Archive for February, 2010

Manuel Prepares the Kool-Aid But Are We Ready to Drink It

February 20, 2010

As I sat by my computer yesterday listening to Mets manager Jerry Manuel discuss the many ways in which he would construct his starting lineup for the 2010 season, I felt compelled to jot down my own version of New York’s various batting orders. After several attempts to outdo the well-respected skipper by batting shortstop Jose Reyes sixth, I conceded and felt it best to leave the decision making up to the man in charge.

Manuel was his usual open-ended self on Friday as he addressed concerns regarding the Mets starting rotation, the catcher position, and how airy and light third baseman David Wright appeared to be carrying himself after such a demanding season.

Upbeat and clear-minded, Manuel even poked fun at himself while professing that the longer he stayed amongst the many sour-faced beat reporters, the worse off his team would be. Eventually, his bellowing laugh would finally subside. Only then did he begin to turn his attention to more serious matters for example, which reliever would bridge the gap to closer Francisco Rodriguez.

“We have to find that person,” Manuel said. “It’s going to be difficult. The quicker we resolve that…the better off in the long run.”

If health was the obvious reason why the 2009 season ended in such devastating fashion, a weak bullpen the previous year could be seen as a no-brainer when explaining why our beloved orange and blue were unable to patch things up and reach the post-season in 2008.

Fortunately for Manuel, he inherited that underperforming bullpen from his predecessor, Willie Randolph, and was given an incomplete for the struggles he was made to endure in that department. Manuel’s advice for a solid bullpen this year; throw strikes and consistently pound the strike zone, simple enough.

After quelling the rumors by stating that Daniel Murphy had all but solidified himself as the club’s first baseman, he also reinforced the notion that there was indeed a fifth starter race brewing between right-hander Fernando Nieve and Jon Niese, the Mets homegrown left-hander.

In reference to a question as to how much space separated the Mets from the first-place Phillies this season, Manuel proceeded with caution. When asked if he thought this particular group of guys could be a contender for the post season in 2010, the Mets skipper confidently replied, “What I like is the fact that almost seventy percent of the guys were here early for Spring Training.”

“That says a lot,” he added. “It’s a good sign of some positive things for us on the horizon.”

With the recent setbacks to starting centerfielder Carlos Beltran and the expected eighth inning reliever Kelvim Escobar all too real, these next four to five weeks will be either a springboard for better days to come or just a case of the same old story for the New York Mets.

Other tidbits from Manuel’s presser:

Alex Cora is the Mets back-up shortstop.

Catcher Henry Blanco will be limited in his usage behind the plate.

Angel Pagan and Mike Jacobs are very much in-line to make the Mets 25-man roster.

According to Manuel, Spring Training is a tough place to evaluate players, Florida’s Josh Johnson is a very good pitcher, and number 53 works just fine for him.

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For 2010, Mets Ask Fans to Just Believe

February 15, 2010

In the next few days, the city of Port St. Lucie, Fla. will be officially open for business as it kicks off the Spring Training portion of the Mets 2010 season. Coming off such a sour year in which they finished in fourth place with ninety-two losses, a fresh start is most definitely in order.

With injuries to key players and poor pitching being the main causes for such a forgettable season last year, heading into this upcoming season ultimately pain-free and ready to go is all you can expect at this point. If you speak to anyone affiliated with the Mets from season ticket holders down to those responsible for checking their tickets you would be met with the same consensus.

“I believe that we are going to improve,” Mets ace Johan Santana has said. “We weren’t a full team last year.”

“Baseball is a fun game,” he added. “If guys try to do too much… and not try to do someone else’s job, we will be fine.”

Even though the Mets front office, ownership included, were unable to acquire a front-line starter to complement the left-handed Santana, there is no question that Mets players and coaches are excited to get this part of the baseball season underway.

Along with newly-acquired free agent slugger Jason Bay, the Mets expect to have their catalyst back, shortstop Jose Reyes, at one hundred percent. With a healthy Reyes in the Mets lineup, manager Jerry Manuel would likely have lesser things to worry about.

Pitching Coach Dan Warthen, on the other hand, is banking on three of his projected starters, Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Mike Pelfrey, to undergo a complete turn-around from last season. Maine and Perez are coming off injuries and Pelfrey is searching for whatever was lost during his second full season with the Mets.

“Pelfrey loves the challenge,” Santana said. “He’s dropped twenty pounds and has been telling a lot of people that he wants to win.”

“Maine has the stuff to be a starter,” he added.

Regarding Perez, Santana replied, “Ollie has to get back to being Ollie.”

Not only will the Mets not have one of their perennial leaders in centerfielder Carlos Beltran at the beginning of the season due to injury, they will also not be carrying veteran Carlos Delgado as well. Delgado has remained unsigned as he makes his comeback from major hip surgery.

“When I think of a veteran, I think of a leader, like Carlos Delgado,” Maine said in a recent interview with Mets Blog’s Matthew Cerrone. “Someone else is going to have to fill that void. I just think what he’s done, who he is, and his demeanor…he was perfect for that,” he added.

The theme of this season is entitled, “We Believe in Comebacks.” If the Mets can stay healthy and their starting rotation can perform to their potential, perhaps, Mets fans will allow themselves to start believing again and have faith that things are moving in a positive direction.

In closing, since 2006, the NL East division from top to bottom has gotten exponentially better. For the Mets to have a winning chance at the division this season, its imperative that they remain healthy and stay consistent throughout the year. And also hope that the players they currently have in place are able to produce better numbers than they have in the past.

Let’s Go Mets!

When Cliff Floyd Spoke, Players Listened

February 6, 2010

Former Met Cliff Floyd was a very integral part of the Mets success during the 2006 season. That year, the Mets were one hit away from playing in their fifth World Series. Floyd, a natural contact hitter, was just as impressive off the field as he was on it. Some of those who hung around the Mets clubhouse throughout his tenure felt that when he left the organization the room changed.

With positive team chemistry deemed just as important as driving runners in, players like Floyd are considered necessities when building a championship team. Now, semi-retired, Floyd’s recent comments regarding the Mets current clubhouse as one of disconnect, have Mets fans concerned.

“I got the guys to believe in what I was saying,” Floyd said recently as a guest on a popular local radio show. “I didn’t take them down the road of destruction where they were going to go against the manager, or go against the coaches, or be a, me-type of player.”

The 37-year-old outfielder/DH embraced the role of mentor during his experiences with some of the Mets younger players including David Wright and Jose Reyes in 2006.

“My goal was to make sure they understand what it takes to play in the big leagues,” Floyd said. “Be productive and be accountable. Allow the clubhouse to be that sanctuary away from the world.”

Like a lot of other former Mets players, Floyd’s comments suggest that this current team could use someone like him to act as a support system when things take a turn for the worse. Lack of leadership and accountability has been a central theme regarding the Mets failures the last three seasons.

Floyd is currently an unsigned free agent who is contemplating retirement. His career as a journeyman player has spanned over 17 seasons in which he has played for eight different major league clubs.

Since he’ll be able to start the season with the Mets, I feel that right fielder Jeff Francoeur could be a formidable leader on and off the field. He’s an everyday player who plays every inning like it’s his last. Plus, he welcomes the pressures that come with playing in New York and plays hurt. He doesn’t give up easily and seems to have a positive demeanor, even on the worst of days.

Who do you think could fill a leadership role for the Mets in 2010?