I believe it’s my job to try to spin Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies as not the end of the world. Start with this Hardball Talk article. Although it’s no secret that Cliff Lee is light years better than Kyle Kendrick or whoever ends up being bumped (Blanton via trade?) from the rotation as a result of the signing.
The article by Matthew Pouliot does a good job breaking down some of the specific concerns with the Phillies, particularly on the offensive side and in the bullpen. World Series, or even division titles, are not won in December. You still have to play the games. Things change drastically from year to year. Players who have been injured don’t stay injured. Players who are healthy don’t stay healthy. Players get older. Players have good years and bad. The Mets underperformed and missed by one game in 2007 and responded by adding the best pitcher in baseball..and somehow didn’t get any better.
The other argument is flexibility. Alderson’s motto so far has been to create flexibility for the Mets to be able to adapt and fix holes as they come. To sign free agents they need when they need them. Overreacting to an acquisition by the opposition and throwing out the philosophy two months in would be silly. The Phillies are now probably the definition of inflexible. Their payroll is so bulging people are reporting that they’re going to have to jettison payroll, probably by trading Joe Blanton. Their pitching depth is poor, so that if anything happens to their starting four, the dropoff is great. Their entire offense is old, neither corner outfield spot projects to come close to being above average, and they’ve lost Jason Werth.
The Mets on the other hand will have the ability, and desire, to add a player by the trading deadline to fix holes. They’ll be getting Johan Santana back. They’ll know if their underperforming core has raised it’s game. It’s entirely likely that the Mets offense will be better than the Phillies. While the Mets have rotational depth issues as well to start the season, Dickey, Niese and Pelfrey look to be very solid contributors. Sandy Alderson has repeatedly stated that he loves to make midseason moves, and he’s confirmed that he’ll have the flexibility to do so. Maybe this is the year the Mets go 40-15 down the stretch and surge into the postseason.
As the next couple of years go by, the Mets will get more and more flexible, while the Phillies will mostly be stuck with aging players making a lot of money. Cliff Lee certainly helps their chances in 2011, but it also helps accelerate their demise as repeat divisional champions.
Tags: Baseball, cliff lee, cliff lee signing, division, flexibility, Mets, New York Mets, offseason champions, Philadelphia Phillies, Phillies, phillies sign lee, Rotation, sandy alderson, World Series
Could this be the final test for the Mets?
I hope it’s not, but if they fail it may mean the figurative end to their season. The next two weeks are very critical, and the first order of business is just flat out winning games. The Mets have played very well at home this year, and they’ve got three games against the tough Cardinals, and then three against the not so tough Diamondbacks. There can be no excuses: They have to win games. Omar’s job, provided he still has one, is to bring in reinforcements after that. The trading deadline is next weekend, and the Mets are in need of some help. No longer can they play waiting games or decide they don’t like the price. When you drop as many games in the standings as the Mets did, you no longer have the luxury of pretending you’re not desperate for help.
After the Diamondbacks the Mets again head on the road. It’s this road trip that could prove to be critical, as they face the Braves and the Phillies. The Braves have been amazing lately, and the Mets have been making just about every other ballpark look to them like Turner Field did around the turn of the century. By falling so far back, it’s become imperative that they make up ground by beating the competition in front of them. Losing and falling further behind could very well be a death blow.
The Mets have been extremely streaky this year and they really are much better than they’ve shown lately. If they take that streak and turn it into a hot stretch where they’re again a team that’s tough to beat, they could climb right back into this race. There is still a lot of baseball to be played and August could be a good month for them. After they play the division rivals on the road, they come home for the Rockies and the Phillies before going on a road trip that one would describe similarly to the Cleveland-Baltimore trip they took that they were successful on: they play the Astros and the Pirates. Another home stretch with the Marlins and the Astros provides plenty of time to fight their way back into this race before facing the Braves again at the end of the month.
Can the Mets ace this next test and fight their way back into relevancy again? I don’t know. Neither answer would surprise me, but I’m certain they’re capable of it. They often say you need to get hot at the right time and if the Mets can capitalize on that by beating up on the division rivals, as the Phillies did in 2007, they can certainly win this division.
Tags: Atlanta Braves, Baseball, division, getting hot, homestand, Mets, mets cardinals, mets test, New York Mets, NL East, offense, Omar Minaya, Philadelphia Phillies, reinforcements, road trip, season, test, winning streak
Well, like any major league team, it’s really both. The Mets are capable of being the poorly run team on the road that lets little things beat them like making one bad pitch, failing to get a runner in from third, poor fielding, or the wrong pitching change. They’re also capable of being the dominating team that you see when they play at Citi Field. The team that laces doubles and triples into the gaps, that pitches out of jams and makes the opposing team struggling with runners in scoring positions, the team that comes back from deficits and is never out of a game.
It’s not just that the Mets get lucky when they’re at home. They really are capable of being a dominating, scary team. Despite their poor play they’re hanging in this division and with a weak road trip coming up, they have a chance at reversing their fortunes. First they have a revenge series against the Padres, with both Pelfrey and Santana pitching. (I’m aware they had both pitching in San Diego as well) If they can win this series, they’d be 32 and 28, four games over .500 with a nine game road trip coming up.
The Mets roster has gotten quite a shakeup over the last couple of days. Niese returns and Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, and Gary Matthew Junior either went on the DL or were released. Jesus Feliciano and Ruben Tejada have joined the team. Both are rookies, Feliciano finally getting the call-up at 31 years of age after an excellent start to the season where he’s batting almost .400 in Buffalo. He had a good season last year and played well in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico. I actually saw him play in the first game against the USA in which he helped them win in mercy rule fashion. He’s received a lot of praise from his Buffalo team and from Alex Cora as a guy that can hit the ball and knows how to win. I don’t know if the “knows how to win” argument is really worth anything, but it won’t be hard to bring more value than Gary Matthews Jr did. It’s yet unknown what type of player Tejada will be, and definitely unknown if he can get on base at the rate that Castillo normally does, but so far he’s played well and he’s young and exciting and his presence means the Mets have a fully home-grown infield for the time being. Not a bad deal for a team that’s supposedly bad at the draft.
- Jesus Feliciano (#23) joins his Puerto Rican teammates (Beltran, Delgado, Cora, Pedro Feliciano) in celebrating the mercy rule win over the USA. Feliciano went 6/16 during the WBC.
So with some of the regulars rounding into mid-season form and some new fresh faces, I expect them to play better on the next road trip and return home in first place. Six of those games are against really bad American League teams in the Indians and Orioles. The three games at the end of it against the Yankees may be a little tougher, but they’ve already beaten them once.
It’s going to be an exciting couple of weeks. The Mets have invited me to Citi Field on Wednesday, I’m considering traveling the Baltimore for the Saturday game against the Mets, and I’ll be at the finale of the road trip against the Yankees, likely seeing Santana again. By the time that road trip finishes the Mets will hopefully have put the road woes behind them, are at or near first place, and we’ll even know more about if and when Beltran is coming to rejoin the team. I’m really looking forward to the next 12 games.
Tags: Baseball, best team at home, Citi Field, division, dominating baseball, jesus feliciano, Mets, new faces, New York Mets, NL East, road trips, road woes, roster moves, ruben tejada, world baseball classic
The Mets are a good team. They’ve got a lot of good players, lots of character, and have a real chance at going far this season. However, they could be better. There are some very simple things Omar Minaya can do that will make the Mets a better team.
Fixing Oliver Perez is one of the most popular discussions these days. This one obviously isn’t as black and white. Where has his velocity gone for instance? Oliver Perez, unlike most pitchers, is a guy that need some guidance and oversight. Manuel and Warthen seem to be two of the worst guys to provide this, choosing instead to give up on him rather then try to help. Maybe they don’t know what to do, which would actually be worse. Regardless, Oliver Perez has the talent to be a good pitcher. Someone needs to grow a brain and figure out how to proceed in this regard. There have been signs, even this year, that he can be very solid..
Replace Frank Catalanotto on the roster. Even though his failure is over a very small sample size, his upside isn’t exactly that of a superb pinch hitter. Failure is still failure, and there are dozens of decent replacements to his position on the roster. Right now he almost never plays the field anyway, so you don’t even need an awesome defender to replace him. Nick Evans, Chris Carter, Mike Hessman all seem like suitable replacements.
Gary Matthews Junior. He’s had more at bats than Frank, and has gotten more than a fair chances worth of starts to prove that he can be worthwhile. He’s failed at just about every opportunity. It’s a shame Manuel ever chose to start him over Pagan, who’s hit right around .300 for his Mets career. The major reason cited for keeping him is that he can play center field. (Besides the somewhat undefinable ‘experience’ factor that Manuel always throws out there) Pagan is just fine, so do we really need to have a legitimate center fielder to back him up? If so, you’ve got guys like Jason Pridie and Jesus Feliciano in the minors. If not, then just go with Pagan full time and on the rare day he gets a day off, both Frenchy and Bay know what to do in center field for one game, even if it’s not ideal defensively. This opens up the possibility to any corner outfielder as a backup.
Jenrry Mejia. I’ve been semi-supportive of the idea to keep him up in the majors if he can help the team win. However, he’s struggled at times and it only seems to be hurting his development of his other pitches. The bullpen has been pretty good, and since starting pitchers are so much more valuable, it’s time to send Mejia back down to the minors to work on being that starting pitcher.
Fernando Tatis is another player that doesn’t seem to have much value. His best value is his ability to play multiple positions adequately, but the Mets aren’t in any great need in that regard. Bay and Francoeur play basically all the time, as does David Wright. Cora’s got 2B. Ike Davis could probably do with a day or two off occasionally if he hits an extended rough patch, but the Mets have plenty of adequate 1B guys that can fill Tatis’ role better than him. When Daniel Murphy is fully healed I think he’d be a much better guy to play the role. He’s younger, has much power, and is a better defender. He’s got no real spot to play on this team, and right now doesn’t have a ton of value. If he could be a super-utility guy on this team, the Mets could probably get something of value for him in the off season. No one else even wanted Tatis last off season, so he basically has zero value on or off this team.
Fire Jerry Manuel, Dan Warthen, and Howard Johnson. It’s hard for fans, especially on the outside, to evaluate what role these types of guys have. It’s pretty obvious Manuel does not know how to handle a baseball team, from wearing out bullpens, to giving up outs while down runs late in games, to playing guys out of position. He seems to undermine his players to the media, and always seems to show no faith or confidence in his players that need it, excepting washed up veterans who he plays way too much for some reason. It’s not an easy situation replacing a manager and finding a suitable replacement. They screwed it up last time they went through this, and they’re still paying for it, but it’s something that could definitely help this team.
Dan Warthen and Howard Johnson may be easier. They each seem to have had some marginal success with some players, but for the most part the bullpen and starters have underperformed under Warthen, and excepting Pagan and Francoeur, no player has really hit their career numbers or better with Johnson. It may be time for a fresh perspective on all this, and there is no time like the present.
Not all of these need to be done. There are different solutions to the problems I’ve presented, and some of the problems might not be as dire as they seem to me. However, all good teams make adjustments to the roster, and the Mets have reached the point where it’s time to cull some dead weight, and give some new guys a chance. Hopefully Omar is already discussing which moves he should make for the upcoming games.
Tags: Baseball, division, fernando tatis, fire jerry, fire jerry manuel, fire manuel, frank catalanotto, gary matthews jr, Good Team, jenrry mejia, jerry manuel, Mets, New York Mets, NL East, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, roster changes, roster shake up
(To read past year’s letters, click here)
Dear New York Mets,
Welcome to the what I like to joke is the second half of the ’09-’10 season. But it’s time to put the past behind us and move on. Nothing that happened before today counts for anything, and it’s time to step it up and start taking control of your own destiny.
Last season was a disaster; Let’s not talk about it anymore. It’s now 2010 and even though we’ve got a couple of nagging injuries, there is hope. Reyes will be back shortly, Murphy by the end of the month, and hopefully Beltran not too much after that. The pitchers are healthy and while we’re missing Beltran for too much time, the rest of the offense is actually really capable. There’s a lot of pressure on the pitching staff right now, but from all accounts you’ve got a chip on your shoulder and are working hard to succeed. Relish the underdog role and punish the opponent.
Citi Field is amazing and all the changes look great. Now make the experience inside a memorable one and make me forget that there is a Big Apple Brews or Shake Shack anywhere. I’ll be there today early enough to get all that stuff out of the way before settling in to watch Santana pitch. It’s time to get some confidence and win some games. It’s time to talk about things like wins and losses, actual performance, and stat lines, without trying to predict and project what you guys are going to do. The division is ripe for the picking, and it’s time you stopped disappointing us and rise up and take it. Let’s rock Citi Field like it’s never rocked before.
The predictions for your team are meek, but don’t let that bother you. It’s time to surprise some people. By June I expect to hear a collective, begrudging “I think this division is the Mets after all” to be uttered by the supposed baseball experts. I expect you to make it so that most Philadelphia blogs will be talking about the Eagles by August. The Mets have never closed two consecutive decades without a World Series title, and I see no reason to start the trend now. In fact, they’ve never had a decade where they did not even go to the World Series, so let’s make that the starting point.
Your lifelong fan,
Optimistic Mets Fan
(I’ll be at the game today, but some that aren’t will be gathering in the Real Dirty Dugout irc chatroom of which you can find a link over on the right)
You may have seen that pessimistic post on Metsblog earlier that stated the Mets should be aiming to go 45 and 20 to win the Wild Card. This is short sighted. I hate to do this, but let’s go back to 2007.
On July 27th 2007 the Mets were up four games over the Phillies and Braves in second place. They kept the hordes at bay for a month, and on August 27th were six games up, seven over the Braves, and neither team looked really good.
Then the Mets played that ill-fated series in Philadelphia where they lost four games, the lead dropping to two games and panic started to set in. The Mets rebounded terrifically winning five in a row and 10 of their next 12.
They hosted the Phillies again on September 12th with a seven game lead and plenty of reason to think that the series in Philadelphia was merely a fluke.
More so than any other reason, the Mets lost in 2007 because they lost those seven games to the Phillies. In 2009 the Mets and Phillies play eight more times. They blew their first chance at this a couple of weeks ago, allowing the Phillies to sweep them, but 65 games and eight against the leader is not something you write off. If the Mets are good enough to overcome the deficit in the wild card, they’re good enough to overcome the deficit in the division. The Phillies are bound to come back to earth, as they’re not going to play at this crazy winning percentage for the rest of the season, and now they’ve started to be bit by the injury bug as well. If the Mets can recover and run with it, it’s the division that’s waiting, not the wild card. If you’re looking for numbers or formulas, here is one for you.
There are 10 weeks left of the season, and 8 games against the Phillies. Win six of the games against the Phillies, and then play merely one game better than them in five of the other 8 weeks they don’t play Philadelphia. Win one more game, whether it’s another against the Phillies, another random game during the season, or game 163. From there the playoffs are your oyster.
It’s hard to be optimistic with the state of the Mets right now. It’s hard to be confident in Omar, it’s hard to be confident in Manuel and the coaches, and even the promising young guys no longer seem promising.
How did we go from being disappointed that Murphy got an extra plate appearance last season and wouldn’t be eligible for Rookie of the Year, to a guy that we’re talking about trading while he still has some value. Personally, I don’t agree with that sentiment, but Murphy’s stock has definitely gone down since last year.
Mike Pelfrey was quickly becoming an excellent pitcher, and while there were some concerns most were okay with him being ‘named’ the number two starter before the season. Now he’s struggling to make that next step and gain consistency.
To me both these guys have talent, drive, and are smart enough to learn how to get better. So why aren’t they getting better? While the ultimate onus falls on the player, this is why there is a manager and coaches in the first place. Most people don’t really understand what a coach does, but if they didn’t have a big role they wouldn’t be fired as often as they are, and teams wouldn’t necessarily even have them.
It doesn’t have to be a career All-Star on the bench to be a good coach, merely a student of the game. He needs to be able to identify and assist players with making the adjustments they need to make, or fixing the bad habits they’re picking up. Good players can do this on their own, but even good players often have a blind spot when analyzing themselves. It’s the same in all areas of the world. This is why English teachers since grade school have been teaching us to have someone else read over and review our writing.
It appears that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Mets. This has been the case since 2007, and has yet to be identified and fixed. Too many guys are under-performing, and virtually no one is over-performing. This is what makes or breaks good teams. And this is what defines a good manager or coach. It’s not just luck when a player has a career year; it’s often due to hard work, and proper guidance. The Mets have been a better team than the Phillies for years, but the difference is somehow journeyman middle relief in Philadelphia has been able to excel and pitchers like J.A. Happ have come out of nowhere to pitch brilliantly, while Pelfrey, Murphy, Parnell, Evans and guys that have showed promise with the Mets have fizzled and failed to make good on promises of success.
Is the season over? No, it’s not. I don’t buy the Marlins as legitimate. I’m not sure the Braves will be appreciably over .500, although they do look pretty good. If you buy that, it’s between the Mets and the Phillies. The Mets are far behind, but technically it’s only a game or two. They still play each other eight times, and if the Mets were to win those games they’ll be in good position, which isn’t completely out of the question as unlikely as it seems given the current state of the team. It’s growing more and more unlikely as the Phillies pull off more and more unlikely wins and the Mets continue to struggle to find any consistency, but if the ship were to be righted and players do come back from the disabled list and perform, it’s not out of the question for the Mets to catch up.
Could first place be around the corner?
These current batch of Mets have been berated in the media and the blogs all week. “We can’t win like this” “These players aren’t very good.” Even the manager got into the act by asking for more offense and saying that it’d be tough to win with the current guys.
Despite all that, the Mets have now won two in a row, one with pitching and one with hitting. They will go into Philadelphia with a chance to take first place, sitting just one game behind the Phillies. (and the Marlins)
The Phillies aren’t playing great baseball either. In fact, the pitcher the Mets faced in Pittsburgh, Paul Maholm, has a better ERA than the Phillies ace Cole Hamels, and the two pitchers in the rotation the Mets are facing this weekend. The other pitcher, Rodrigo Lopez, is a journeyman pitcher who hasn’t pitched in the majors in two years. Lopez, coming off Tommy John surgery, signed with the Braves last year, pitching five innings in the minors, and was released at the end of the season. He’s nearly given up a home run a start in his career, which will go over well in that ballpark, and his best year came in Baltimore in 2002. He was 5-4 with a 3.91 ERA in the minors this year.
So the pitching landscape the Mets will face this weekend is not great. The lineup isn’t what it would be with Reyes, Delgado and Beltran in it, but most of these guys are still major leaguers, or prospects, and should be able to score some runs in a ballpark that lends itself to scoring runs.
The worry may be on the pitching side. Livan Hernandez has been pitching pretty well and hopefully he can keep the Phillies in the park. Fernando Nieve is basically an unknown, having had three excellent starts and one bad one. Has he been properly scouted now? Have the Phillies read the scouting reports? Or was last time just a blip, and he’ll bounce back with a good performance? Sunday is almost a must-win, with Santana on the mound. He’s a competitive guy, and nothing is more competitive than a competition for first place, against rivals, after a bad performance in his last outing. Expect good things from Santana on Sunday, which is also the halfway point in the season. Santana typically pitches well in the second half. A lot hinges on Livan tonight. The Phillies bats have been sleeping, and it would do us good not to wake them up.
Bad games, horrible losses, injuries, and bad managing in the first half can all be put aside this weekend. If the Mets play competitive baseball for these three days, the first half ends and the second half begins without any handicap or ground to make up. Beltran and Reyes may both be back before we know it, and it’d be an excellent situation to be in if they come back not to help the Mets play catchup, but to help the Mets put distance between them and whoever is in second come that point.
Underdogs? No way!
Beltran wants us to be in first place when he gets back, and I agree.
I went out and supported the team last night, at Citi Field, in section 520 of the Promenade. I haven’t been in a couple of weeks, and it felt like returning home. This is after a trip to Yankee Stadium, which I’ll write about later, but I’m confident now to say that this is the best stadium in New York. And that’s without a Seaver statue. I’ve heard a cool idea about naming the area just in front of the bridge and above the bullpen The Piazza, which I think is a cool idea. Although, I think it might be a better name for the food court area on the Promenade behind home plate. After all, wouldn’t you look for Piazza behind home plate, not out in the bullpen?
It was a great bounce back win yesterday, after a flurry of roster moves including Carlos Beltran to the DL. This means that Wright and Castillo are the only two regulars who have not spent time on the disabled list. Daniel Murphy as well, but he hasn’t seen regular time through May, so it’s hard to count him. However, that’s the key. If Daniel Murphy is a regular player, and he’s starting to show that maybe he is, things may not be as grim as they seem. Ryan Church has been doing well since returning. Brian Schneider hasn’t been his pre-injury disasterous April self, and while he’s not Piazza and Manuel still likes Santos over him, it’s a good thing to see him getting big hits. Santos is avoiding the inevitable drop off you’d expect from a career minor league.
The only blight right now might be Tatis. He’s getting way too much playing time for playing so badly. He’s grounding into double plays at an alarming rate, and he had no place batting cleanup last night, or pinch hitting for Murphy Sunday night. Keith Hernandez has been pointing out how messed up his swing is from last year for weeks. Give him a rest, and lets get Evans some outfield starts. He was starting to hit in the minors, and he has some power. I know he’s as right-handed as Sheffield, but he could be a good solution to who to play when you rest Sheffield, who needs a lot of rest to contribute much to this team.
So, are the Mets underdogs? I say no. The Phillies are having injury problems as well, and they weren’t as good a team to begin with. So instead of trying to tread water, not lose ground, and hope everyone comes back healthy, I say go out there and ride the guys that are hot, and take back this division. Maybe Santos will drop off, maybe Murphy won’t hit .300, but they’re hitting now, and there is no reason we can’t win now. Especially if Nieve is serious about being good. Redding drops some decent games on us, Livan seems to be acceptable. Santana is Santana, and hopefully Pelfrey is just having a blip in his early career. There is hope for Perez and Maine coming back, and there is always Niese in the wings. The bullpen is still excellent, as long as Manuel recognizes the need for rest, and Parnell can make the proper adjustments. It seems like he can, Parnell really does look like a serious player. He probably could use some days off, as could Feliciano, but I have confidence in those guys if they don’t get burnt out.
The stupid “The division hates the Mets” story got me thinking. Metstradamus joked about the Mets putting bounties on other players. Fine, do it. Not real bounties, but something team building and fun. Whoever has the best game against the Phillies in a series gets to set the radio/tv for a week. A pitcher who gets Hanley out the most gets to pick where they eat dinner next.
This all probably stems from the general disconnect players and fans have. While there is often a jealousy of
We seem to have criticized the Mets for acting like they deserved the division in ’07. Well, they did deserve the division, and I think they should continue to act like that. The Mets should walk into opposing stadiums like they own the place. Walk into ’09 like they own the division.
This would be great:
Wright: “The division is ours this year.”
Reporter: “But aren’t the Phillies the defending division champs? Don’t you have to go through them?”
Wright: “Even bad teams get lucky sometimes. The Phillies..who’s on that team? Cole..somebody or another right? Bring it on.”