Mets Don’t Look Good Despite Changes At Top

Sandy Alderson is the new General Manager and Terry Collins shortly followed as the new manager. A new regime is in command of the New York Mets amid a financial mess that may eventually force owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon to sell a portion of the team or their entire interests.

The Wilpon financial mess is just one of the issues that await the New York Mets as they begin the 2011 season Friday night down in Miami with the Florida Marlins. Gone are pitcher Oliver Perez and infielder Luis Castillo, two holdovers of previous GM Omar Minaya. Some payroll will eventually be free, and there are two less popular Mets at Citi Field when the team has their home opener.

So what should be expected from the 2011 New York Mets? They can be competitive if their starting pitching and bullpen steps up. They will be without their injured ace Johan Santana who may throw his first pitch in early July. And how far the Mets can go will depend on how long they stay injury free. In particular there is concern for outfielders Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran.

Yes, questions again for the team and fans, even with a new regime, a fan has to be patient. There is optimism for the future but not winning expectations this year even with a manager like Collins. He is different than previous manager Jerry Manuel, knows the game and will tell it like it is without hesitation.

The team is capable of winning 80 games, coming off a dismal fourth place finish at 79-83, finishing 18 games behind the division winning Philadelphia Phillies. And the Phillies on paper look like the team that will dominate, and the Atlanta Braves will be in the hunt.

If pitching and key players stay away from the disabled list the Mets could be in the wildcard race. But the first month, April, where the Mets will have many home games is important. They need to have a good start or for sure there will be nothing to play for and a fire sale will come in late July.

Beltran will start in right field assuming his left knee is healthy. In the last year of his contract he could be traded. And so could Jose Reyes, though the Mets shortstop came to camp healthy and had an outstanding spring. It is realistic to assume that ownership, with all of their financial issues won’t be able to afford Reyes who is also in a walk year of his contract.

If the Mets get off to a good start there is reason for optimism. And if Reyes and Beltran are performing to expectations, and if the team is still in contention, then by late July you can expect Reyes and Beltran to finish out the season in New York. Reyes hit .282 last season drove in 54 runs and still had a .321 on base percentage which shows he can get on base when in the lineup.

Beltran in 2010 once again had limited playing time, 64 games, with the bad right knee. Now it is the left side that is hurting. His production in the lineup is vital if the Mets want to contend, and the .254 average of last year, 7 home runs and 27 RBI reflects one of the reasons why the Mets were 13th in hitting and third to last in the National League when driving in runs.

But Mets fans will come to expect that by the end of the season, and going into 2012 the team payroll will go from $150 million to $75 million or less, and in New York sometimes that is not acceptable. Minus Reyes and Beltran it could be less however every game the Mets play they will have, viable MVP candidates in Reyes and David Wright.

Other important factors to consider are David Wright, Angel Pagan and Ike Davis. Wright showed an adjustment to hitting the ball out of Citi Field. 29 home runs and 103 RBI, but he has to cut down on the strike outs, 151. Pagan had a comeback year and proved how important he has become and will take over center. He adds speed to the position and on the bases. Can Pagan again hit around .290 and increase his numbers of 11 home runs and 69 RBI?

Davis had an outstanding rookie season, 19 home runs, 71 RBI and developed as an outstanding big league first baseman. Josh Thole is the starting catcher and has to play a bulk of games. Backup Ronnie Paulino starts the season with a suspension stemming from abusing illegal body enhancing drugs and he has come down with a blood condition. So the backup will be Michael Nickeas who tasted a cup of coffee with the team in September and the second base job, at least for now goes to Brad Emaus a Rule 5 player who impressed Collins. If Reyes should get traded then expect youngster Ruben Tejada to be recalled form Buffalo and take control of his natural position,

And the cog in the lineup to how far the Mets will go in 2011 is Jason Bay The left fielder, with a huge contract, went down with a concussion in mid season and was limited to 95 games, 6 home runs and drove in 47. The Mets had to use a variety of players to fill the void using Nick Evans and Lucas Duda. Bay will probably start the long campaign on the DL after sustaining an injury to his rib cage Tuesday so Duda or Evans could be on the opening day roster.

In fact, some baseball experts are picking the Mets to finish last because they don’t expect Beltran, Wright and Bay to play 95 games apiece because of injuries that have plagued this team the past three years.

The pitching staff that had a combined 3.70 ERA last season, surprisingly sixth in the league and perhaps that was due to the emergence of knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey who finished 11-9 coming off a spring training contract. Though one can’t expect the 35-year old Dickey to have similar numbers and if he does than the pitching will be that much better,

The ace, until Santana returns is right hander Mike Pelfrey, 15-9, .366 ERA and with a much improved slider.  Jonathon Niese will follow after a full year under his belt and hopefully will improve on his 9-10 record and 4.20 ERA. Chris Young pitched two games with San Diego last year, was shut down and now the Mets see some arm strength and a good fastball to provide some spark in the rotation as another minor investment.

And the surprise could be Chris Capuano, 2-0 this spring. He is another of the “cheap” investments that Alderson made when taking over and the former Milwaukee Brewer provides insurance as a fifth starter and long reliever out of the pen.

If the starters can go deep, then what will the suspect Mets pen do? They were next to last in saves last season. The Mets can only hope that Frankie Rodriguez is back to form, that his shoulder has recovered, and most of all that his anger management issues are a thing of the past. K-Rod is not expected to save 62 games, but if the Mets want to make anything interesting, if they are in close games, then K-Rod needs to close the door.

If not, Collins has to work with a revolving door of arms out of the pen which was what Manuel had to do last season. The key loss was Pedro Feliciano now with the cross-town Yankees, and for the past three years Feliciano was the most used pitcher in baseball coming out of the pen.

Bobby Parnell has been groomed to be the set up man, D.J. Carasco, another minor investment can assist with a good fastball, and as it appears, a replacement for Feliciano.

The Mets will miss the versatility of Chris Carter off the bench, now with Tampa Bay. But their bench also minor investments made by Alderson is vastly improved Willie Harris for the outfield, a veteran who was with the Washington Nationals, Scott Hairston, once with San Diego, an infielder and outfielder Yes Daniel Murphy, who until last week was in the running for the start at second base.

The 2011 New York Mets full of questions as to how far they will go. Can they contend and will Citi Field be an interesting place to visit by August?  Surprises do happen often in baseball and with the Mets they will have to do the unexpected to make it an interesting 2011.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

 

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bullpen, Carlos Beltran, Financial Mess, Fire Sale, Florida Marlins, Hesitation, Home Games, Home Opener, Infielder, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Luis Castillo, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Optimism, Outfielders, Philadelphia Phillies, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Wildcard Race

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 1, 2011

First Castillo, now Ollie is finally gone as Revamp Continues for the Mets

Luis Castillo released by New York Mets on Friday was just the beginning. General Manager Sandy Alderson on Monday made the inevitable announcement and pitcher Oliver Perez followed Castillo out the door.

And with the exception of that championship run in 2006, Perez with the huge three-year $36 million contract, granted from then GM Omar Minaya, was a huge bust.  The control was gone, velocity of the fastball did not exist and Perez became an albatross to an organization obviously in the revamping process.

Simply put “Ollie”, as he was known worked his way out the door. That last game of the season at Citi Field in early October should have been the determining factor. Perez came out of the bullpen in an extra inning and meaningless game.  No control then that gave the Washington Nationals a win for the winter.

Except Perez remained as the transition to a new GM and manager started, and for whatever reason, possibly because Perez had that contract, Alderson gave him a chance in spring games.  Then down in Port St. Lucie Saturday he gave up back-to back home runs to two Washington National career minor leaguers.

Said Alderson, different from what was said when Castillo was released, “As I said during the winter our plan was to bring Oliver to spring training and give him a chance. After trying him as a starter and out of the bullpen, we felt that we needed to move in a different direction.”

The right direction because, no different from the Castillo situation, Perez would have heard a resounding amount of boos when the team comes home for their home opener at Citi Field against the Nationals on Friday afternoon April 9th.

Ownership, similar to the Castillo situation approved the decision even as they struggle with financial issues and owe Perez the remaining $12 million of a three-year contract that Perez signed in 2009. Last season Perez went 0-5 with a 6.80 ERA after going 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA the year before. Perez commented before he left the Mets spring training complex, “They have me the opportunity. They were fair to me.” He said the team gave him the opportunity, “and I didn’t do anything great.”

Well at least Perez admits he was not great. The contract was not deserved and Minaya may have made him one of his reclamation projects as Perez showed he had something in 2006. And Minaya could not get the big guys that were available for free agency including CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett who went cross-town to the Yankees.

Perez had tow stints on the disabled list and made things worse by refusing to take a minor league assignment in attempts to get back to form.  “Ollie made every effort,” commented Alderson. Yeah but not enough to earn him at least a role out of the bullpen and those in the know have said that Perez believed he was a starter and not one to come out of the pen.

So for now, the Mets have relieved themselves of two headaches with Castillo and Perez gone. In the end payroll flexibility can still be an issue with the financial issues of ownership as the team continues this revamping process.

Acquired by the Mets from the Minnesota Twins on July 30, 2007, for two minor leaguers, Castillo was to then GM Omar Minaya a perfect fit for a team that had playoff aspirations. A perfect fit at second base, a position now in baseball that has become known more for a good glove rather than production at the plate.

Though Castillo had the ability to get on base and drive in runs. That is, until he came to New York during the Minaya regime. He arrived in New York at a time when the Mets did not spend their money correctly and Castillo became an abomination, a cancer in the clubhouse and on the field.

So now the Mets eat the remaining $6 million of his salary, another loss of money not wisely spent during the Minaya regime.  Castillo is also saved from hearing boos of fans at Citi Field, though that never seemed to bother him. There was a time last season when Castillo was asked if the fans got to him?

“I just play the game,” he would say in the Mets clubhouse at Citi Field. And he had little to say about the blunder that never disappeared, a ninth inning dropped ball at second in 2009 at Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez hit a pop up allowing Mark Teixeira to score the winning run, and the cross-town Yankees stole a win from the Mets. Closer Francisco Rodriguez showed his frustration on the mound.

That play will always be the legacy of Castillo in a Mets uniform. Outside Yankee Stadium that Friday evening, even Yankee fans would sympathize with a Mets fan. But the Mets fan would never forgive Castillo and Alderson, the new sheriff in town, had to take the fans into consideration when making the decision.

The GM commented, “Don’t think there’s any question that there’s some linkage between the situation and a perception of the Mets that has existed at this point.”   He added, “It is something taken into account.”

And if it were not for the contract, four-years and $25 million, perhaps the release would have come sooner. The 35-year old Castillo batted .235, with no homers and 17 RBI in 247 at bats last season. Limited playing time for a lack of production, and his work ethic at times may have been questioned.

Castillo said Friday he was not given a chance to compete for the second base job this spring. The Mets were obviously going in another direction and last season used a combination of players at the position while Castillo and his salary sat on the bench.

It was an acquisition that came to late for the New York Mets. But Minaya made those mistakes and at times was questioned, which ultimately cost his job along with other failures.  At one time Castillo was that quality player with a .299 career average over 13 major league seasons, 194 doubles, 59 triples, 28 home runs, 443 RBI, and 370 stolen bases.

It just did not work for him in New York, perhaps extending his stay. And Castillo had his chance. It was his job at second, and he blew it by slacking at times and not giving that proper explanation to Mets fans after that disastrous dropped ball against the Yankees.

“Its baseball,” he would say in the visitor’s clubhouse that night at Yankee Stadium. Yeah, but this is New York and fans expect more from a $25 million dollar player. They expected a better and more valid explanation. They never got it.

Two less player decisions now for Alderson and new manager Terry Collins as the Mets put the finishing touches on this spring and get ready for 2011. Second base is still up for grabs with Luis Hernandez as the leading candidate to take over. But count on this, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo won’t be there.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring 786@aol.com



Posted under Albatross, Bullpen, Fastball, Friday Afternoon, Home Opener, Home Runs, Last Game, Luis Castillo, Meaningless Game, National Career, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Ollie, Omar Minaya, Rich Mancuso, Sandy Alderson, Spring Games, Spring Training, Top Story, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on March 23, 2011

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