Apr 11

Bullpen implodes again; Isringhausen here.

We knew going in one of the Mets’ weaknesses was their bullpen, and less than 10 games into the season it has been true to form.

IZZY: Will he help?

A team looking to take the next step does not blow a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning. That’s what happened Sunday to the Mets, who responded by designating for assignment Blaine Boyer and optioning outfielder Lucas Duda and bringing up relievers Jason Isringhausen and Ryota Igarashi.

“The bullpen has been inconsistent, and that’s probably as positive an adjective as I can give,’’ said GM Sandy Alderson.

A better adjective is horrible, as the pen has given up 63 runners in 34.1 innings, many of which have scored. Over the last 11 innings, the pen has walked 11, and given up 10 hits and nine earned runs.

And, with the rotation not going long innings – Chris Young being the exception yesterday throwing seven – a losing record can be expected.

You can’t blame Alderson for taking Boyer over Isringhausen to start the season because he was caught in a contractual corner. Asking Isringhausen to say behind for extended spring training was a gamble worth taking. When you’re not dealing from a position of strength, you do what you can.

The Mets shopped in the bargain basement for relievers this winter spending just $4 million, and with that approach, what has happened is not a surprise. D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz and Boyer have not been effective.

I don’t know if Isringhausen will be that big of a difference, but he couldn’t hurt. At this point, anything might be a help.

 

UP NEXT: The importance of this week.

 

Apr 01

Terry Collins sends open letter to Mets’ fans

What we’ve been waiting for since that final Sunday at Citi Field, when Oliver Perez was booed off the mound for the last time is hours away: The start of another era in Mets’ history.

COLLINS: A new era begins

The Yankees had their moment yesterday, and I’m watching Roy Halladay and the Phillies are in a pitching duel with Houston. Meanwhile, in Florida, Mets manager Terry Collins is already at the ballpark and his players are trickling into the clubhouse.

For today, at least, the disappointments of the past have given way to optimism despite the issues – on and off the field – swirling around this team. It’s Opening Day, for some the real New Year’s day, and the air is full of hope and positive feelings.

Collins, who hasn’t stopped working since he was hired to replace Jerry Manuel, began his work day by sending the following open letter to Mets’ fans:

 

Dear Mets Fan:

With our 2011 opener tonight in Florida, I want to make this pledge to Mets fans — our team will play the game the right way.

We will always hustle on the bases, run balls down in the outfield and never take anything for granted, no matter the score of the game.

We had a great Spring Training. From Day 1 my message has been look ahead, not backward, and not to worry about what the people outside the clubhouse are saying. If we pitch and play defense like I know we can, we will surprise a lot of people, a lot of people.

I stack our lineup against anyone else’s in the league. Getting Carlos Beltran back and hitting cleanup is really big. The way Carlos handled his move to right field was one of the classiest things I have ever seen. Angel Pagan is coming off a great season. While we had a little setback this week with Jason Bay — who was swinging the bat well — going on the disabled list, he shouldn’t be out too long. We believe with the three of them on the field, we have one of the top outfields in baseball.

Our infield is anchored by the two All-Stars on the left side: David Wright at third and Jose Reyes at short. I think David will add on to his numbers from last year and Jose is ready to have a tremendous season. He is one of the most dynamic players in the game. Ike Davis will continue to develop at first base and Josh Thole is one of the fine young catchers in the game. Brad Emaus, a Rule 5 pick, got better and better as the spring went on and won the second base job.

On the mound, sure, we are going to miss Johan Santana until he comes back, hopefully in mid-year. But this spring, I think we established a solid rotation with Mike Pelfrey, followed by R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese. Chris Young and Chris Capuano proved that they are healthy, and they really strengthen us on the back end.

We remade our bullpen and we think we have quality arms who throw strikes to get to closer Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod has just had a fantastic spring and I never have seen him throwing better. People like Bobby Parnell, D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz, Blaine Boyer, Tim Byrdak and Pedro Beato — another Rule 5 selection who is from Queens — will give us a solid ‘pen.

I believe we have fortified our bench with the additions of Scott Hairston, Willie Harris, Ronny Paulino (who will begin the year on the disabled list) and Chin-lung Hu, along with Daniel Murphy.

It’s been 12 years since I have started a season as a Major League manager. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be leading the New York Mets and am very excited about the season ahead.

Thanks for your support and see you at Citi Field.

Sincerely,

Terry Collins

 

Realistically, I didn’t expect Collins to write anything else, but then again I don’t recall a gesture like this recently from a Mets’ manager. David Wright said Collins’ team speech to close spring training was like something out of “Hoosiers.”

Maybe the odds are as long for the Mets this year as they were for Hickory High School, but for today at least, it is time to believe in miracles.

Afterall, isn’t that what Opening Days are for.

 

NEXT UP: Tonight’s lineup and 2011 Over/Unders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 15

Top Ten Mets issues as camp opens

Good afternoon. Players are trickling into camp today in Port St. Lucie. A few pitchers are throwing, but they don’t have to officially check in until to tomorrow.

No team reports to spring training without questions, and the Mets are no exception. They will enter the season this spring loaded with questions, but without any substantive answers.

Here’s the top ten issues surrounding your New York Mets:

Q: WHAT WILL BE THE OWNERSHIP FALLOUT?

A: Speculation has the Mets attempting to reach a settlement in the Ponzi mess instead of taking their chances in court where reportedly the losses could reach as high as a billion dollars and undoubtedly force the Wilpons to sell the franchise. Who knows? Even a settlement could be that costly. One thing where there is no doubt is the team won’t be adding salary at the trade deadline, but will be trying to shed it, notably with Carlos Beltran being shopped.

COLLINS: Will run a tight camp.

Q: HOW WILL TERRY COLLINS IMPLEMENT THE NEW CULTURE?

A:  The Mets are supposed to be a no-nonsense bunch concentrating on fundamentals. Such things like hustling, working the count, throwing to the right base and running the bases begin in spring training. Collins is expected to run a tight camp and is to be decisive about two issues, whether Beltran plays center or right and where, or if, Oliver Perez fits in the roster.

Q: HOW HEALTHY IS CARLOS BELTRAN?

A: Let’s face it, this is Beltran’s last year. The Mets would like to move him and save on his $18.5 million salary, but to maximize the return he has to be healthy, productive and playing center. Beltran playing a sound center will make him easier to move.

REYES: Could be moved.

Q: WHAT WILL BECOME OF JOSE REYES?

A: Again, this is predicated on the ownership situation. Ideally, the Mets would like to sign Reyes – the 2006-2007 model – to an extension, but what will their economic situation be like? If Reyes gets off to a great start the meter will start running high, and at the same time so would the price tag in prospects that it would take to procure him. There is a prevailing sentiment the Mets’ ownership situation might force the team to deal Reyes to ease the financial strain. Such a decision would impact the franchise for years.

Q: WILL MIKE PELFREY TAKE THE NEXT STEP?

A: Many scouting reports have Pelfrey ranked as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, but Johan Santana’s injury makes him the ace. Pelfrey said his goal is consistency, but he has to be more than that – he has to be dominant. The rest of the rotation is loaded with concerns, but even should Pelfrey develop into a 20-game winner, probably won’t be enough to lift the Mets into competitive status.

Q: WILL THE REAL JASON BAY STAND UP?

A.: The Mets expect 25 to 30 homers a year for the $66 million package they will spend on Jason Bay, not the six they received last season before he sustained a concussion. Bay gave the Mets hustle and defense, but was clearly an offensive liability. The Mets must hit this summer to make up for the multitude of pitching problems. David Wright, Beltran and Bay are the projected 3-4-5 hitters.

Q: WAS R.A. DICKEY A FLUKE?

A: The Mets are banking no with a two-year deal, but the fact remains he’s coming off the best season of his career. Dickey never pitched better than he did last year, and he’s only done it once. Dickey’s numbers dictate a No. 5 starter, but he’s second behind Pelfrey.

NIESE: Not proven.

Q: WHAT ABOUT THE BACK END OF THE ROTATION?

A: Jon Niese, the No. 3 starter, ran out of gas after a 6-2 start and finished 9-10. Clearly, he’s not a given. Neither are the No. 4 and No. 5 starters, which should come from a pool of Chris Young, Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee, and yes, Perez. Young and Capuano are coming off injuries, Gee is unproven and Perez is on his last chance. Management will not endure another summer of a Perez saga. He’ll earn it in spring training or they’ll cut ties and be quick about it.

Q: WHO’S IN THE BULLPEN?

A: Speculation is the Mets will monitor Francisco Rodriguez’s appearances as to avoid his $17.5 million option from kicking in. Of course, part of that is predicated on Rodriguez’s health.  But, what of the rest of the pen? Bobby Parnell figures to be the set-up man.  D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz and Taylor Tankersley will be in the mix there somewhere, but hardly come across as clamp-down relievers.  Pat Misch could be the long man, and there’s always the chance Perez could stick in the pen.

Q: WHO PLAYS SECOND?

A: The Mets have already said Ruben Tejada isn’t in the plans to start. The cast includes Daniel Murphy, who hasn’t shown he can play the position, or for that matter, stay healthy. Justin Turner, Chin-lung Hu, Brad Emaus and don’t forget, Luis Castillo, are also in the mix. The best combination would be Tejada’s glove and Murphy’s bat, but that’s not an option. The uncertainty of it all could bring us another year of Castillo, who, if nothing else, is fairly predictable in what he can provide.

Jan 04

Mets’ individual goals for 2011

The beginning of the new year is always fresh with optimism and goal setting. Yesterdays don’t matter anymore and the focus is on today and tomorrow.

As an organization the Mets’ 2011 goals are to get through the season as competitively as possible, shed itself of its suffocating contracts and lay a foundation for 2012. The free-agent signings of Chris Capuano and Taylor Buchholz are low-risk, with the potential for high-rewards moves. The possibility of improving the bullpen and possibly the rotation at minimal cost are the type of decisions we’ve come to expect from Sandy Alderson. If they acquire Jeff Francis or Chris Young, it would be more of the same. These moves won’t push the Mets over the top, but they can make for an interesting summer — if the following goals are also reached.

The following Mets should have these resolutions and goals.

JOHAN SANTANA: Don’t push your return from shoulder surgery and accept the marquee days of your career could be over. Santana’s injury is serious and there’s no reasonable expectation he’ll return prior to the All-Star break. The competitor in him wants to pitch and there’s the danger of him pushing it. Santana has pitched with injury before, but he must be especially careful now, even if it means setting out the entire season. To re-injure his shoulder could mean the end of his career. And, with 2011 all but a write-off season, there should be no urgency on the part of the Mets, either.

MIKE PELFREY: Pelfrey made tremendous strides last year, but regressed in June. Hopefully, he has learned from it. During that swoon Pelfrey reverted to bad habits and lost his focus on the mound. Pelfrey went away from trusting his stuff and started aiming the ball. When all else fails, Pelfrey must realize if he keeps it low he has the stuff to overpower hitters. Above all, without Santana, I don’t want Pelfrey to put too much of a burden on himself with the expectations. Pelfrey is what he is, which is a good, developing pitcher. He’s not a No. 1 yet, so his goal should be not to put that pressure on himself.

RA DICKEY: Dickey’s goal should to duplicate 2010 as much as possible. It was a career year for him so a regression shouldn’t be a surprise. Dickey can no longer sneak up on teams, so how he responds with expectations will be interesting to see.

JON NIESE: Niese had a good start but growing pains eventually caught up with him and he slid from 6-2 to 9-10. Niese, obviously, isn’t a given and his goal needs to trust his stuff and try to make gradual improvement. There are expectations on Niese he’s never had before, made even heavier by the questions swirling around the rotation. Niese must learn to keep things simple and not over extend himself.

BOBBY PARNELL: Quite simply, his goal must be to harness his near 100 mph. fastball to where he can capture the set-up role, which is his for the taking. How well Parnell does in this role will go a long way toward moving him into the closer’s role for 2012 should Francisco Rodriguez fail to finish 55 games.

FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ: K-Rod has to keep his temper and get off to a fast start. If he’s hot early and the Mets are in contention, he’ll get more save opportunities to increase his chances of that $17.5 million option kicking in. The Mets would prefer he fail short and instead go with the buyout. One of the most interesting storylines of the summer will be Rodriguez. If he’s good, so will be the Mets. If he’s not, the team will likely be sluggish, but facing a financial windfall for next winter.

JOSH THOLE: Thole will enter spring training as the No. 1 catcher, but can’t assume he’s got it made. He has good bat control, but needs to pick up that part of his game. His offensive goal should be to continue to be patient at the plate and take the ball where it is pitched. Thole will get stronger as he gets older, but shouldn’t be thinking about changing his offensive approach.

IKE DAVIS: Already strong, the home runs will continue to come for Davis, but he needs to be more disciplined at the plate for that to happen. Davis was frequently beaten on breaking ball low off the plate. That was his offensive Achilles Heel that threatens to curb his progress. Davis knows he’s good and has the potential, but he can’t take it for granted that it will automatically come for him.

JOSE REYES: Reyes lets things get to him and that presents the danger of pressing in his walk year. With the Mets acutely aware of their budget, a decision on Reyes could come as soon as the All-Star break. Reyes hasn’t been himself in two years because of injury and the fear is he’ll try to force things. With Reyes, that includes losing focus at the plate and giving away too many at-bats. Reyes’ best production came in the years immediately following his contract when he’s healthy. Considering the past two years there’s a concern about his health. Reyes’ primary goal outside of staying healthy is playing within himself.

DAVID WRIGHT: With the clubhouse chemistry in a state of flux in a transition year, Wright’s goal should be to assert himself more as a leader. This is his team and he needs to act like it. With a lot of young kids, and what could be going on in Reyes’ head, Wright needs to be more of a vocal, kick-butt presence. With a new management and manager, now is the time. A leader, however, needs to follow by example and there were way too many instances where Wright gave away too many at-bats and also lost focus in the field. Wright struck out 161 times last year, a number that should be reduced by at least 25 percent. Too often Wright was a rally killer and that has to stop, especially with the need for more offense considering the pitching questions.

CARLOS BELTRAN: So far, Beltran has said all the right things to impress the new regime. His goal should be to mean them. If Beltran stays healthy and produces he knows that could parlay into another rich contract. Only Beltran knows it won’t happen with the Mets. The Mets could have an interesting dilemma at the All-Star break. If Beltran is having a good year and has the Mets within wild-card contention, they might try to ride him during the second half. But, if he’s playing well and what’s offered is potentially better than compensatory draft picks, they’ll pull the trigger on a deal. Either way, it is safe to assume this is Beltran’s last year with the Mets. It’s up to him to make the most of it.

JASON BAY: Rarely are there do-overs, but this is as close as it comes. Bay hit only six homers and missed most of the second half with a concussion in what was a lost season. The Mets are stuck with his contract and Bay’s objective is to prove his worth.