Sep 29

Manuel reflects on a season lost

It was interesting to hear Jerry Manuel evaluate his performance last night on SNY, admitting he pushed the envelope in bringing back Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, and the experiment with Reyes at third.

MANUEL: The dreams of success have faded.

Much of the self-evaluation had been written by posters at the time, but it must be remembered Manuel is working off different information and conditions that we were.

Quite simply, Manuel knew there was pressure on him to win this year, and that only made it easier to be tempted, especially when the player says he’s ready.

Manuel didn’t get into it, but there was inconsistency in how he made out his lineup, set up his bullpen and bench. Lest we not forget, it was Manuel’s insistence to stay with Jenrry Mejeia, who has been shut down with a shoulder injury.

I also didn’t like how Manuel handled Jeff Francoeur and John Maine, but there are always be dust ups in the player-manager relationship.

Last night Manuel was candid, forthright and honest. There was very little excuse making, other than to say the collapse of the offense played a major factor into the season’s outcome. And. I don’t look at that as an excuse as much as a statement of fact.

If this had been Manuel’s first season with the Mets, you could make an argument for another chance, but he presided over the September collapse in 2008 and last year’s disaster. There were extenuating circumstances after both that warranted a second chance, the bottom line is that through a myriad of reasons, the Mets have taken a step back since 2006, and in this market, with this stadium and the expectations, somebody will have to pay the price for failure.

Keeping Manuel with roughly the same payroll as this season is to tell the fanbase “our hope is that we stay healthy and improve,’’ which is something they’ve been saying since Carlos Beltran took that third strike from Adam Wainwright.

Keeping Manuel would be saying this year was acceptable.

Aug 18

Questions for 2011

Let’s face it, we’re down to miracles and hoping for historic comebacks now. The Mets lost with their ace last night and find themselves 11 games behind Atlanta.

How many days before spring training?

As far as I’m concerned the next six weeks should be about laying the ground work for 2011, a time to find some answers. Here are the most important issues:

JENRRY MEJIA: Mejia is pitching in Double-A, experiencing no shoulder problems and will be recalled when the rosters expand Sept. 1. He should immediately be slotted into the rotation to find out what is there. And, if he takes his lumps, well, that’s part of the learning process.

PELFREY: Can he finish strong?

MIKE PELFREY: Once again, Pelfrey has shown us two personas. After a 9-1 start he’s 1-5, but has pitched well in his last two games. It is important to see if he learned anything during his horrid July that he can build off of.

JON NIESE/R.A. DICKEY: Just keep on doing what they’ve done. Two of the bright spots need to build on their success.

RUBEN TEJADA: Can this kid hit in the major leagues? Let’s give him steady playing time to find out. No need to platoon with Luis Castillo as we know all about him.

CARLOS BELTRAN: It would be nice if he finishes strong and ups his trade value, but who are we kidding? Who’s going to trade for that $18.5 million contract? I’d see what he’s capable of doing in right field.

JASON BAY: It is a lost season for him. There’s no need to bring him back. What’s he going to accomplish? Hit 10 homers? Make sure he’s healthy and start again next year.

HISANORI TAKAHASHI/BOBBY PARNELL: As of now, it appears Takahashi is the closer. If that’s the case, leave him there and let him take his lumps and see what is there. The assumption must be made that Francisco Rodriguez is not coming back. If the Mets decide Parnell is a better fit long term for the closer role, then give him the ball. The goal should be to end the season with an idea of your closer for 2011.

IKE DAVIS/JOSH THOLE: Both these guys will start next year so give them the time. I especially want to see them hit against left-handed pitching. No more platooning in that situation.

May 21

May 21.10: Who goes first, Manuel or Maine?

Was one of the five pitches John Maine threw last night his final one with the Mets?

That’s what many are thinking, but if Jerry Manuel’s job security was secure, or at least stable, it might be enough for him to outlast Maine, but it is a house of cards.

Maine was the third Mets starter to go down during the team’s dreadful 2-6 road trip, but if the DL is in his immediate future then he’ll get another chance to save his career.

Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen think Maine is hiding an injury – the latter called the pitcher a “habitual liar’’ when it comes to discussing his health – and we should know after he sees a doctor today.

“I would like an explanation,’’ Maine said about his removal. “Me throwing 85 mph I don’t think is a good explanation to be taken out.’’

A weak warm-up session and Maine hunched over on the mound might have had something to do with it.

However, Maine partly answered his own question about why he wasn’t allowed to stay in the game.

“I’m in no position, I don’t have enough clout,’’ said Maine. “I don’t have enough star power to say anything. So what happens happens.’’

While Maine’s verbal explosion might doom him with some organizations, what might save him was how this was bungled by Manuel and Warthen.

“I just didn’t think John had enough to compete tonight,’’ Warthen said. “If he’s throwing that way, then there’s got to be something incorrect in that arm. … He wants to go out there and pitch. But we have to be smart enough to realize this guy isn’t right.’’

How come then, if his warm-ups were so bad, weren’t they smart enough to pull the plug before he took the mound?

Warthen told Manuel that Maine wasn’t throwing 80 mph in the bullpen. When Maine bounced a warm-up pitch, Manuel immediately got Raul Valdes up and throwing.

Manuel talked so much about wanting to protect Maine, but he let him start the game anyway? If one pitch could blow out his shoulder, then why take the chance?

Maine said he was never asked how he felt or that he was scheduled to see a doctor today. There’s a protocol in dealing with pitcher’s injuries and it wasn’t followed.

To be sure, Maine didn’t handle things properly, but neither did Manuel or Warthen, and the ice they are skating on is thinner than Maine’s.

May 10

May 10.10: Chat Room, Game #32 vs. Nationals: Can Wright get it going again?

Right now, David Wright would be one of the first to admit this game is impossible to figure out. Wright took a 10-game hitting streak into Saturday’s game.

That streak hasn’t just been snapped, it has been shattered.

Since then, Wright has gone down on strikes eight straight times (he had a sacrifice fly in there that would have accounted for the winning RBI had not the bullpen not given up lead for the third straight game).

The last one got him ejected from Sunday’s game and had the Mets tied it would have brought on the fun scenario of Jon Niese in left and Jason Bay playing third base. There’s a morbid curiosity, I admit, of wanting to see that.

Wright denies it was a culmination that caused his explosion at plate ump Paul Schreiber, but it was certainly more than the “disagreement’’ he called it.

“In a season you’re going to go through some ups and downs and I’m not seeing the ball right now,” said Wright. “Hopefully I’ll get back to swinging the bat well. Obviously you want to go up there and put together some good at-bats but it hasn’t happened the last couple of days. I’ll keep plugging away and working at it until it does happen.’’

Wright is too good a player for it not to happen, but what is alarming is not the strikeouts, but the quantity. He has 41 on the season and the Mets play their 32nd game tonight against Washington.

“It’s a combination of me not seeing the ball that well right now and facing some good pitching,’’ Wright said. “It’s two-sided. Pitchers make good pitches, especially when you’re not feeling that good at the plate, and chances are you’re not going to be that successful.’’

Tonight the 17-14 Mets play the 17-14 Nationals with John Maine going against rookie Luis Atilano (2-0, 4.67), who is trying to bounce back from a six-run effort against Atlanta.

Maine (1-1, 5.97 ERA) appears to have righted himself after a rough start. H was 0-1 with 10.38 ERA in his first three starts, but 1-0 with a 2.30 ERA in his last three.

Here’s tonight’s line-up:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
John Maine, RP

METS NOTEBOOK: Catcher Henry Blanco was placed on the bereavement list and replaced on the roster by Josh Thole. … Mike Piazza said if he ever was inducted into the Hall of Fame he wanted to go in as a Met. “The bulk of my career was with the Mets,’’ he said. One of the most enduring images in Met history was his homer that beat Atlanta in the first game back from 9/11.

Feb 25

Feb. 25.10: Fitting in Green.

Sometimes, I just don’t get Jerry Manuel. For instance, when talking about Sean Green, when the topic was his submarine delivery, he said he hopes it doesn’t reduce him to being a specialist.

Huh?

Isn’t that the whole essence of putting together a bullpen, finding a defined role for each guy? Obviously, there’s room for adjustment depending on the game situation, but don’t the terms long-man, closer, eighth-inning set-up man and “left-hander out of the bullpen,’’ all denote specialists?

When Manuel brings in Pedro Feliciano to face Adrian Gonzalez instead of a right-hander isn’t he using a specialist? Hell, each bullpen decision is about match-ups and subsequently about specialization.

As far as being a specialist, Manuel will determine that by how he uses Green. As a submariner, Green should be effective against both right-handed and left-handed, that is, if his ball in down, moving and on the corners.  If Manuel doesn’t want to pigeon-hole Green’s job – which on the surface would seem to be to come in and get the ground ball, especially against right-handed hitters – then he doesn’t have to.

It is Manuel’s job in constructing the bullpen to slot pitchers to different game situations. To say he doesn’t want Green to be a specialist is contrary to what should be going on.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with specialists as long as they do their job. In the basic sense every reliever should be a specialist in that their role should simply be to get hitters out, which has been a widespread problem of the bullpen the last three years.