Archive for October, 2010

Giants 41, Cowboys 35

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Giants

In a game nowhere near as close as the final score, the Giants topped the Cowboys tonight on Monday Night Football, 41-35. The G-Men dominated this game, yet couldn’t get out of their own way, as five turnovers led directly to 28 Cowboys points. The other TD came on an 88-yard punt return by Dez Bryant. Eli Manning got off to a horrendous start, throwing two picks deep in Cowboys territory on the Giants’ first two possessions. The Cowboys capitalized, taking a 10-0 lead despite having only 15 total yards of offense at that point. Manning eventually heated up, tossing four TD passes. The Giants’ running backs also looked good, and the defense knocked Tony Romo out of the game and punished 90-year old Jon Kitna until the Cowboys got a bit of life at the end of the game.
Up 38-20 with just over three minutes remaining, the Giants inexplicably threw the ball when they should have been running out the clock. Keith Brooking returned a Manning INT inside the 20, and Kitna found Bryant for a score. The Giants recovered the onside kick and eventually got a field goal from Lawrence Tynes to make it 41-28. The Cowboys drove down the field on a soft Giants defense, and Kitna hooked up with Bryant again to close the gap to 41-35. Never should have gotten to that point, but I’ll take the win despite a bad start and finish. The Giants head into their bye week at 5-2, alone atop the NFC East. I’m cautiously optimistic, although the Giants rolled to a 5-0 start last year before absolutely tanking down the stretch. But in a pretty weak NFC, the Giants should at least make the playoffs this year. As for the Cowboys, wonder if Jerry Jones still thinks his team will reach the Super Bowl. At 1-5 and without their overrated star QB, 6-10 may be a stretch for this overpaid group of underachievers.

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Arcade Fire, The Suburbs: The third full-length release from eclectic art-rock outfit Arcade Fire is one of the year’s best. Its driving theme comes from brother bandmates Win and Will Butler’s upbringing in a conservative Texas home, and their memories of their hometown fused with the current-day plight of suburban America today. It’s a captivating listen, one that needs to be experienced as a whole and not just individual tracks (although each song is wonderful). The band has created a tapestry of beautiful soundscapes, full of melodic flair and musical creativity. Although it’s certainly an artful collection, the band can rock out with abandon when it wants to (the punkish “Month of May” the greatest example). The husband-wife singing duo of Win Butler and RĂ©gine Chassagne blends effortlessly, and although Butler takes the lead on most of the tracks, Chassagne’s vocals on penultimate track “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” send chills down the spine. No song on this wonderful album sounds alike, yet they blend together seamlessly. Pick this one up immediately.
Sod rating: **** 1/2
My faves: Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), We Used to Wait, The Suburbs, Rococo, City With No Children, Ready to Start, aw hell, the entire thing is great!

Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty Together, Big Boi and Andre 3000 formed the seminal rap group Outkast, pushing lyrical and musical boundaries with each release. The 2003 Outkast double album Speakerboxx/The Love Below was a group album in name only, as they essentially were each rapper’s first solo album. Both men are extremely talented, and while Andre 3000 is often regarded as the more musically diverse of the two, Big Boi’s first official solo record begs to differ.
On Sir Lucious Left Foot, Big Boi brings the funk and soul in spades, also dabbling into pop by enlisting the band Vonnegut to sing the hook in the infectious “Follow Us”. Jamie Foxx makes an appearance on the rather Prince-like “Hustle Blood”, and the album also includes inspired guest spots from B.O.B on “Night Night” and T.I. on the funky “Tangerine.” But it’s Big Boi who is obviously the star here, turning in spirited raps surrounded by memorable hooks throughout.
Sod rating: ****
My faves: Back Up Plan, Tangerine, Hustle Blood, Shutterbug, Night Night

B.O.B., The Adventures of Bobby Ray: The full-length debut from multi-talented rapper B.O.B. arrived several months back, producing a string of catchy singles backed by top-shelf guests. I’m most intrigued by B.O.B. himself, a bit of a rap renaissance man, equally adept at singing, producing, playing guitar as he is at rapping. He writes catchy hooks throughout this worthwhile effort, singing some of them himself (Don’t Let Me Fall, Ghost in the Machine) with some of the guests doing the honors. He shows an interest in many styles of music, enlisting rockers Rivers Cuomo (Magic) and Paramore’s Hayley Williams (Airplanes), pop crooner Bruno Mars (Nuthin on You) in addition to superstar rappers T.I. (I Was) and Eminem (Airplanes, Part II). Somehow, everything blends well, giving the listener quite an enjoyable ride. Very polished first effort.
Sod rating: *** 1/2
My faves: Airplanes Parts I & II, Magic, Past My Shades, Ghost in the Machine, The Kids

Soundgarden, Telephantasm: When I first heard Soundgarden was reuniting after a 13-year hiatus, I immediately began to wonder what a new album would sound like. The influential Seattle rockers (who detest the term grunge, with good reason, all those bands were excellent rock bands, nothing more nothing less) played a few concerts this summer and announced a new album. Unfortunately, it’s not the album most fans wanted, but the band seems to be following a particular plan. They released a two-disc retrospective, Telephantasm, a few weeks ago to reintroduce (or in some cases introduce) people to the band. They already have an outstanding single disc compilation released in 1997 entitled “A-Sides” on the market, and while that disc gathered all the huge hits from their mid 90s heyday, it merely glossed over the band’s formative years, which makes the new album a better representation of Soundgarden’s career arc. Most of Disc 1 covers territory where the band wasn’t yet famous and while the songs are inferior to ones on their latter-day albums, they definitely have a rough charm to them. And since I didn’t own early albums “Ultramega OK” and “Screaming Life/Fopp”, I got to hear a few songs I hadn’t heard before such as “All Your Lies,” “Hunted Down,” “Beyond the Wheel” and “Fopp.” The compilation is worthwhile for diehards who have all the albums, as it subs out studio versions of “Get on the Snake,” “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Pretty Noose” and “Blow Up the Outside World” for live renditions. “Jesus Christ Pose” kicks major ass live, as does “Blow Up the Outside World.” The Saturday Night Live performance of “Pretty Noose” leaves a lot to be desired. The band sounds great, but Chris Cornell’s vocals are shot, making you wonder why they included this other than the fact it hadn’t been released on CD before. The rare Sub-Pop single “Room A Thousand Years Wide,” released a year before it appeared on Badmotorfinger, is a nice find, although the later version is much better. “Birth Ritual,” a track I’d forgotten about from the great soundtrack to Singles, is also included, as is “Black Rain,” chosen as the album’s single. An outtake from 1991’s Badmotorfinger, the band added some overdubs and new vocals to make it the first Soundgarden single in 13 years. It’s not their greatest track, but it rocks hard and announces the band’s return rather nicely.
Sod rating: **** 1/2
My faves: Black Rain, Spoonman, Jesus Christ Pose, Hands All Over, My Wave, Dusty

Mets report card, Part 2

Posted: October 13, 2010 in Mets

I’ve been a bit busy of late, so I didn’t have time to finish the report cards. The first part dealt mainly with the key offensive players. I have a few more of those to grade, and then on to the pitchers.

Josh Thole, C: Thole emerged as the starter during the second half of the season, showing he could handle the pitching staff and displaying a decent throwing arm as well. Offensively, I love Thole’s approach. A lefty hitter, Thole chokes up on the bat and just tries to put the ball in play. And while he’s never going to be a power hitter, he showed he can turn on a pitch from time to time. After a blazing hot start, Thole settled in to post an adequate .277/.357/.366 line. He showed a good eye at the plate with 24 walks. He struck out just 25 times, and I think he would be an ideal No. 2 hitter if he keeps improving. Grade: B

Jeff Francoeur, RF:While many Mets fans were happy to get rid of him, I actually liked Francoeur. At least to a certain extent. I loved his passion for the game, as he always seemed to be giving a 100 percent effort. His howitzer for an arm kept many runners from taking an extra base, and he did a nice job of handling a tricky right field at Citi Field. But, as was the case with the Braves, Francoeur’s lack of patience at the plate was mind-boggling. Francoeur is a true hacker, often swinging at the first pitch he sees, no matter where it is. It’s a shame, because if the guy ever learned plate dicipline, he could be a star. The ball jumps off his bat when he zones in on a good pitch, and he delivered a few clutch hits while with the Mets. But facts are facts, and his overall hitting line of .237/.293/.369 isn’t going to cut it anywhere. Traded to the Rangers on Aug. 31, Francoeur has a chance to win a ring. And while I liked his intangibles, he just isn’t a major-league starter. Grade: C-

Rod Barajas, C: Barajas got off to a great start and was probably the MVP of the team through May. He had 11 homers through the first two months of the season, and every one seemed to be a big one. But, much like Francoeur, Barajas had zero plate discipline, going into a huge tailspin before finally getting hot again…as a member of the Dodgers. Grade: C

Johan Santana, SP: Johan has always been one of my favorite pitchers in all of baseball (even before coming to the Mets). He’s a real gamer with a true desire to win. I love his intensity and bulldog mentality on the mound, as he never wants to come out of a game. However, injuries are starting to mount, as he’s had three surgeries (knee, elbow, shoulder) in the last three seasons. The last two injuries caused him to end the last two seasons early, and the latest injury to his shoulder is the most serious. Johan’s velocity has been in steady decline since coming to the Mets, and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts whenever he returns. This year, Santana posted strong overall numbers despite a declining strikeout rate. He easily could have won 15 games with any offensive support, finishing 11-9 with a 2.98 ERA. He managed to pitch 199 innings despite missing the last month of the season. Grade: B

Mike Pelfrey, SP: It was a weird year for Big Pelf. Early on, it looked like he was developing into the ace we’ve all expected him to become, before a six-week stretch just after the All-Star break (coinciding with the Mets freefall) nearly torpedoed his season. During that time, he looked lost and was one of the worst pitchers in baseball. Then, I thought “this guy is just never going to get it together.” But in late August, Pelf turned it around again and finished the season with a flourish, including a pair of strong starts against the hated Phillies. Overall, Pelfrey finished 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA. In 204 innings, he allowed 213 hits, but the inflated hit total was due to that horrendous string of outings in July and August. He led the team in wins and innings, making a positive stride in his development. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a No. 1 pitcher, but he looks like he’ll be a No. 2 or 3 on the staff for years to come. Grade: B

R.A. Dickey, SP: Ah, the Dickster. I love this guy. Not only did he dazzle opposing hitters with his knuckleball, he was another guy who gave maximum effort every time out. He fielded his position well and provided some key hits to boot. He’s young for a knuckleballer (35), finally mastering the pitch after four years of tinkering with it. The thing that makes Dickey so tough is that he changes speeds with the knuckler, able to throw it around 80 and slow it down to 60 if need be. Another thing that separates him from a Tim Wakefield is his ability to sneak other pitches when needed. And while an 85-mph fastball is below average for a traditional starter, it looks much faster when coupled with the unpredictable floating knuckleball. Dickey’s control was also good, as he walked just 42 hitters in 174 1/3 innings. Dickey finished 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA, and like Santana would have won several more with a little help from the offense. I saw enough this year to believe Dickey isn’t a one-hit wonder, and I hope the Mets re-sign him in the offseason, because having a knuckleballer in your rotation can throw off the timing of the opponent for an entire series. Grade: A

Jon Niese, SP: Niese was another bright spot in a surprisingly good starting rotation this season, pitching very well before hitting a wall in September. That rough September made Niese’s overall numbers look average (9-10, 4.20 ERA) but he displayed immense promise through most of the season. He turned in the best Mets pitching performance of the season with his one-hit shutout in May. The lefty has a nice arsenal of pitches, including an Andy Pettitte-like cutter and a gem of a curveball that’s downright nasty when he’s getting it over for strikes. Niese led the team in strikeouts, fanning 148 in 173 2/3 innings. He allowed 192 hits in those 173 2/3 innings, but he was below a hit per inning before the terrible September. Niese looks like a strong rotation option for years to come. Grade: B

Francisco Rodriguez, RP: The lowlight of the season was K-Rod’s punchout of his girlfriend’s father in the family room at CitiField. This guy always seemed like a loose cannon on the field, and his outburst off the field proved it. The guy still has some talent (4-2, 2.20 ERA, 25/30 saves) but it’s no given he’ll be on the team next season. His pugilistic skills netted an injury to his thumb, causing the team to put him on the disqualified list. The Mets may try to void his contract (good luck getting that one past the union), so he may have thrown his last pitch (and punch) for the team. Grade: KO

Hisanori Takahashi, SP/RP: While my disdain for Omar Minaya is well known on the blog, I have to give him credit for the minor-league signings of Dickey and this guy, a true jack of all trades this season. Takahashi filled every role you can have on a staff – starting, long relief, setup man, closer – and did a nice job in each spot, never complaining about being shuffled around more than a deck of cards at the World Series of Poker. Takahashi appeared in 53 games (12 starts), posting a 10-6 record with a 3.61 ERA. While he was a passable starter, Takahashi was great in the bullpen, taking over for KO-Rod as closer and converting all eight of his save opportunities. He pitched 122 innings, allowing 116 hits with 43 walks and 114 strikeouts. Takahashi is a master craftsman, able to change speeds and work in and out, up and down. His fastball is good enough to keep hitters honest, usually sitting at 89-91 mph. Another guy I hope the Mets bring back next season. Grade: A-

Pedro Feliciano, RP: The rubber-armed Feliciano again broke his own team record by appearing in 92 games. When used properly, Feliciano is as good as it gets when it comes to lefty specialists. He neutralizes lefthanded hitters and keeps the ball in the ballpark (just one homer in 62 2/3 innings). However, clueless Jerry Manuel continued to run him out there against righty hitters, even though they hit over .350 against him. (Lefties were right around .200). Feliciano could decline arbitration and become a free agent, projecting as a Type A. It’s a win-win for the Mets. If he accepts, they have their durable lefty back next year. If he declines and goes for free agency, the Mets will get an extra first-round pick next year. And with a new GM and player development staff that is hopefully competent, the Mets would get a chance to upgrade the farm system. Grade: B

I’m getting tired of writing, so I’ll do this for the bench players and other pitchers.

Guys I liked and want to see next spring: Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Chris Carter, Lucas Duda, Nick Evans, Jenrry Mejia, Ruben Tejada,

Guys I want to say adios to (other than Castillo and Perez): John Maine, Ryota Igarashi, Mike Hessman, Jesus Feliciano, Fernando Tatis

Guys I’m indifferent toward: Pat Misch, Elmer Dessens, Raul Valdes, Joaquin Arias, Luis Hernandez, Henry Blanco, Sean Green

The case for Terry Ryan

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Mets

Of all the names bandied about in the Mets’ GM search, there is one that stands out to me.
Terry Ryan, former GM of the Minnesota Twins from 1994 through 2007, is the man I would urge the Wilpons to hire if possible. There have been reports that Ryan isn’t interested in the Mets’ job, but stranger things have happened.
When he took the GM job with the Twins, the team’s finances were in ruin. They played in the dingy Metrodome in front of no fans, just a few years after winning a second World Series title in five seasons.
Ryan’s expertise was in scouting and developing players, starting his career with the Mets in 1980. He scouted with the Mets from 1980 and 1986, and while I don’t have the specific players he scouted which became eventual draft picks, we’d all have to agree the Mets’ minor-league system was a virtual hotbed of talent during those years. The reason Frank Cashen was such a great GM early in his tenure was he put a focus on scouting and development, since the product on the field was lower than lousy when he took off. By hiring guys like Ryan, the Mets built a great minor-league system, only to be slowly destroyed by Cashen and his successors when the team began to have success.
I don’t think the same thing would befall Ryan, as he has seen an organization can succeed with a small major-league payroll. Instead, the Twins put most if not all of their focus on player development. And under Ryan, the Twins drafted and developed players such as Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, A.J. Pierzynski, Matt Garza, Scott Baker and Denard Span, just to name a few off the top of my head.
With a low budget at the major-league level, developing players was a must. But the Twins under Ryan weren’t just successful at scouting and drafting their own players. They had a constant eye on other organizations’ talent, and Ryan made some shrewd moves during his 13-year tenure.
Due to financial constraints, the Twins often had to move players before they made too much money, constantly replenishing the farm system with trades. Here are just a few of the brilliant trades Ryan brokered:
* August 29, 1996: Traded a fading Dave Hollins to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later. On September 31, the Mariners sent David Ortiz to the Twins to complete the trade. One of Ryan’s big blunders was waiving Ortiz, but Big Papi wasn’t very consistent during his tenure there and when he got to Boston, he discovered a magical formula (let’s just leave it at that).
* August 20, 1997: Traded Roberto Kelly to the Seattle Mariners for players to be named later. On October 9, the Mariners sent the Twins future all-star Joe Mays and a minor leaguer to complete the deal.
* February 16, 1998: Traded second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to the New York Yankees in exchange for outfielder Brian Buchanan, shortstop Cristian Guzman, pitcher Eric Milton, pitcher Danny Mota, and cash. Guzman and Milton would become regulars, while Buchanan was later moved for a significant piece in Jason Bartlett.
* December 13, 1999: Under the Rule 5 Draft, the Twins sent minor leaguer Jared Camp and cash to the Florida Marlins in exchange for future Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.
* July 30, 2001: Traded outfielder Matt Lawton to the New York Mets for pitcher Rick Reed.
* July 12, 2002: Traded Buchanan to the San Diego Padres for shortstop Jason Bartlett.
* July 16, 2003: Traded Bobby Kielty to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shannon Stewart. This move helped the Twins reach the playoffs that season, as Stewart had a stellar second-half as the Twins overtook the Kansas City Royals for the division crown.
* November 14, 2003: Traded Pierzynski and cash to the San Francisco Giants. Received pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. This is the gem of all gems right here. Pierzynski was a year away from free agency, and Ryan got an incredible return. Ryan saw something in Nathan that made him believe he’d be a dominant closer, and until an elbow injury this year, Nathan has been one of the top five stoppers in the game. Liriano was a somewhat wild Single-A lefty who has emerged into a No. 1 starter for the Twins. Even Bonser was a serviceable major-league starter until his career was derailed by injuries.
* December 3, 2003: Traded pitcher Eric Milton to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Carlos Silva, infielder Nick Punto, and a player to be named later (Bobby Korecky). Milton was another player who was making too much money and approaching free agency. Ryan acquired a middle of the rotation starter in Silva and a useful utility infielder (who has started off and on) in Punto.
* December 2, 2005: Traded Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler to the Florida Marlins for second baseman Luis Castillo. Neither prospect has panned out for the Marlins, and although my distaste for Castillo is well known, he was still a useful player for the next season and a half for the Twins.

As witnessed by the trades above, Ryan is a forward thinker who has a keen eye for young talent. This is exactly the type of guy we need running the Mets. And if Ryan is uninterested, I would be on board with Sandy Alderson, another guy who thrived in a small market by building a talent-rich farm system. Give guys like this the Mets’ finances, and I believe you’ll see some wonderful things. The Mets need someone who is capable of juggling several scenarios at one time, something Omar Minaya wasn’t very good at. Omar would address one area he perceived to be a problem in the offseason, improved that, but seemed to neglect other spots on the team. Minaya also struggled with contingency plans. If a plan falls through, you’ve got to be able to fall back on others to get things done. I truly believe guys like Ryan and Alderson can do this, and I’m anxious to see what happens. Let’s go Mets!

Mets 2010 report card, Part 1

Posted: October 6, 2010 in Mets

This certainly won’t be pretty, as the negatives on this team outweighed the positives, but a few Mets actually did pull their weight this season. Let’s take a closer look, starting with the face of the franchise.

David Wright, 3B: Wright had a strange season in 2010. He was much better than 2009, with his power returning from a year-long hiatus. He finished with good numbers across the board, batting .283 with 29 homers and 103 RBIs with 87 runs scored and 19 stolen bases. However, something seems awry with Wright these last two seasons, namely an alarmingly increasing strikeout rate. He fanned 161 times, setting an all-time high (even passing notorious whiff machine Dave Kingman). Couple this with 69 walks, Wright’s on-base percentage was by far the worst of his career (.354). He also didn’t do very well in clutch spots, batting .236/.323/.436 with two outs and runners in scoring position and a woeful .221/.315/.379 late in close games. I’m hoping a switch in hitting coaches could help Wright, but what would really help him is if the lineup around him improves. At times, Wright seems like he’s trying to do too much. At one time, I thought Wright would emerge into a yearly MVP candidate, a guy who could hit .310 to .320 every year with 30 homers and 120 RBIs. I’ve scaled down my expectations, hoping he can produce seasons similar to this one, but just with a few more big hits sprinkled in. Grade: B

David Wright batted .283 with a team-high 29 homers and 103 RBIs, but often failed in late-inning pressure situations.

Jose Reyes, SS: After missing most of last year’s abominable season, I was looking forward to getting Reyes back in the fold. Immediately, his spring started off poorly with news of his thyroid condition. He missed most of spring training and was rushed back to the team in early April. He struggled, as Jerry Manuel insisted on having him bat third for reasons only known to Jerry. Reyes eventually began to hit, but he really never resembled the electrifying player he was a few years ago, at least not on a consistent basis. However, when he played well, the Mets generally won, and he did manage to appear in 133 games, batting .282 with 29 doubles, 10 triples, 11 homers and 54 RBIs. He scored 83 runs and stole 30 bases, the lowest total of his career (not counting injury-shortened seasons). And while Jose is pretty steady at short, he makes mysterious mental errors both on the field and on the bases (getting picked off too many times). Under the “tutelage” of hitting coach Howard Johnson, Reyes has regressed as far as pitch selection and patience go. His OBP dropped to .321, unacceptable for a leadoff man. I still love what Reyes brings when he’s on his game, and I honestly believe the proper staff could light a fire under him, so I still have hope. But this was a pretty disappointing year in my book. Grade:C+

Ike Davis, 1B: Following a brilliant spring and dominant start at AAA, Davis was called up to take the first base job after the failed Mike Jacobs/Fernando Tatis experiment early on. And while Davis experienced typical peaks and valleys for a rookie, his debut was promising. Davis hit 19 homers (several tape-measure shots) and drove in 71 runs, batting .264. Those seem like pedestrian numbers for a first baseman, but there were signs late in the year that Davis will make a big jump forward in his sophomore year. For one, he drew far more walks late in the year and was able to lay off breaking balls out of the zone much better than he did earlier in the year. His on-base percentage of .351 was just three points worse than Wright’s, and Davis brought a major-league ready glove at first. And while he won’t win the award this year due to unfamiliarity around the league, I can see Davis winning multiple gold gloves, as he’s got good range, and outstanding arm and a penchant for making the highlight-reel play. Of all the first basemen I’ve seen with the Mets, only Keith Hernandez and John Olerud were better with the glove (and they were perennial gold glovers). Davis is a keeper, and I look forward to see him continue his development. Grade:B

Rookie Ike Davis showed great promise at the plate and on the field.

Jason Bay, LF: The Mets’ big free-agent addition last winter flopped big time before a concussion ended his season in mid July. Bay never got comfortable at the plate, and his power mysteriously vanished. In 95 games, he hit a grand total of six homers, knocking in 47. Hardly what Mets fans (or the front office for that matter) expected. And while his hitting was brutal, there were a few things I actually liked about Bay. He was a much better fielder than statistics showed and he always busted it every game. He’s a smart baserunner, stealing 10 bags without getting caught. His on-base percentage was OK (.347) considering his low batting average (.259), and Mets fans can only hope this was just an off year, as he is signed for three more years. Grade:C-

Angel Pagan, OF:Pagan continued his progression this year, establishing career highs in several categories. Playing center early on and shifting to right when Carlos Beltran returned, he batted .292 with 31 doubles, seven triples, 11 homers and 69 RBIs while stealing a team-high 37 bases. He also played an outstanding center field and really should have stayed there when the slowed Beltran returned, as his speed makes him the better defender, especially in spacious Citi Field. Pagan was the Mets’ most consistent hitter, only struggling a bit in September after keeping his batting average above .300 most of the year. Pagan has arrived as a solid major-league starter and is still young enough to continue improving. Very satisfying year. Grade: A-

Angel Pagan batted .290 with a team-high 37 steals while playing outstanding defense.

Carlos Beltran, CF: Beltran is a bit hard to grade, as he missed the first half of the season and seemed to still be in recovery mode in July and August. It’s clear he’s lost a step in the outfield and on the bases, although he’s still plenty athletic enough to not be a hindrance. His bat was pretty silent for the most part, until he finished with a strong September before ultimately getting hurt again, but nothing serious. His MRI showed his bone bruise on his right knee is actually improving, even with a few months of baseball activities on it. In 64 games, Beltran posted a slash line of .255/.341/.427, nothing to write home about. But considering those numbers were much lower going into September, there is hope he can still be a solid contributor next season, whether with the Mets or with another team (he’s got one year remaining on his big contract, making it hard to move him). Grade:C-

Luis Castillo, 2B: Pathetic, injury plagued year from a guy the Mets never should have signed to a long-term deal. Coming off a solid 2009, Castillo’s injuries and inability to hit the ball more than 60 feet coupled with his grandfather-like range at second make him my least favorite position player on the team. Castillo still showed a decent eye at the plate, but that was eradicated by a putrid .235 batting average and even more embarrassing .267 slugging percentage (he had a whopping six extra base hits in 86 games). Injuries have robbed him of his ability to run (just eight steals), so his only remaining skill is the ability to take a walk. I know the team’s struggles the last four years aren’t Castillo’s fault, he’s just one of several problems. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the team’s fortunes began to head down the crapper shortly after he was acquired in July 2007. He has one more year left on his contract, but I’d be shocked if he was on the team next year. Actually appalled would be the better word. Grade: F

My memories of Luis Castillo's tenure with the Mets are littered with lowlights, like this epic failure to lose a game against the Yankees last year.

Mets fire Manuel, Minaya

Posted: October 4, 2010 in Mets

This will certainly be one of the more busy offseasons the Mets have had in quite some time.
As expected, the team dismissed general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel today in moves that were long overdue.
I really wanted Jerry and Omar gone after the second straight September collapse in 2008. If not then, they clearly should have been let go after last year’s 70-92 disaster.
The team actually improved a bit record-wise (79-83) but that’s only because they got off to a good start, reaching a high-water mark of 11 games over .500 in late June. Then, the trip to Puerto Rico happened, and the team was never quite the same.
Still leading the wild card standings at the All-Star break, the Mets proceeded to go 2-9 on a disastrous West Coast swing. And the Wilpons continued to lay silent, not even firing anyone from the coaching staff. So, today’s news was good. I still lack confidence in the Wilpons’ decision making, but hopefully they get enough help to make a solid choice and bring someone in with an actual long-term plan for the organization. As I said in my last post, Omar was too much of a patchwork GM. He would identify what he viewed to be a problem at the end of the season and try to improve that for the next year, virtually ignoring the rest of the team or trying to fill holes with minor-league signings, some of which worked and some didn’t.
I’m hoping the new GM will put more of a focus on the draft, hopefully convincing the Wilpons to spend more money there. Lower budget teams like the Twins and Rays are having great success because they know how to develop players. And while the Mets’ farm system is better than most people think, it still could use more depth, especially in the pitching department.
As for Jerry, he seems like a good guy. He was at times entertaining and had a good rapport with the press. However, his on-field moves were questionable, especially his handling of the bullpen. He also had the tendency to bury guys on the bench and occasionally bad-mouthed guys in the press (Ryan Church comes to mind here). His lineups sometimes seemed to be picked out of a hat (like that early-season game against the Cardinals where the soon-to-be-DFA’d Frank Catalanotto batted cleanup) and he also had the tendency to stick with crappy players way too long (playing Matthews Jr. over Pagan early). He also was a little too laid back for my taste. I’m not saying laid-back guys can’t win, I’d just like to see the team go with someone with a little more fire in the belly to shake up this complacent squad.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see how things shake out in the coming months. I’ll have my opinions as each move materializes, so stay tuned.

The Mets’ season has been over for all intents and purposes for three months, giving me plenty of time to absorb the blow of them not making the postseason again. I find myself thinking about what feels worse, the collapses of 2007 and 2008 or the ineptitude of the past two seasons. The collapses were like huge gut punches, taking the air right out of you. You feel so full of hope for 162 games and then in almost a blink of an eye, it’s all gone. These last two seasons, the outcome was sealed in July, giving you plenty of time to digest the fact the Mets were going nowhere again. After thinking for a bit, I definitely prefer the huge gut punches. The feeling was worse at the end, but the ride was much more fun. Every game meant something, and watching those September games were an intense experience. These last two years, I still followed every game (I’m a Mets fan, we’re gluttons for punishment) but was more interested in individual players than what the team did. I enjoyed watching young players like Jon Niese, Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Dillon Gee, Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada get some playing time, wondering if they will be part of the core of the next Mets’ playoff team or just blips on the radar. Niese and Davis are definite keepers, Thole showed promise while the others showed flashes of being useful major-leaguers. I counted down the days of the Omar Minaya/Jerry Manuel regimes, an era of missed opportunities and injury-plagued monstrosities. Fortunately, that era looks like it will last a few more hours as I write this. It will be an interesting five months, that’s for sure. I just hope the clueless Wilpons make the right choice and the next general manager has a much better longterm plan than “Patchwork” Omar ever did. Also hope the new manager can light a fire under these players. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a fiery guy, but I’d like to see them go that route after the laid-back regimes of Art Howe, Willie Randolph and Manuel (although looking back, Willie doesn’t seem so bad compared to the other two). I don’t think the team should go after too many pricey free agents, as that hasn’t really helped the team the last few years. They need to construct a roster much better than they have, and with Omar gone, I believe they can do that. In my estimation, Omar’s main weakness was the tendency to look at the main problem the team had the year before and address that one area with a free agent signing or trade. After the 2008 debacle, he went after bullpen upgrades, bringing in KO-Rod and J.J. Putz. Last year, with the power outage during the first year at CitiField, he went for a power hitter (in theory anyway) in Jason Bay. The last few years, he neglected the bench for the most part, or signed useless guys like Alex Cora to guaranteed deals when they could have had better players for a similar price. And while Omar has generally done a nice job with his minor-league contracts (R.A. Dickey, Hisanori Takahashi), he canceled those thrifty moves out by signing Kelvim Escobar (his right arm held together by duct tape and rubber bands) to guaranteed money. In general, I just want to see the team make sound decisions again. Enough of the terrible, longterm signings like Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, who weren’t that great to begin with, especially for the money and years Omar gave them. A new general manager doesn’t have to be perfect, just much better than shortsighted Omar. And so the offseason begins for Mets fans. Sure, there is playoff baseball to be played and I’ll watch with a passing interest (especially to root against the hated Phillies), but I’ll have that empty feeling of not being able to follow Mets games until next spring. Hopefully, the product is more exciting than the one we’ve had to endure the last two years.

COMING UP: My postseason report cards (Two guys will get A’s, guess which ones)