Sep 30

Mets’ Chris Young Ends On A High Note

It was thought Chris Young might not even pitch this season coming off serious shoulder surgery. Instead, he collected $350,000 in bonuses last night for reaching the 20 starts-110 innings milestone.

YOUNG: Where will he go? (AP)

That’s a lot of money for a supposedly cheap team out of contention to shell out the final week of the season. Other teams in similar situations have pulled the player so they wouldn’t have to pay the bonus.

Young, a free-agent this winter, logged 115 innings, his most since 2007, and there will be some contender in need of another arm that will be interested. There’s no shortage of teams that could use a reliable arm such as Young’s.

“All in all, there were some really good things,” Young said of his season last night after giving up two run in six innings in a very quality start. “It was a great year, to bounce back. … When I decided to have the surgery and rehab, I knew it would be a long process. I knew there would be some bumps in the road.

 

Nov 11

Why you’ll never get the complete truth from the Mets.

For many, our first impression was one of openness and honesty. When Sandy Alderson was introduced as general manager he spoke of wanting to win, yet said there would be difficult times. He gave hope things would be different in the new regime.

There seemed to be an honesty about him absent from previous Mets management and the current ownership. You wanted to trust him.

While Alderson is on point, it is still not his team, and despite their stated intentions of giving him the resources, the Wilpons continue to play it close to the vest financially. This is a tentative time for the Mets because they still need to sell tickets and don’t want to risk alienating the on-the-fence fans by telling them the real team will appear in 2015, if not later.

Watching the Mets now is akin to going to the movies and getting two hours worth of previews before the feature. And, maybe not even getting the feature.

There are two types of fans. There is blind loyalty that will remain passionate for their team and support it regardless. Since 1962, there’s been more losing than winning, but the Mets continue to hold those fans as they are forever.

Their interest might turn to discouragement and frustration, but if they have the money they will find their way to Citi Field as they did Shea Stadium. They will listen on the radio and watch on TV. They will absorb every written word from the major media vehicles to the blogs. They will talk Mets to anybody who will listen, because, after all, they are Mets fans and that’s what they do.

The Mets know they have a core following. If they came out and said this will take time, more than we expected, that base will remain steadfast.

Then there is the fair weather variety, which come in various forms. They come out when it is convenient, or the weather is nice, or the team is winning, or they get free tickets, or that night’s Law and Order is a repeat, or the other team is the Yankees.

They know who Jose Reyes is and believe he is the Mets and the franchise can’t  exist without him. They think the same of David Wright. They thought it of Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Tom Seaver. Players come and go, but the team remains. Their fancy is caught by the shiny star, much like a child with a new toy.

The flexible fans weigh the cost of a Citi Field experience to that of a Broadway play, a trip to the beach, a night out in Manhattan, the movies, or any thing else that might attract their fickle dollar.

They are flexible because they bend to the prevailing wind. As the great movie line goes, they “can’t handle the truth.” If they knew the Mets were three or four years from serious contention, they would tell you to leave them a wake-up call. These fans aren’t interested in rebuilding and don’t care about Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey being three years from Flushing. They don’t care about building because Reyes is the here and now.

The Mets care most about these fans, as do all sports teams, because they don’t yet have their money. The Mets know the loyal will pay; they are givens to be taken for granted. It’s the others, who haven’t yet laid out the cash, they are chasing.

Alderson can’t be honest with them because to do so is to tell them there’s no compelling reason to come to the park other than to buy into the dream of the future, which they won’t as they haven’t made an emotional investment. To do so would be to chase them away.

To these fans, the truth is poison.

Nov 04

Reyes’ departure could deter future FA signings for Mets.

It is easy to recognize what losing Jose Reyes might mean to the Mets on the field: they would be without an impact leadoff hitter, steal threat and solid defensive shortstop.

I’m on record as saying the Mets won’t be able to retain him and shouldn’t get reeled in on a long-term deal. In signing Reyes long-term, the Mets are subject to the very real chance he’ll break down physically and won’t be able to duplicate last season’s walk-year production.

I still feel that way, but there is another way to interpret the potential of losing Reyes, and that is in future free-agent markets. It is something the Mets should strongly consider.

If the Mets let one of their cornerstones depart, how would free-agents in the 2012 markets and beyond interpret that decision? If the Mets cant’s hold on to one of their own, how would they treat a newcomer? And, considering the Mets’ recent history of handling injured players (Ryan Church and Carlos Beltran), what could they be thinking about Reyes the past three years, especially since it is well known Jerry Manuel rushed him back two years ago?

Players talk, believe me, and the Mets don’t have a stellar reputation among the MLB Players Association. Sure, there will be players toward the end of their careers and who have been injured that would be willing to take the Mets’ money, but any impact players will undoubtedly have second thoughts. As it is, if Reyes leaves, David Wright could be next out the door. He has more than hinted as such.

Let’s face it, the Mets can never compete with the Yankees in dollars for free agents, and they can not in terms of tradition or a winning reputation. The last prime time player they signed of significance was Beltran, and even at the end agent Scott Boras tried a last attempt with the Yankees. There is a belief Beltran chose the Mets because they are less in the limelight than the Yankees.

Citi Field isn’t the magnet for free-agents the team might have hoped, but we have to believe that is more to do with the Wilpon’s financial situation than anything else, including the stadium’s cavernous dimensions.

Alderson said the team wouldn’t “punt” in 2012, but it doesn’t forecast to a busy winter. And, the team is at least two years from being a legitimate contender. It could be even longer if their financial situation persists, if prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler don’t pan out. and Wright leaves. The Wilpons have gotten better news on that front, but are not in the clear. And, there are never any guarantees when it comes to prospects.

The Mets flirted with .500 this season when Reyes was healthy, and there’s reason to believe they could take a step if their pitching improved. There’s also no reason to believe the Mets will spend in that direction.

I don’t know where the Mets are going to be should Reyes leave, or where they would be if he stays and their pitching doesn’t get better. But, if he leaves and the Mets don’t throw significant money in improving that staff, the future doesn’t look good and there will be fewer mercenaries willing to help.

 

Sep 23

Capuano non-trade underscores Mets’ pitching concerns

That the Mets turned away Boston’s overture for Chris Capuano can only mean he’s in their plans for next year. Sandy Alderson’s string of reasons for why the deal didn’t go through may all ring true, but the Mets looking ahead is the primary explanation.

Capuano pitched well enough this year to warrant an extension, but the Mets’ interest in retaining him suggest the team’s long-standing concerns over its starting pitching.

CAPUANO: Mets want him back.

The 11-12 Capuano is a 57-64 lifetime pitcher with an ERA north of four runs a game. He is what he is, which is a No. 5 quality starter. Capuano, a risk that paid off, is a left hander, which makes him worth the gamble again, especially considering the Mets’ questions in that area.

Johan Santana is recovering from shoulder surgery and  had setbacks. The Mets can’t write him in with ink for next year, and who is to say if he returns he’ll even be close to his former self? As far as Santana is concerned, the Mets can’t bank on anything with him.

Jonathan Niese also pitched well at times this season, but finished on the disabled list with a pulled side muscle and therefore is a concern. This is twice now Niese finished a season on the disabled list with a pulled muscle.

There are no givens with the rest of the rotation, either, with the possible exception of R.A. Dickey, he of the unpredictable pitch. After a slow start, Dickey has closed well.

Mike Pelfrey remains an enigma. He regressed greatly this season to the point where questions are being asked if he’ll ever live up to expectations. Can anybody honestly say they have confidence in Pelfrey, when time after time he has spit the bit?

Then there’s Dillon Gee, who started hot, but hit a rocky stretch. There’s no guarantee he won’t regress like Pelfrey. Other teams have scouts, too, so he’s not surprising anybody anymore.

The Mets have pitching prospects below, but Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey are at least two years away and Jenrry Mejia is coming off Tommy John surgery.

Chris Schwinden will be invited to camp in the spring, but he doesn’t get one salivating.

You can scan the free agent lists all you like, but the Mets won’t spend for a long term deal for a CJ Wilson, Rich Harden or Mark Buehrle. There are the likes of Freddy Garcia and Jason Marquis and a handful of other retreads they’ll scan, but hardly anything you could build around.

The Mets are hardly dealing from a position of strength when it comes to their 2012 rotation, so wanting to bring back Capuano is the obvious thing to do. That is, of course, if they can sign him.

Jul 31

Mets already winners at deadline.

The Mets have already done their heavy lifting for this year’s trade deadline when they unloaded Francisco Rodriguez’s $17.5 million 2012 option and dealt Carlos Beltran to San Francisco for the Giants’ top prospect Zack Wheeler,

Even should Wheeler never make it with the Mets, GM Sandy Alderson has emerged as one of the winners at this summer’s trade market. In ridding themselves of Rodriguez’s option, they’ve gained $14.5 million worth of payroll flexibility (they would have had a $3.5 million buyout had he stayed and not made 55 appearances to finish games.)

That’s not nearly enough to re-sign Jose Reyes, but it does sweeten the pot and offer money for other areas of need, say the bullpen or another starter.

The Mets have additional pieces they could deal a contender, such as Jason Isringhausen, Tim Brydak and Angel Pagan, but it appears they will keep a pat hand for another month and continue with the objective of playing aggressive baseball.

The odds are long for a wild-card, but should the Mets slide further away, they can always deal those chips in a waiver trade. For now, the suspenseful part of their summer is over, they’ve dealt Beltran. The rest of the season is to build on the good feelings they’ve generated for being competitive and savor the victories in the moves they did make.