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

Mancuso: Mets End A Bright First Half

Four days from now for the New York Mets to think about what is ahead for the remaining 75 games. At the All-Star break they are 48-40 and four games back of the second place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.  They will take it, so will their fans.

An accomplishment because last season at the break the team was 42-45, in fourth place trailing first place Philadelphia by 6-1/2 in the standings. The Mets know they are contending, and know extra help is here with Carlos Beltran coming off the disabled list and making his season debut in San Francisco Thursday evening,

Though Beltran, out since surgery on his right knee, does present some type of dilemma for manager Jerry Manuel. Well sort of, four outfielders and three spots. Someone will have to sit among Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur.

The plan, according to Manuel is to bat Beltran fourth, a spot currently held by the rookie Ike Davis who will be dropped to the sixth spot. And you can’t sit Pagan down, the Mets most consistent hitter who got another three hits Sunday as New York took the final game over Atlanta salvaging their three-game series.

So what will be the situation when the Mets reconvene Thursday for an 11-game three- city trip that also takes them to Arizona and Los Angeles, a trip the Mets say is crucial as the second half begins. The Mets proved to be a good team at home, 30-16 but their fortunes away from Citi Field not as good at 18-24.

“We didn’t want to go onto the break the way we played the past few days,” commented Manuel after another pitching gem by his ace Johan Santana, which ended the first half on a positive note. New York looked lethargic at the plate the past two games against the division leading Braves, and their other pitcher with first half success, Mike Pelfrey, on Saturday once again could not get past the fifth inning.

But Beltran passed through the Mets clubhouse prior to the finale Sunday, afternoon and Santana gave the team an added lift, more so optimism for a good second half. Nothing but a spot for October baseball is what the Mets want. And they believe with Beltran healthy, and the usual second half success of Santana will get them there.

Francoeur was told by Manuel that he would most likely be regulated as a bench player. Occasionally he will get the start in right, that is, if Pagan hits a tailspin and all indications are that’s not going to happen. Pagan is healthy and shows continually, he is a key offensive cog at the beginning of the lineup.

“It’s not my decision,: commented Pagan about the lineup decisions Manuel has to make, He finished the first half with a string of four consecutive multi-hit games and batted .484 with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs since July 4th in a seven game span.

Pagan added he would like to stay in the lineup. Manuel only indicated that Beltran will get the start and Francoeur will probably sit for the moment, but there is every reason to believe that there will be a platoon of Francoeur and Pagan. Jason Bay, who sat down Sunday, on his bobble head give-away day has been an offensive disappointment but his multi-million dollar contract leaves him in the lineup.

It is no problem for Francouer, He will go with the plan, and the return of Beltran will not disrupt a Mets clubhouse that has good chemistry and has looked forward to his bat back in the lineup.  You heard the comments from the players and realize how important it is to win.

“We’re not satisfied to be three or four games out of first place,” said David Wright who entered Sunday tied for the National League lead in runs batted in with 65 and starts at third base for the NL all stars.  “Our goal is to win the division. There is need for improvement.”

Santana has improved and has thrown shutout baseball the last two starts. The fastball is back and it is helping his other pitches. Now the Mets need to get Pelfrey back into form and with R.A. Dickey and Jonathan Niese having good first halves, perhaps GM Omar Minaya will try and get another starter,  to, compliment them before the trading deadline.

There is the possible return of pitchers Oliver Perez and John Maine from the disabled list, one or the other could be going to the pen. It has been the pitching that has put the Mets in this position of contention and they would like it to stay that way.

With or without Francouer in the lineup, they know what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months. Jose Reyes also is a part of the plan and needs to stay healthy as that catalyst in the lineup.

“Obviously it’s a good problem we have, it’s a good thing to see,” said Francoeur about Beltran. A good problem for this clubhouse if indeed, Beltran stays healthy and shows signs of once again being the run producer that the Mets have lacked since April.

Francoeur said he will do his part when he is in the lineup to make sure “this team wins.”  So do the rest of these New York Mets who feel they are on the footsteps of their first postseason since 2006.

Beltran won’t hurt their chances and neither would a platoon of Pagan and Francoeur. Now if Bay can finally find his home run swing the way Santana rediscovered his fastball.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Carlos Beltran, City Trip, Fifth Inning, Final Game, Fortunes, Four Games, Game Series, Jason Bay, Jeff Francoeur, Johan Santana, Mancuso, Mets Clubhouse, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Nl East, Outfielders, Reconvene, Rich Mancuso, Season Debut, Top Story, Two Games

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 12, 2010

Keep Pagan In The Mets Ring

New York – Go figure the game of baseball. On the night New York Mets outfielder Angel Pagan ties a career game high in hits, four, there is talk that soon he could be one of the Mets outfielders out of the equation when Carlos Beltran returns to the lineup.

Prior to their game Tuesday against Detroit at Citi Field, Mets GM Omar Minaya addressed the media and said Beltran will begin his minor league rehabilitation assignment Thursday with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League.

So here we are in the Mets clubhouse a half hour or so after the Mets pound the Tigers 14-6.  “You guys waiting for me,” said Pagan with a smile that has been seen more this season from him and his teammates. The waiting time for Pagan is over.  He has matured as a player and he will be the first one to admit that.

And despite Pagan’s continued references to just being a player holding his spot in the lineup until Beltran returns, the Mets should consider options for him with the expected return of Beltran to the lineup prior to, or after the all-star break.

There is every reason to believe that the Mets can use four outfielders. And hard to conceive manager Jerry Manuel not playing Beltran often, assuming he is healthy enough to play often.  Jason Bay, with the huge contract can’t sit on the bench despite his inconsistency to drive in runs.  Jeff Francouer has proved to have that ability to sit well at the bottom of the order and the arm ability to command right field.

Pagan could be the odd man out, not deserving of the talk about being a guy the Mets could use in a trade to obtain another front line starting pitcher. Nor should Pagan be part of an equation of a possible fourth outfielder used by Manuel.

Simply put, Pagan is now an everyday player. He has proved to be deserving of holding his spot in the Mets lineup, showing no signs of becoming the player that made constant mistakes at the plate, on the base paths and in the outfield last season.

Manuel has yet to address the issue of a possible outfield dilemma and surely there is reason to understand why the manager avoids the issue. The chemistry in the clubhouse is in place. More so, Pagan is one of the reasons for the improvement of these 2010 Mets.

“Angel is getting big hit after big hit, he’s been big for us,” commented Manuel late Tuesday evening.  No questions at the moment as to how the situation will be handled with the eventual return of Beltran who has to play with his huge contract in place until the end of 2011.

Pagan can’t be the odd man out here.  “What’s in my mind is to help the team offensively or defensively,” said Pagan when asked about his four-hit night. He will be the first to admit that covering Beltran’s spot has been a big responsibility.

He does not check to see if Beltran has left a text message.  Pagan is going about his business and helping the Mets win ballgames. And if indeed he is left out of the equation, as an everyday player, there has been no talk about being unhappy.

“Right now I am very confident because of the opportunity from last year,” he says, “just concentrating on staying healthy and helping this team.”  He extended his hitting streak to 10 games in the opening series against the Tigers and was a home run shy from becoming the Mets tenth player to hit for the cycle with his 4-for-6 night and four runs batted in.

There were times during the misery of a season lost in 2009 when the name of Angel Pagan became a target of bad news. He was making the Mets worse and not better.  He certainly has closed the door on many of the skeptics and is a valuable commodity in Manuel’s every day lineup. The injury prone Pagan is healthy, seeing the ball well at the plate, batting .304 with 35 RBI, five triples, 14 doubles and five home runs second in the order behind Jose Reyes.

Manuel and Minaya have decisions to make.  Four outfielders soon, three spots, and someone will be the odd man out as an everyday player. Certainly it should not be Angel Pagan who would sit and rust on the bench, though one way or the other it is inevitable that Pagan will play often

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Base Paths, Career Game, Carlos Beltran, Everyday Player, Florida State League, Fourth Outfielder, Inconsistency, Jason Bay, Jeff Francouer, Mets Clubhouse, Mets Gm, Mets Outfielder, New York Mets, Odd Man, Omar Minaya, Outfielders, Rehabilitation Assignment, Rich Mancuso, St Lucie Mets, Starting Pitcher, Top Story, Waiting Time

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on June 23, 2010