Oct 06

Should the Mets consider dealing Jose Reyes?

Whomever the Mets hire as general manager I will be curious to see his take on Jose Reyes.

Will he believe the team should be built around Reyes, or would the Mets be better served to deal him as an attempt to plug several holes, notably in the rotation and bullpen?

REYES: What's his value?

The path of least resistance would be to pick up Reyes’ $11 million option for 2011, then use that season as the basis to negotiate a long-term extension.

The gamble would be to pull the trigger now, thinking his value has peaked. At 27, Reyes is entering the prime of his career and should command a lot in return.

Reyes has missed a lot of time the past two seasons with health reasons and said he’ll work to strengthen his core in the offseason as to not have a recurrence of the oblique problem.

Reyes had a hot stretch this season when the Mets were playing well, but too often was not the player billed up to be, and the question was raised several times: Is this is good as it will get for Reyes or can he become that elite player?

That might be one of the toughest issues for the new general manager to address.

Reyes had his issues with Manuel, and to a lesser extent Willie Randolph, and the managerial hire might help the general manager decided if he will re-energize the shortstop.

All those variables will be evaluated should the team consider trading him, but that will happen after another important evaluation.

If the new general manager believes an overhaul is needed, and more than few pieces are required to return the Mets to contending status, then, depending on the return, I could see him exploring a Reyes trade.

However, if the assessment is this team isn’t far away, especially with the healthy returns of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran next season, then holding onto him would be the prudent option because I can’t see obtaining player who will be more valuable to them than a healthy, productive and motivated Reyes.

Sep 28

Reflections of Willie

With the Milwaukee Brewers in town, and Jerry Manuel presumably in his last week as Mets manager, it is not surprising the attention being placed on Willie Randolph and the inevitable comparisons to his successor.

RANDOLPH: Looking back.

I covered Randolph in 2006 until 2008 when he was unceremoniously fired, and found him to be knowledgeable but sometimes too thin skinned. I won’t use the word paranoid because I’m not a psychiatrist and believe that’s too harsh and unfair an assessment.

I attributed Randolph’s demeanor to it being his first job and his inability to let go of being passed by for other opportunities.

And, to be fair, Randolph had reason to be cautious as the Mets presented him with several untenable obstacles. Willie spoke highly of Omar Minaya the other day, but part of that was being a gentleman. Fact is, there was an uneasy tension between Randolph and the front office caused in large part by the constant undermining presence of Tony Bernazard, who literally was a management spy and who fed information to players that caused a gap in the clubhouse.

Minaya was at fault for letting that situation develop and not pulling in the reigns on Bernazard. Eventually, Bernazard did himself in and his reputation has kept him from landing another baseball job.

That Carlos Delgado sabotaged Randolph’s relationship with the Latin players, and it was allowed to happen by the front office, was distasteful and really despicable. Delgado’s presence undoubtedly hampered Randolph’s relationship with Jose Reyes to name one. It was information fed by Bernazard to Delgado that damaged whatever relationship the player could have with his manager.

The Mets came within one hit of reaching the World Series in 2006, then collapsed in 2007. The collapse that summer was historic, but traceable to the front office not addressing the needs of starting pitching and not bringing back the bullpen that was a strength of the 2006 team. The collapse would have happened sooner, and perhaps not been as dramatic, if not for the strong start that spring.

The bullpen was again a problem in 2008, but the Mets hung around until the final weekend. There was another collapse that year, but not as dramatic. The team hung around long enough for the interim tag to be removed from Manuel.

The Mets have addressed needs piecemeal, from Johan Santana to Francisco Rodriguez to Jason Bay, but never gave Randolph a full deck after 2006. The feeling was that they came close and to take the next step with essentially the same team. Hoping for improvement is not the same as adding the proper pieces to improve.

Gradually, by sticking with Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez too long, by not rebuilding the bullpen after Duaner Sanchez’s injury described in his EMR (electronic medical record) as a  fractured coracoid bone in the shoulder, by misjudging the progress made by Oliver Perez and John Maine after 2007, by hamstringing the bench with the likes of Julio Franco, poor contracts given Perez, Franco and Moises Alou, and numerous injuries, the window has slammed shut on the Mets and it doesn?t matter who is manager.

Had Randolph stayed, he couldn’t navigate through this mess, and Manuel has proven to be less capable. Let’s face it, today’s Mets are a house of cards. Their record will be better this year, but in some respects the team overachieved because of RA Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi, and Mike Pelfrey’s step forward.

With the payroll as it is, the injury to Santana and questions in the pitching staff, and the health issues of Carlos Beltran and Bay, this team could go south again next year.

Randolph deserves another chance to manage in the major leagues, but bringing him back isn’t the best idea. Been there, done that. Just like with Bobby Valentine.

Randolph has his faults as does Manuel, but the fact is this front office will be going on its fifth manager in ten years next season, a sure sign that the instability that comes from up top.

Sep 18

New Mets Chat; Gotta make a run at Torre.

Game #149 vs. Braves

T0 access the New Chat Room, click onto the Mets Chat icon to your left.

I can’t believe what I’m hearing this morning, that the Mets aren’t interested in Joe Torre. Yeah, maybe I can. And, unbelievably, there are some who believe he doesn’t have the right personality for the Mets. They probably are right. Torre has a winning personality and the Mets are a fall-short organization.

I’ll bottom line it for you: Joe Torre is a Hall of Fame manager who can only help the Mets. He’s been through it all, knows the ropes and knows how to handle players young and old. Laid back? What crap. When  Torre has an edge, there are none sharper. He knows how to motivate and how to teach. He has an iron fist underneath a velvet glove.

For those you think he can’t deal with young players, guess again. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera all cut their teeth with Torre. As the Yankees rose to prominence in the late 1990′s all those young players made their mark under Torre. Bernie Williams became a star under Torre.

There is only one reason why the Mets won’t consider Torre and it has nothing to do with age or having the right personality. It has everything to do with being cheap and not paying what it takes to get out of their stagnant state. It is why they low-balled Willie Randolph and replaced him with Jerry Manuel. It is why they are talking about Wally Backman.

The Mets don’t know where to spend their money where it’s needed most. They cut some corners on the really important things.

If Torre wants to manage again, and he’d return to the Dodgers if the circumstances were right and that organization wasn’t in disarray, then the Mets should make a run at him.

Right personality? For those who think he doesn’t have the right personality they don’t know Torre or baseball. The man is a winner and he can only help the Mets. He can make them respectable and lift them from the laughingstock persona they are today.

If they aren’t interested, then they are saying they really don’t care about getting better.

Sep 02

Manuel’s status ….

MANUEL: Clock ticking toward the inevitable.

Jerry Manuel told The New York Post the other day he’d love to know his job status for next season. There was a chance of his return, maybe even had the Mets not made the playoffs, if they continued to play as they did in June when they reached a high-water mark of 11 games over .500. Had they made a real run an argument could be made for him.

But, the collapse in July, followed by a month of .500 ball – give or take a game – has done him in. August was especially brutal because the Mets played with disinterest, without passion, without spark. There were extenuating circumstances – there always is – but the general apathy the team has been in the past month greatly reflects on the manager.

He has lost his team.

Several things within Manuel’s control have done him in, headed by his handling of the bullpen. He burns out relievers and isn’t always clear in dealing with the players on their job descriptions. Communication is not his strong point, as evidenced when he said Ike Davis had been spoken to regarding his emotional displays at the plate. When asked about this, Davis had no clue.

David Wright did not know when he’d get a day off. Manuel did not discuss with Jeff Francoeur his status following Carlos Beltran’s return.

Manuel threw John Maine under the bus when he said maybe the best day to pitch him would be on off days. He insisted on three catchers in the National League game which is absurd. Manuel’s handling of Jose Reyes’ oblique strain prior to All-Star break was foolish. He insisted on Jenrry Mejia in the bullpen to start the season when it clearly was not in the best long-term interests of the club.

The list goes on and on.

That there is not one Met saying for publication that the fault is on the players and not Manuel is telling. Nobody is in his corner. More than a few Mets stood up for Willie Randolph, while at the time Manuel was telling the brass he’d be interested in the job.

Add it all up, and the Mets are 190-198 under Manuel in his two-and-a-half  years. For the fourth straight year the Mets will not make the playoffs, for the second straight year September will be about showcasing players for the following season.

This time, the Mets will be showcasing players Manuel will never get to manage.

Apr 23

April 23.10: Chat Room, Game #17 vs. Braves: Reyes hitting third.

I am not a second guesser and won’t start tonight. So let me go on record now – and again – before the game to denounce the move of Jose Reyes to the third spot in the order.

It will be the first time since 2005 Reyes will bat anywhere other than leadoff.

I don’t care if Reyes gets on four times tonight, I believe in the long term this move will inevitably backfire because eventually it will force the speedy shortstop outside his game.

Reyes, arguably the game’s premier leadoff hitter, is being asked to take his skills to the third slot under the guise of getting more fastballs for the struggling Jason Bay.

You see, explains Manuel, Bay’s problems stem from not getting enough fastballs, and putting a base stealer ahead of him theoretically will get those fastballs. Just out of curiosity, who was the great base stealer ahead of him in Boston? Was it David Ortiz?

For years, the Mets have been telling anybody who would listen Reyes is their offensive catalyst, that him at the top of the order is what gets the team going. So, naturally, when Reyes is just starting to feel comfortable they move him to a position with the high potential of inducing bad plate habits.

However, Reyes insists he’s not going to do all the things when one plays outside himself after being moved to a run-producing slot in the order. There will be no poor pitch selection, no trying to loft the ball and pull, no trying to hit home runs.

Throughout his career Reyes has fallen into these habits after hitting a home run or two. Willie Randolph used to cringe whenever Reyes homered.

“I’m going to be me,’’ Reyes insists. “I’m going to take it like I’m going to be leadoff. He explained it to me. I said, `I don’t have a problem Jerry.’ ’’

Easier said than done. When thrust into an unfamiliar role it is human nature to want to live up to the dynamics of that role. The No. 3 hitter is supposed to be your best hitter, one with the combination of average and power. It is not a speed position.

For the Mets, that player is a healthy Carlos Beltran, and in his absence, David Wright.

But we’re going to get Reyes, who even under ideal circumstances sometimes swings too long.

It will be very easy to fall into bad habits in this role.

A less dramatic solution would be to move Bay out of the clean-up slot, perhaps to No. 2, or maybe temporarily sixth. Instead of moving the player with the problem, the Mets’ solution is to juggle the entire line-up. Not only will Reyes move, but also Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan.

There are other options, but none would fill the leadoff slot as well as Reyes. So, in essence the Mets are weakening two slots in the batting order with this gamble.

The Mets’ offense hasn’t been doing well, but the team had won three of its last four games. Most of the Mets’ problems when they lose have been pitching related.

If John Maine spits the bit tonight, it probably won’t matter what Reyes and Bay do.

Nobody with the Mets – not just Bay – failed to hit against the Cardinals. So, why didn’t Manuel do this then? Oh yeah, because Reyes said he was uncomfortable in that role.

Here’s tonight’s line-up for the Mets:

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