When the plan in constructing a team is to search for bargains and hope for the best, the an awful lot is being left to chance.  That is just what was ordered by Mr. Wilpon this past winter.  “Find some cheap alternatives, and they better pan out…or else!”

Be Gone With Wilpon, Bargain Shopping

The Mets followed orders and looked for bargains this winter. It has worked out thus far.

The Met hierarchy, doing as they were told, searched on the bottom shelf for a group of players that would hopefully pan out for them and be somewhat productive in 2010.  This bargain-basement process led them to the signing of Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Hisanori Takahashi,  R.A. Dickey, and Elmer Dessens.  These names owe us Met fans absolutely nothing to date, wouldn’t you say?

Now there were others that gave us absolutely nothing, such as the departed Mike Jacobs, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Kelvim Escobar.  I think anyone would take a 50% or better success rate when searching for quality on the scrap heap.  That is just what the Mets have gotten through June 15th.  Mission accomplished Jeff.

Let us give credit where credit is due.  Jerry Manuel deserves plenty, as he is certainly getting the most out of all the players on his team, stars and unknowns alike.  Let’s give a shout out to the players themselves, as they are buying into Jerry’s mantra and have found some clubhouse balance.  This is something that has not existed in these parts in quite some time.

The problem now, however,  is two-fold.  The idea of any baseball team is to truly compete for a championship.  In order to be in the conversation, these no-name guys will have to continue their success.  Secondly, the Mets will surely need to add a starter, just as they needed to in November 2009.  Yes, this is true even though the Mets currently are among the league leaders in starting ERA.  They need a solid number three starter (Lackey would have looked great here, wouldn’t he?) to stick behind Pelfrey and Santana, therefore allowing Niese to slot in as the fourth starter.  The unfortunate fact is that this will now cost the Mets prospects as well as the dollars Mr. Wilpon seemingly will not relinquish his grasp upon.

In summary, the Mets have succeeded thus far in spite of Mr. Wilpon and his penny-pinching approach.  It better continue, or someone will have to pay.  Unfortunately, we know it won’t be Jeff Wilpon.

Back to Reality

April 7, 2010

Bad starting pitching?  Check.  Bad bullpen performance by anyone not named Feliciano or K-Rod?  Check.  Horrible baserunning blunder?  Check.  Bad managerial decision?  Check. 

Now that Johan Santana’s opening day start is in the rear-view mirror,  this combination of events is certainly troubling to witness.  After all, this was a game that the Florida Marlins were desperately trying to give away.  On a positive note, you have to give the Met hitters some credit for hanging in there against the Marlins untalented group of relievers.  However, on a night where the Met bats were a little sleepy, it takes more than quality at-bats that create walks to actually win a game.   

John Maine was very unimpressive in his first start of the season, as his fastball rarely broke the 90 mph mark.  This is awfully disturbing for a guy who has been injured for two seasons.  Jerry Manuel stated that we need to “throw this start away” due to the fact that it was Maine’s first start coming out of spring training.  We’ll see, but excuse me if I have my concerns.

We all know that the bullpen is going to be a mess this season, as the Mets will bounce back and forth between unproven and untalented relievers  trying to find a diamond in the rough.  If the Mets can not capitalize and win a game while Pedro Feliciano or Francisco Rodriguez are still in the game, we surely will see plenty more of what we saw tonight.

Fernando Tatis’ decision to break home on a wild pitch with limited real estate behind home plate, and late in a close game, is inexcusible.  This play just made us feel like 2009 never ended, as baserunning gaffes were the norm last season.

Lastly, how could Jerry Manuel take the bat out of Jason Bay’s hands by having Wright steal second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning?  His answer was, “We have good hitters behind Bay in Gary Matthews.”  This was followed up by the same reporter with the question of, “Why then is Jason Bay being paid sixty plus million to be here?  Wasn’t it to have him hit in these situations?”  Right on Mr. reporter, whoever you are.  Jerry just deflected this comment with the same nonsense that he originally stated, perhaps truly believing that Matthews is in the same league as Bay when it comes to hitting a baseball.

Ahh, welcome to 2010 Met fans.  Are you ready for more?

Around the Horn – Bench

February 19, 2010

Predicting who will fill out a team’s roster at the beginning of spring training is like predicting which player will get hurt next for the Mets.  You know someone will, you just do not know who it will be.

For the sake of conversation, let me include the likes of Alex Cora, Gary Matthews, Jr. and Fernando Tatis, as we know they are shoe-ins to make the team because they were signed to major-league contracts.  These guys are shoo-ins?  Yuck!  Let me also place the catcher competition to the side, as I have previously discussed this battle earlier (sans Rod Barajas).  We know that there will be two on the opening day roster, although as of now I would be shocked if it is not Omir Santos and Henry Blanco.  With fourteen spots available for position players (and 11 spots given to the pitching staff minimally) to complete the twenty-five man roster, that leaves us with only two spots remaining after the starting eight and the aforementioned inclusions.  This also involves excluding Carlos Beltran, who will open (and perhaps close) the 2010 season on his personalized DL.  Let us give a review of who will be competing for those two spots.

Frank Catalanotto – I went into what Frank can bring to a team here.  He brings some positive contact production from the left side of the plate, and could make an ideal pinch hitter.  The fact that the Met bench is currently comprised of mostly right-handed hitters, it is apparent that they need a left-handed batter to step up.  As long as Catalanotto proves he still possesses the bat speed to handle big league pitching this spring, I think his chances are good to make the team.

Mike Jacobs – Unless Jacobs beats out Daniel Murphy for the starting first base job this spring, and that is about as likely as Ollie Perez losing his erratic ways, he will be the primary competition for the left-handed pinch hitter job with Catalanotto.  He offers pop as we all know.  That can be valuable.  However, he is either home run or strikeout every time he steps to the plate, and in this ball park, that may not be the way to go.  Unless he is on fire this spring, I believe he will have a hard time making the club.  That might mean playing in Triple A until someone gets hurt, and we know that is going to happen anyway.  The other possibility is that he and The Cat make the team together if there are not better options otherwise.

Fernando Martinez – Who is Fernando Martinez anyway?  Well, for one thing, we know he is a Met prospect because of his history of injuries.  Every time you turn around, this guy is hurt.  Ultimately he has dropped off the radar of top prospects throughout the league because of this fact.  After a hot winter league showing in which he was named the MVP of the Caribbean Series, the spotlight once again shines on Fernando to see what he can do this spring.  Even though he has been around seemingly forever, he is still just 21 years of age.  Unless Fernando hits like an all-star this spring, he will certainly be ticketed for Triple A this year.

Ike Davis – At 6’5″, Davis is a specimen.  Having only played two season in the minor leagues for the Mets, he is already 23 years of age.  Unquestionably the future at first base for the Mets, Davis’ production improved dramatically at every level in the minors, finishing with a line of .309, 14 and 43 in 233 Binghampton (AA) at bats last season.  Scouts have rated him a very highly at this point, and I am talking about scouts that actually do not work for the Mets here.   However, I am sure the Mets will let him at least try his hand against Triple A pitching for at least a few months before they hand him the keys to the first base ignition.

Anderson Hernandez – The guy can field.  I’ll give him that.  However, he will never hit in the majors, and therefore has no place on this team.

Russ Adams – Once an everyday shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays, Adams has fallen into the land of dreaded baseball obscurity.  He has even less value than Hernandez at this point.

Jason Pridie – Pridie Was a decent prospect for the Minnesota Twins through last season.  He has some speed and extra-base hit potential, however, his plate discipline is rather poor, especially for a minor league player.  He struck out at an alarming rate his last few years in the minors, and did not offset that with the ability to draw a walk often enough.  He also appears destined to play Triple A ball and serve as organizational depth for the Mets.

Chris Carter – Here is a guy who actually hits for some power, even though he too appears to be a life-time minor league player.  With home runs of 24 and 16 the past two years in Pawtucket for the Boston Red Sox, he always seems on the cusp of a call up.  The Red Sox just never had room for him, but as we all know, the Mets might with their lack of depth.  I also like his walk to strikeout ratio, which falls just short of 1:1.  Another hitter looking to make it from the left side, Carter has the ability to make the team this spring with a good showing.

Could Chris Carter make the Met opening day roster?

Mike Hessman – About to turn 32 years of age, Hessman has always shown power, but little else in his minor league career.  Unless Tatis get hurt, forget about Hessman serving as the right-handed substitute at first base.

If you ask me, I believe that the winners will be Catalanotto and Jacobs.  I think Carter has a good shot, but I think it will come down to either him or The Cat because I can not see the Mets having six outfielders on the opening day roster.  That leaves the door wide open for Jacobs to make the team.  That is unless there are huge surprises awaiting us as the spring unfolds before us.  Either way, this is not an impressive bench for any major league roster.

Who do you see making the team from this group?

How many of you felt that the opening day depth chart in center field would look the way it does right now?  Come on now.  Well, if you were like me, I would have bet the house on it looking somewhat similar to the way it does today.  Before I get ahead of myself, let’s break it down in an organized way.

Angel Pagan – Angel has some skill.  I truly believe that.  Sometimes you just have to trust your eyes in what they see to be reality.  He can run.  He can field.  He can hit with some real skill.  His hand-eye coordination is quite good.  So what is the problem?  We know that there is no power in that bat, and at Citifield, that makes that point relatively moot.  That is not the problem.  So what is?  Well, he is not a star for one.  He doesn’t do anything extremely well, whether that be because of he is not in fact star caliber, or because he lacks the mind-set to pull it off.  His largest flaw is sporadic mental lapses on the field.  That is the major obstacle that has kept him from being considered a starter in this league.  I believe he has the skills to be a tremendous base runner and defensive outfielder.  He has not shown this with any regularity simply because he shuts down mentally at key moments.  There were many moments where you wished you cold smack him in the head and say, “Hey, stay focused out there.  This game is important to you and the team.”

His mental flaws withstanding, he is the right kind of player to play on a team that calls Citifield home.  One-dimensional power guys are not.  Citifield calls for speed, line drive hitting, and good defense.  It is too bad the Mets do not have more players of his ilk.

Gary Matthews, Jr. – It pains me to place this guy even second on the depth chart, but alas I have no choice in the matter.  He had one good season, 2006 with the Texas Rangers.  I was fortunate to have him on my fantasy team that year.  However, this is not fantasy baseball circa 2006.  Recently, it was uncovered that he was on steroids for that season, and has been nothing like it since.  Not much more to mention here.  Just a terrible trade by the Mets and Omar Minaya in this instance.  I liked Brian Stokes a good deal, and I believe the Mets will miss his presence in the bullpen this year.  Depth is one thing, but sometimes you just have to be smart and stand pat to prevent a silly move.

Carlos Beltran – Now we come to one of the key issues with the Mets.  Nearing the end of last season’s debacle, I was happy that Beltran came back from his injury.  I was rooting for him to succeed, just not for the reasons of most Met fans.  Do not get me wrong, I like Beltran.  I love to watch him play.  However, I was hoping that he would produce in order to prove that he was healthy.  The Mets would then be able to shop him for something, anything, of real value.  I know this will be the most controversial topic that I will cover here in my blogs, and I am ready for the scrutiny if it should follow.

Let me explain.  Carlos Beltran is known around the league to be one of, if not the best, center fielders in the league.  I for one can not argue that point…when he plays. I understand that he may be perceived as soft by some, and a warrior by others because he tries to play through pain.  I do not care which category he falls under.  I only know that he falls under the category of the oft-injured.  To me, I want someone to contribute to the team that will play 150 plus games in the field, or that will make 30 plus starts on the mound.  Even if that player should fall short of superstar caliber, I say the Mets should have traded Beltran for someone else.  Perhaps they should have tried to trade Beltran for a true number two starting pitcher.  I say number two as opposed to number one because I am a realist.  I know no GM is going to trade a staff ace for a guy who gets hurt as often as Beltran does.  However, if another team felt that they were getting the better end of the deal on talent alone, perhaps they make that move.  This was my hope, although I knew that there was about zero percent chance of this being entertained by the Mets.  This is just another philosophical difference that I have with those making the decisions for the Mets, and it is something that I have to painfully swallow as a fan.

Unfortunately, the Mets are stuck with Beltran

The reality is this.  So much of the Mets’ success is predicated on this guy playing and producing.  With such a high percentage chance that he will miss large chunks of time due to injury, shouldn’t the Mets have hitched their star to someone more reliable?  I think so.  Well, now we are stuck waiting for him to get “healthy” once again, with no realistic timetable for his return.  Sounds like a broken record to me.

To conclude, how would you answer the question I posed to you at the beginning of this article?  If you thought differently, then you just have not been following the Mets very closely for the past few years.