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.

Nov 15

2011 Player Review: Ruben Tejada

John Delcos of Newyorkmetsreport.com and Joe DeCaro of Metsmerizedonline.com will be doing more and more projects together with the goal of merging two successful blogs in the hope of giving our readers everything they’ll need in covering the Mets. We began our review of the 2011 Mets by examining their free-agents and players the team will consider tending contracts to. Today, we’ll start evaluating the rest of the roster, beginning with infielder Ruben Tejada.

RUBEN TEJADA – 2B/SS

THE SKINNY: Ruben Tejada’s reputation is that of a slick glove but a spotty bat. Tejada’s natural position is shortstop, but when Jose Reyes was healthy and Daniel Murphy wasn’t, he played a solid 50 games at second base in 2010. Tejada played both positions last year and his .284 was better than anticipated.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: Tejada started the season in the minor leagues to play mostly shortstop in anticipation of Reyes leaving this winter. The Mets also wanted Tejada to work on his offense.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: As expected, Tejada opened the season in the minor leagues as the Mets used Brad Emaus and Murphy at second base. However, when Emaus fizzled and Murphy was injured, Tejada was recalled. When Reyes twice went on the disabled list he played shortstop and Justin Turner played a lot of second. Tejada hit .284 with a .360 on-base percentage. He developed a reputation of not being flustered at the plate and drove in 36 runs in only 328.

JOHN’S TAKE: Tejada has a long way to go to be in Reyes’ caliber and there will be a substantial void to fill. Several scouts said the Mets should be encouraged by Tejada’s progress, but it should be remembered it was only half a season and early impressions can be misleading. With the Mets in full rebuilding and cost-cutting mode, Reyes is not expected to return and the team won’t spend or trade to replace him. With the Mets at least three years away from contending status, this will be Tejada’s opportunity to prove he’s capable of handling the job. The Mets don’t have any immediate options other than Tejada to take over shortstop. Under normal circumstances, a player of Tejada’s limited major league experience wouldn’t enter spring training as the frontrunner for the job. However, these are far from normal circumstances for the Mets.

JOE’S TAKE: No Met position player progressed more than Ruben Tejada did in 2011. Initially, Tejada was dispatched from last season’s second base spring training battle despite outperforming the field. He started the season in Buffalo while Brad Emaus began his very short-lived tenure as the Mets starting second baseman. On May 18, Tejada came up and for the most part never looked back, and guess what? The 22-year old delivered. He had one bad month in July, take that away and he batted .312 in 82 games and showed an uncanny ability to turn it up a notch when runners were on base. In fact his .305 average with “runners on base” was better than… Well lets not go there. I’m looking forward to seeing what this young kid will do for an encore. I’m a big fan.

Oct 18

On the eve of the Series …. Alderson knew what he was getting into.

The drive to Ohio is long and tedious, much like a New York Mets summer the past three years. Went back home to visit my father, who was hospitalized, and apologize for the lapse in posts.

My mind was on other things.

I am anxious for the World Series to start, and I would like to see the Cardinals because that would complete one of the great comebacks in baseball history. The Cardinals have what it takes to complete history.

Either way, if the Rangers won, that would also be a compelling story, especially for Mets fans who still have a fondness for Nolan Ryan.

The Cardinals have the best pitcher and player in the Series in Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols, plus the extra game at home. Both teams are sizzling at the right time.

In looking at the two teams, it is easy to see what separates them from the Mets, and, of course, you have to wonder how far our boys are away.

Both teams have a stud hitter in Pujols and Josh Hamilton, reliable starters in Carpenter and CJ Wilson, good bullpens and support throughout the batter orders.

The Mets have David Wright and Mike Pelfrey, holes in the order and are shambles in the bullpen and rotation. If everybody in the NL East stands pat, and you know they won’t, at best the Mets are fourth in the division.

Bringing back Jose Reyes won’t change that, either. So, it was interesting to read the ESPN report of Chip Hale’s assessment, and that of some NL scouts, on Ruben Tejada’s development.

One scout said Tejada is ready to play and the best decision for the Mets would be to plug him in, let Reyes go and spend the money patching their numerous pitching holes.

I’ve been saying that since the trade deadline.

It’s not that I dislike Reyes. To the contrary, he’s been one of my favorite Mets to deal with, but realistically, he has limitations and the team has other priorities. If Tejada was a lost cause, it might be different, but there is promise there.

The Cardinals and Rangers wouldn’t be here without Pujols and Hamilton, respectively. Reyes, and also Wright, don’t carry the same weight with the Mets.

At one time, Reyes and Wright represented the Mets’ core, but times have changed. The team has lost key complementary pieces while both players have declined and have had health issues.

Sandy Alderson was brought in here to rebuild this franchise, and it is becoming clearer that both Reyes and Wright or no longer cornerstones. Too bad, but that is the reality.

Another reality, is Alderson knew the guidelines when he took the job. Not much got by Alderson, if anything, when he was working in the commissioner’s office. He got the job on the strong recommendation of Bud Selig, so he had a strong sense of the Wilpon’s financial issues.

When he came here he said it would take time, rebuilding wouldn’t come over night and the Mets’ culture had to change. That would include handing out massive contracts.

That is why I would be shocked if Reyes was brought back, wouldn’t be surprised if Wright isn’t dealt, and why the team would love to cut ties with Johan Santana and Jason Bay.

We knew 2011 and 2012 would be written off, and we wouldn’t have a clearer idea of the future until 2013 at the earliest.

Oct 03

Immediate Mets’ issues

There’s a sentiment the Mets over achieved this year, but that is more a case of lessened expectations. While their desired off-season budget will preclude much activity toward improvement, that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues needing to be addressed:

DECIDE ON JOSE REYES: Actually, they already have, but aren’t ready to reveal the numbers. For public relations purposes, the Mets don’t want to appear to be pushing Reyes out the door, but it is clear he is the first domino and every thing they do revolves around him. What the Mets can’t afford to do is get strung out dealing with Reyes ultimately to have him go elsewhere and have their other options get snapped up. From the direction they take on Reyes you’ll ascertain where the Mets are immediately headed. Should they determine they can live without Reyes – or need to live without him – they will be saying there’s considerably more rebuilding to be done. Bringing him back says they believe they are ready to compete, but it makes no sense to do so if they aren’t willing to spend in other areas.

THE COACHING STAFF: With manager Terry Collins’ contract extended, there’s the matter of his staff. Once again, pitching coach Dan Warthen’s future is suspect. Last year, Mike Pelfrey lobbied hard to retain Warthen, but considering his anemic performance, he won’t carry much weight this time around.

ADD TO THE ROTATION: Pelfrey regressed and surprise Dillon Gee was the only starter with a record over .500; four of the five had ERA’s of 4.40 or higher; and the staff had a composite 1.378 WHIP.  Jonathan Niese and Johan Santana have injury issues, and since there are no assurances, the Mets have little alternative but to bring back Pelfrey and Chris Capuano. There are some good names on the free agent market, notably C.J. Wilson, Rich Harden and Mark Buehrle, but they aren’t going to spend much, especially if they bring back Reyes. The Mets will likely fish from the pool where guys like Joel Pineiro, Jason Marquis and Freddy Garcia swim.

FIX THE BULLPEN: The Mets used 16 arms this summer and enter the offseason with a zero reliability factor in the pen. They’d like to see Bobby Parnell win the closer job, but he allowed 89 base runners in 59.1 innings pitched. That he strikes out over one batter an inning means he has the stuff, but his command of it is erratic.

ANGEL PAGAN: Pagan took a step back, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Mets don’t tender him a contract.  There are decent stopgap options in the outfield, such as Rick Ankiel, Nate McLouth and Ryan Ludwick, but again, I don’t see the Mets going in that direction. It would be good if they could plug in Fernando Martinez, but his injury history makes him unreliable.

SECOND BASE: Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips is the best available, but wants a lot and the Mets won’t  go there, especially if they bring back Reyes, because what would they do with Ruben Tejada? If Reyes goes, they could go with Tejada and Justin Turner as their double play combination.

If you’re getting the impression most of the Mets off-season tinkering will come from within and be of the middle-tier cost variety, you’re right. Sandy Alderson is already on record saying he sees a budget of around $110 million, which is $30 million less than this summer.

Figure with much of that $30 million differential was in the person of Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo, then it isn’t hard to reason next summer won’t be much different than this one.