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.

 

Dec 06

If spring training were to start tomorrow ….

If spring training were to begin spring training tomorrow, the Mets would not bring to Florida that would be worthy of optimism, not with Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami and Washington all getting better and willing to make the moves the Mets can’t afford in their present economic climate.

When asked what he would say to Mets’ fans to sell them on 2012, GM Sandy Alderson said his sales pitch would be focusing on the future, and if the team was healthy and played to its expectations they could be competitive.

We’ve heard that refrain before and we’ll hear it again,

But for now, assuming no additions to the roster, let’s see what the Mets will bring to Port St. Luice:

STARTING ROTATION

JOHAN SANTANA: Alderson said the other day he expects Santana back in the rotation. Would be nice for him go through a spring training first. There’s no guarantee when Santana will return, and if he does, how effective he’ll be. They can’t be thinking they’ll plug in a Cy Young Award winner.

MIKE PELFREY: The de facto ace last summer after a strong 2010 and Santana’s injury. He’ll get his raise for winning all of seven games. This just might be Pelfrey’s make-or-break season. If the Mets could land another starter, and they’ll need it after losing Chris Capuano to Los Angeles, I wouldn’t be adverse to trying Pelfrey as a closer. Something has to be done to shake up this guy.

RA DICKEY: After a rocky start, Dickey closed strong despite pitching injured. The fluke label should be removed because Dickey has been the Mets’ most consistent starter the past two years. Even so, he’s still a back end of the rotation guy.

DILLON GEE: Like Dickey in 2010, Gee came out of nowhere to become a viable member of the rotation. Gee sprinted out of the gate, but hitters eventually figured him out. However, on the plus side, Gee did his own adjusting. Gee passed through the organization without a lot of flash. Yes, we have to look at his first year with caution, but there’s also reason to be optimistic.

JON NIESE: Niese is another who is an injury question. When he’s been on he’s been nearly untouchable. He’s also had moments when he loses the strike zone. One of the Mets’ best decisions was not to include Niese in the Santana trade. It may turn out he’ll replace him in the rotation.

Continue reading

Nov 23

2011 Player Review: Justin Turner

JUSTIN TURNER

THE SKINNY: With second base a black hole last season when Brad Emaus didn’t make it and Daniel Murphy was hurt, Turner played more than anticipated. His playing time also increased when Jose Reyes twice went on the disabled list and Tejada played shortstop.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: In the minor leagues, where he had been since 2006 with the Cincinnati and Baltimore organizations. The Mets would keep an eye on him because of his ability to play multiple positions (second, third and shortstop).

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Turner quickly got his opportunity with the Mets and made the most of it with his hustle, timely hitting and defensive versatility. However, just because Turner can play multiple positions doesn’t mean he can play them all well as 12 errors indicates.

JOHN’S TAKE: Murphy is the better hitter and should get the first chance at second base, assuming Reyes leaves and Tejada takes over shortstop. The Mets will need bench players and it is better to stay with Turner than take somebody else’s reject off the waiver wire this winter.

JOE’S TAKE: Ultimately I don’t see Justin Turner as an everyday player. With sporadic playing time Turner was a hitting machine at the plate. He had a drive and intensity that almost made him an intimidating presence at the plate, and his focus and approach at the plate were spot on. But when he got regular playing time the results suffered which was a shame. I’ll tell you one thing though about this kid, there’s no Mets player including David Wright, that I’d want up at the plate with runners on base. Turner may be the best situational hitter on the team, and his presence on the bench is a big plus for the Mets.