Feb 21

Translating Terry Collins.

Manager Terry Collins conducted his first press conference of the spring this morning. He was upbeat and positive as expected, but made no brash projections, which was appreciated.

COLLINS: What is he saying?

However, like with all managers, there was a message beyond Collins’ words. What he said and what he meant are two different things.

Most managers take the one-game-at-a-time approach, but Collins did make the point of saying the team needed to get off to a fast start. He could have added that includes spring training, also.

Why is this important?

Continue reading

Feb 14

Not worried about Tejada.

One of the Mets’ many questions entering the season is whether Ruben Tejada will be able to replace Jose Reyes at shortstop.

TEJADA: It's his show now.

I’m not worried about the transition because frankly, few players are capable of replacing Reyes’ offensive production. Let’s assume right now he won’t post Reyes-like numbers. If Tejada can hit the .270 to .280 coach Chip Hale hopes for him, then I’ll be satisfied. I just don’t want Tejada to be overwhelmed or an easy out in the eighth spot in the order. If the latter is the case, the Mets would have almost certain back-to-back outs which would put a black hole in their line-up.

Tejada hit at times last season batting .284 with 36 RBI, but we’ll need to see how pitchers adjust now that they have a book on him. I’d sign up for another .284 right now.

Defensively, Tejada proved he could handle the position, so maybe that’s a wash. That’s also the most important part of his job.

The Mets have so many other issues to concern themselves with, that if shortstop is capably handled defensively, that’s a load off Terry Collins.

The Mets are a team in transition, not expected to contend. If things were different, they’d be worried about shortstop. Hell, if things were different, Reyes would be here.

For where this team is now, if Tejada can hold his own, that’s all you can ask.

Jan 18

What can $90 million get you?

First of all, I’d like to apologize for my spotty attendance lately. I’ve had several personal issues I’ve needed to attend to, and lately my health hasn’t been good. I was in the hospital yesterday and just haven’t felt up to it.

I have tried to maintain a consistent presence over the years, but have not been good so far in 2012. I apologize to you and promise to do better. I also appreciate your continued support.

Thank you.

This past few days have given me time to think, and, or course, attention drifts to the upcoming baseball season. Usually, this time of year has the optimism of spring training. With the Yankees making moves to improve their pitching, the Mets have done little.

The Mets’ projected payroll for 2012 is $90 million, which is a long separation to that of the Yankees, Phillies and most any other team expected to contend for the playoffs.

There have been examples of teams with small payrolls contending and even reaching the playoffs as Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Minnesota proving over the years.

Winning can be done with limited financial resources, but a common denominator has been building with homegrown talent, having it develop and locking in the key pieces. Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun and Joe Mauer are prime examples. At one time, that’s what I thought the Mets were doing with David Wright and Jose Reyes.

Wright is entering the prime years of his career, but he is doing so with a string of nagging injuries the past few seasons and a lack of complementary support. The Mets aren’t in a hurry to trade him, but the fact they are contemplating it is all the proof you need to know where this franchise is headed.

Teams can compete – to a point – with a $90 million payroll, but doing so requires a strong foundation, and that’s also lacking. Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy are young pieces, but I would be hesitant to label them a core for the future. We’ve only seen a smattering of promise from them, but also flaws and in some cases an injury history.

None possess the potential Wright and Reyes had when the Mets signed them to long-term contracts early in their career when the winning window was wide open.

Yes, 2006 seems like a long time ago.

If Niese and Davis, Duda and Tejada can play well, others stay healthy, and veterans such as Wright, Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey play to their potential, the Mets could make some noise.

But, that’s a lot of things that have to break right for a franchise that’s been on a negative slide, and not going away is the potential $400 million hit from the Ponzi scandal.

I can’t say things won’t break for the Mets, but it is January, time for positive hoping if you’re a baseball fan.

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.

 

Dec 07

Are the Mets any better?

I’ve been scanning some of the other blogs and was surprised some believe the Mets are better now than they were at the end of the season.

How?

Make no mistake, I always thought Jose Reyes would leave, but until they add quality from their savings, I just don’t see where you can make the argument the team is better without him.

They’ve lost the NL batting champion and replaced him with Ruben Tejada. I like Tejada’s potential, but it isn’t proven production. So, there is a downgrade at shortstop.

Gone from the rotation is Chris Capuano, replaced by …. you tell me. I’m not buying into Johan Santana until I see him pitch regularly.

Angel Pagan and Andres Torres are essentially the same player. Torres is better defensively, and the improvement is in shedding Pagan’s sometimes lackadaisical attitude. That’s not saying the Mets won this trade.

The Mets added two pitchers to their bullpen with strikeout capabilities, but you have to ask yourself if they were so good why would they have been available? I’m seeing it as exchanging one set of mediocre arms for another.

The Mets still have questions in their rotation, bullpen, first base, catcher, second base, left field and right field.

Other than shedding payroll for the promise of doing something later, I don’t see where they’ve gotten any better.

 

ON DECK (Today): The market for David Wright.