Nov 02

Mets Gambled And Lost On Johan Santana; End Era By Buying Out Contract

The New York Mets took care of business and officially parted ways with often-injured Johan Santana when they paid a $5.5-million buyout Friday, and the classy left-hander, who always wanted to do more – sometimes to his detriment – did the same and thanked the franchise and its fans for their support.

In a statement, Santana said: “I want to thank the Mets organization, my teammates, and, of course, a big thank you to Mets fans, who have been behind me from day one and stood by me through all the good and bad.’’

SANTANA: Era ends.

SANTANA: Era ends.

It was a noble gesture from Santana, something he didn’t have to do after completion of the six-year, $137.5-million contract that made him the highest-paid Mets’ pitcher.

The Mets have not ruled out bringing back Santana at a low-cost deal – which would be on top of the buyout – and toward that end, the left-hander lobbied on his behalf.

“I am not sure what the future holds, as this is all new to me,’’ Santana continued, “but I have every intention of pitching in 2014 and beyond and I am certainly keeping all my options open.’’

After losing in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicking away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets gambled big on Santana. They sent four prospects to Minnesota – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – to acquire the already damaged left-hander. Then they signed him at the time to the richest contract in franchise history.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so in essence the Mets were bidding against themselves, and arguably could have had him for less. Subsequently, they issued a contract they didn’t have to at that price. Clearly, they mis-read the market. The deal turned out to symbolize then-GM Omar Minaya’s tenure that included a run of lucrative, underachieving contracts.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries. If a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

That no-hitter came in just his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran was ruled a foul ball. If that call is made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, at least publicly, both sides are open for a return. But, don’t bet on it.

Oct 23

Mets Player Review: Ike Davis

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IKE DAVIS, 1B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

After missing most of the 2011 season with an ankle injury, Davis struggled for much of the first half but avoided a trip to the minor leagues with the promise of the 19 homers he slugged in his 2010 rookie season when he finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Davis responded with a scorching second half in 2012 that salvaged his season with 32 homers and 90 RBI. The wishful thinking on the Mets’ part was two strong halves could lay the groundwork for perhaps the breakout season they had long hoped for the first baseman with the looping swing and game-breaking power. Even with the homers Davis produced some worrisome numbers, such as a .227 average, .308 on-base percentage, and 141-61 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. If Davis could cut down on his swing and improve his patience at the plate, why couldn’t he become a star?

CAREER STATS

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2013 SEASON REVIEW

Davis didn’t come close to two strong halves. He didn’t even have two mediocre halves; try an awful first half and a poor second half. Davis couldn’t avoid the minor leagues this year, and consequently played in just 103 games with 317 at-bats. Davis hit .305 with a .326 on-base percentage, .334 slugging percentage, nine homers, 33 RBI and 101 strikeouts with 57 walks, and most discouraging, had no better plate presence when he returned than when he left for Triple-A Las Vegas. The season ended with speculation the Mets might not tender him a contract and let him leave as a free agent. Davis made $3.1 million last year, and even a miniscule arbitration raise would seem too much for the budget conscious Mets. The current plan is for Davis and Lucas Duda competing for the first base job in spring training.

LOOKING AT 2014

John Delcos Says: Manager Terry Collins said after the season he didn’t think it would be likely the Mets could carry both Davis and Duda coming out of spring training. Trading Davis for anything of quality would be highly unlikely this winter. Teams needing a first baseman might gamble on the Mets waiving Davis as not to give up a player. Should Davis make the Opening Day roster, how could anybody project with any confidence he will finally have a breakout season? Davis’ track record is one of injury and poor performance, with one good second half in 2012. Given that, there’s nothing other than blind hope for the Mets to expect anything productive from Davis. The season ended with Davis needing a lot of work to become a viable major leaguer let alone a good one. He didn’t get that work over the winter.

Satish R. Says: You know, if you asked me a couple days ago what I thought the organizational opinion was on Ike Davis — I’d tell you that they had no faith in him whatsoever. When they mentioned that first base is a position they wanted to upgrade at, it felt like the Mets were saying they had no confidence in Lucas Duda or Ike Davis — which is the feeling of most of the fanbase as well. But then I read this tweet from Jon Heyman that said the Mets passed on Abreu because of Davis, Duda, and guys like Josh SatinDaniel Murphy, and Wilmer Flores. Talk about your mixed signals, right?

If Sandy Alderson meant anything that he said about spending this offseason, and the team turns out to be in a better position — you have probably seen the last of Ike Davis in a Mets uniform. But honestly, if we’re not going to make any actual moves this winter, the Mets might as well tender Ike a contract and give him one last chance. As I always say, players don’t hit 32 home runs by accident, especially 22 in one half — so there’s potential there. I just don’t know if he’ll be able to tap into it again…

TOMORROW: Lucas Duda

Oct 17

Mets Won’t Go Long Term With Murphy, Gee Or Parnell

Should the New York Mets make any long-term contract offers, expect them to be made to those outside the organization.

The Mets locked up Jonathan Niese to a five-year, $25.5 million deal last season, but reportedly won’t make similar offers to extend those still under team control, a short list that includes Daniel Murphy, Dillon Gee and Bobby Parnell. As of now, the Mets aren’t prepared to dole out to avoid their free-agent seasons.

Murphy and Parnell are signed through 2015 and Gee is signed through 2016. Because of their contractual status, all three are extremely tradable and the Mets will listen to offers.

Gee is arbitration eligible, but isn’t expected to break the bank. Neither would Murphy when it is his turn, and Parnell is currently coming off neck surgery.

Considering their financial structure, the Mets have exactly what they want with these players: low-cost certainty within the next three years.

The Mets announced Thursday outfielder Mike Baxter was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and lefty reliever Robert Carson was claimed by the Los Angeles Angels.

Baxter, the local kid from Whitestone who got the chance to play for his childhood team, hit only .189 with four RBI this season. He will always be remembered for making a circus catch to preserve Johan Santana’s 2012 no-hitter.

Baxter was injured on the play, which manager Terry Collins said impacted him this season.

Carson, 24, meanwhile threw hard and made a good first impression in 2012, but served up nine homers in 19.2 innings this year.

The Mets also removed ineffective relievers Greg Burke and Sean Henn from the 40-man roster. Both are expected to become free agents.

Oct 09

2013 Season Review: Matt Harvey

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MATT HARVEY, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

The Mets were patient in bringing up Harvey last year and it paid off. After making a splash with 10 mostly eye opening starts and leaving a strong impression with his poise and command, it was anticipated Harvey would take the next step and become a solid starter in the rotation. Harvey outpitched his experience and numbers with an ability to mix his pitches and throw breaking pitches in fastball counts. Never mind Harvey’s 3-5 record in 2012, but instead look at his 2.73 ERA and 70 to 26 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Harvey had a dominant 10.6 strikeouts per-nine-innings average. Those 70 strikeouts came in 59.1 innings, which screams domination. With Johan Santana out, the Mets hoped Harvey would step into the No. 2 role in the rotation behind Jon Niese. When the season began the Mets did not have an innings limit on Harvey as the Washington Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg. However, that changed as the season progressed, and perhaps it was too late.

CAREER STATS

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2013 SEASON REVIEW

After winning his first five decisions and seven of eight, Harvey had the world in the palm of his hand. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, showcased on the late-night talk shows and dating a supermodel, with pictures of him on the back pages in the midst of public displays of affection. All that was the result of what he did on the mound, as he overpowered hitters from the beginning and started the All-Star Game. There was talk of him being a Cy Young Award candidate. However, he lost three of his last four decisions and had 12 no-decisions before sustaining a partial ligament tear in his elbow. Harvey complained of tightness in his right forearm prior to the break, of which Terry Collins professed no knowledge. Harvey was truly dominating with 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings, and walking just 31 with a microscopic 0.93 WHIP and 2.27 ERA.

LOOKING AT 2014

John Delcos Says:

Harvey eschewed immediate surgery to opt for rest and rehabilitation before starting a throwing program in the hope of being ready for spring training. The Mets hoped Harvey could pitch in the Arizona Fall League as a test, but that is becoming remote. Harvey will be re-examined in late October or early November, and if there’s not sufficient healing in the tear, surgery is still on the table. Harvey is taking a risk that if he doesn’t have surgery, he could further tear the ligament next summer and would miss the rest of next year and 2015 as well. If he has the surgery now he could conceivably be ready next September, which would be important if the Mets are competitive. The way things are progressing it appears Harvey will undergo surgery and the Mets will shop for mid-level veteran innings eater.

Joe D. Says:

The best case scenario for Matt Harvey in 2014, would be a return sometime around mid to late August. I can almost envision the excitement of his return – culminating in a dominating glimpse of the great season to come in 2015. The return of Harvey Day would electrify the fan base and be the perfect tonic going into the offseason and ushering in what we hope will be a run of success for the franchise beginning in 2015. Going into that offseason knowing that Harvey was back and healthy would eliminate the shadow that would be cast if he doesn’t return to make at least 2-3 starts. We need to see him back on the mound. It’s important for his teammates as well as the fans.

Sep 30

Mets Extend Collins; 2014 Season Has Begun

The New York Mets’ offseason began this afternoon at Citi Field with the expected announcement of Terry Collins’ contract extended for two years plus an option.

General manager Sandy Alderson there were three criteria for the extension:

* That the team hustled for Collins even during the lean times. “The club played hard for Terry and I think that was evident for everyone to see,’’ Alderson said.

* That he overcame a lot in terms of injuries and trades, and the young players generally improved. “He has helped out younger players get better,’’ Alderson said. “He’s a great motivator.’’

* That although the record wasn’t acceptable, the team showed improvement and played .500 over the last 100 games.

Alderson, Collins, COO Jeff Wilpon and the other members of the front office and coaching staff, will fly to Port St. Lucie today and begin organizational meetings to evaluate available free agents and trade options; player evaluations; and determining a budget.

“We have in mind what we can spend,’’ Wilpon said.

Alderson named Matt Harvey’s injury as the greatest disappointment, but also named the regression of Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, and inability to build a solid bullpen.

Both Collins and Alderson cited the club’s losing record at home, with the former saying the club’s offensive approach was a significant factor.

“We can’t lead the National League in strikeouts if we’re not going to hit with power,’’ Collins said. “Our approach with two strikes has to get better.’’

The Mets’ holes include the rotation, where Alderson named Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee as the only givens; first base, which for now has Ike Davis and Lucas Duda as the primary candidates; shortstop, where Tejada struggled, was injured and went on the disabled list, and then after an extended period in the minor leagues, returned and broke his leg; and the adding a significant bat in the outfield.

As Collins, Alderson and Wilpon spoke to the media, the grounds crew was working on the field, which looked in pristine, almost Opening Day, condition.

“I’m honored to be able to continue what we started,’’ Collins said about the future, which included Opening Day 2014. “The nucleus of young talent in our organization really came to the forefront this year. There is no doubt in my mind that we are headed in the right direction. The won-lost record is not what any of us wanted and that’s what we have to change, beginning in 2014.’’

And, 2014, has already begun.

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