games. It is important to see if he learned anything during his horrid July that he can build off of.

JON NIESE/R.A. DICKEY: Just keep on doing what they’ve done. Two of the bright spots need to build on their success.

RUBEN TEJADA: Can this kid hit in the major leagues? Let’s give him steady playing time to find out. No need to platoon with Luis Castillo as we know all about him.

CARLOS BELTRAN: It would be nice if he finishes strong and ups his trade value, but who are we kidding? Who’s going to trade for that $18.5 million contract? I’d see what he’s capable of doing in right field.

JASON BAY: It is a lost season for him. There’s no need to bring him back. What’s he going to accomplish? Hit 10 homers? Make sure he’s healthy and start again next year.

HISANORI TAKAHASHI/BOBBY PARNELL: As of now, it appears Takahashi is the closer. If that’s the case, leave him there and let him take his lumps and see what is there. The assumption must be made that Francisco Rodriguez is not coming back. If the Mets decide Parnell is a better fit long term for the closer role, then give him the ball. The goal should be to end the season with an idea of your closer for 2011.

IKE DAVIS/JOSH THOLE: Both these guys will start next year so give them the time. I especially want to see them hit against left-handed pitching. No more platooning in that situation.

Aug 16

Looking for a silver thread ….

The Mets are 10 games behind Atlanta and below .500. They have an upcoming schedule at Houston – which is playing better since the Roy Oswalt trade – and Pittsburgh – which always plays them tough. This is their last chance to make up some ground and bring interest into September.

Frankly, while I doubt they’ll make a real run, there could be some interesting ball ahead.

Their pitching, supposedly the weak link entering the season, has been surprisingly good, and if not for Mike Pelfrey’s July slide it would be good enough to have them in contention. What has been dismal, and has since the beginning of the season has been the offense. Also weak has been the bullpen.

As the season slowly fades into disappointment and winter, let’s take a moment to look at some of the positives through 117 games:

1) The record. Seriously. Last year on this date they were 55-62 and sinking fast. David Wright had just been plunked and would be rendered useless for the rest of the season. They have made improvement and with a full season from Carlos Beltran and a productive year from Jason Bay, they’d be over .500 and within spitting distance even with their bullpen woes. Hey, you take your positives when you can.

2) Johan Santana. We’re looking at 15 victories easily with a little run support. There was a brief four-game stretch when we were wondering about his fastball and whether he was still an ace. Well, he is. There are times when I wonder if he regrets coming here, but he’s the ultimate professional and will never show it. The Mets are lucky to have him, and hopefully the younger pitchers in the rotation are learning from him. Eventually, there will be a decline, but not now.

3) Angel Pagan. He began the season behind Gary Matthews, but has evolved into the Mets’ most reliable offensive performer. He’s the best they have with RISP, has some pop, can steal a base, and has surpassed Beltran as the team’s best center fielder. What Pagan showed last year was no fluke. This is a player the Mets can build around.

4) Ike Davis. He wasn’t supposed to be here until late in the season, perhaps September, but has become one of the NL’s premier’s rookies. He hits for power and should finish with over 20 homers and plays a sparkling first base. Davis has made Daniel Murphy a footnote. First base will be his for years to come.

5) Josh Thole. Another young player who arrived ahead of schedule. The pitchers like throwing to him and he’s not an easy out at the plate. Rod Barajas is coming back, but the position is Thole’s to keep. The time he’s getting now will only help him in the future.

6) Jon Niese. The question as the fifth starter going in, Niese has become a dependable starter, perhaps the No. 2 with Pelfrey being erratic. He’s not afraid to challenge hitters and works quickly and efficiently and with remarkable poise. He’s getting more adept at making adjustments within the game. He was in demand at the trade deadline, but the Mets were wise to say no.

7) R. A. Dickey. The other shoe has yet to drop for Dickey. He’s been impressive from the outset, but none more so than rebounding against the Phillies after the same team hammered him the previous week. That’s hard to do. The way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if he led the team in victories before it is all over. The Mets still need to add a starter in the offseason, but not to replace Dickey.

8) Hisanori Takahashi. The numbers are night and day between Takahashi the starter and the reliever. Forced into the starter’s role, he performed admirably before being exposed. He’s great one time through the order and that should be his role. Hopefully, Pat Misch will step in and allow Takahashi to do what he does best.

9) Bobby Parnell. Still a work in progress, but he’s made strides since last season when he was yanked around between roles. I believe Parnell has what it takes to develop into a solid set-up man. The experience he’s getting now can only bring hope.

10) Mike Pelfrey. I mean the pre-July Pelfrey. For two months he was better than one could have imagined, working with confidence and command of all of his pitches. Then came July, but has last two starts have been much better, an indication he might have learned from his slide. Of all the things I’m anxious to see during the final six weeks the most is whether Pelfrey can rebound completely. It would say a lot about his maturation process if he can take something out of his adversity.

11) Ruben Tejada. There’s no questioning his defense, and although he’s not hitting now he showed some glimpses early. The Mets played with energy when he was in the lineup replacing Luis Castillo when the latter was on the disabled list. I think the Mets will be in good hands when he finally takes over for Castillo.

12) Jose Reyes. If nothing else, the Mets finally learned Reyes is a leadoff hitter and nothing else. He’s lost focus at times this season, but he’s overcome his injury problems and the team still thinks highly enough to want to sign him to an extension. Perhaps the focus will always be a problem, but when he’s on his game he’s still a dynamic presence at the top of the order.

13) David Wright. Despite a horrible pace for 176 strikeouts, which must come down, he’s also on pace to hit 24 homers and drive in 107 runs, showing an improvement over last season’s power outage. Wright has been streaky all season, but he’s still the best this franchise has to offer.

Aug 12

Another meltdown ….

So much for Hisanori Takahashi being the eighth-inning guy. After getting two outs, he gives up a single and a walk and is replaced by Manny Acosta. The wheels came off after that.

Funny, I can see pulling Takahashi rather than face Troy Tulowitzki. But, what’s wrong with Francisco Rodriguez in a four-out save?

Rodriguez pitched the night before, but so what? One extra out will cost him that much? When you manage to the save rule, you’re going to get burned from time to time and that’s what happened with Jerry Manuel last night. You have a horse like K-Rod, you ride him.

Manuel said if he used Rodriguez in that situation he could lose him later. Meanwhile, the season continues to flush away.

Aug 04

Francoeur: Has anything changed?

The Mets do have a pulse after last night, and it’s that way because of R.A. Dickey and Jeff Francoeur.

FRANCOEUR: Finally delivers

As far as Francoeur is concerned, last night might change his mood and get him going, but I’ve said that before with him. He’s an extremely streaky hitter, but unfortunately for him he’s had too many on the downside this summer. A hot one now could lift the Mets back into contention.

When Carlos Beltran returned, somebody had to sit, but Jerry Manuel force-feeding him into the lineup seems to have backfired. If nothing else, the Mets’ record since the All-Star break should mean something. Manuel had no choice but to cut Francoeur’s time, but his methods weren’t right.

A meeting would have been the proper thing to do. And, to equate his situation to a pitcher going to the bullpen was callous.

Manuel shut the door on Francoeur as a Met, and last night’s heroics aside, it doesn’t change anything. The Mets might be a game closer, but it’s a huge gap. And, Francoeur could go on a tear, but he’s gone after this year.

He wants to play everyday and young enough to do so. It’s too early in his career to assume the role player mentality.

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Jul 26

Meeting to discuss the obvious — the Mets aren’t that good.

“When you have a trip like this, you have to sit down and assess how you’re going to get it right. We’re not going to sit back.’’ – Omar Minaya

MINAYA: Problems are wide spread.

Today is not a good day if you’re a Mets coach. After a 2-9 trip in which the general manager gave a vote of confidence to no coach, it is a day as a coach when you hope the phone doesn’t ring.

Word is Minaya, manager Jerry Manuel and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon are in meetings today assessing what went wrong on the trip to San Francisco, Arizona and Los Angeles. They could save a lot of time and only go over what went right.

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