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Deadline Decisions

Will they or won’t they? That is the question on every Mets mind for the next few weeks. Sure the All-Star game is tonight, and that will be exciting, but when the guys playing the game don’t care to show up, I doubt it’s that prevalent in many fans minds. (Don’t get me wrong I love the All-Star game. I mean I already have my Mets jersey and hat on to cheer on our lone representative, Carlos Beltran. Ironic since it seems like he is one of the leading candidates to get traded in the next couple of weeks)

No, what’s on most fans minds is what management plans on doing during the trade deadline.

At the start of the second half the Mets go up against the Phillies, Cardinals and Marlins before anyone (Reyes, Ike, Wright) comes off the DL. Those teams include a team with the best record in baseball, two division leaders, and combine for a record of 149-125 (.544%). At the end of the week they could easily find themselves below .500 and essentially out of the wild card chase.

That gives Alderson a week to decide if he is going to trade Beltran, K-Rod, Isringhausen or Byrdak. (I didn’t mention Reyes because I can’t envision a scenario where they trade him)

So let’s play GM and try to answer this question.

K-Rod is the most likely to go because he has value and because the Mets don’t want to pay him $17.5 million next season. The interesting thing with K-Rod is, even though he is an extremely talented closer, the Mets probably won’t get much in return for him. Instead, the big reward will be the money the Mets save next season. I would say K-Rod goes regardless of the Mets position in the Wild Card race, and unless the trading team also wants Isringhausen or Byrdak back, I can’t see the Mets getting anything significant back.

The two relievers by themselves would probably bring back minimal returns as well.

This leaves us with the most interesting case of all: Carlos Beltran. Beltran cannot be given arbitration and so the Mets will get no compensation if he leaves as a free agent. He is due around 6-7 million for the rest of the season and has a no trade clause. Both of those things make it tough for the Mets to move him. Right now the talk is the Mets would receive a low-level prospect for Beltran.

What to do, what to do…

Don’t trade him. I understand saving the money could help with next season’s payroll. I don’t see it helping that much. As of now reports claim the payroll won’t be more than $120 million. Is it going to be less if they don’t trade Beltran? Furthermore I can’t stomach another salary dump. Two seasons ago, the Mets traded Billy Wagner when he returned from the disabled list to the Red Sox for essentially nothing. The move saved the team about $3 million. That offseason Wagner was a type A free agent, the Red Sox offered him arbitration and the Braves signed him.

A lot of the trade talk surrounding Beltran has the Mets eating a significant amount of his salary. If that is the case I obviously can’t call it a salary dump. What I don’t understand is how the Mets wouldn’t receive adequate compensation for trading away a player that is STARTING in the All-Star game, AND due only a small portion of his salary.

Yes, he would be a rental player, but so is almost every other player traded at the deadline. How many teams trade a player that is locked up at a reasonable price for several years? The Cardinals traded a ransom for Matt Holliday in his last year, and that was during a dreadful season from the All-Star. Yes, they were able to re-sign him in the offseason, but there was no guarantee of that.

What I’m trying to say is, Beltran could significantly help a contender’s chances. If the Mets can’t get proper compensation for him, they should keep him. (I just don’t understand how Beltran would land nothing, when the Mets were asked for prospects Ike Davis and Jon Niese for players like Xavier Nady, and Damaso Marte at trade deadlines in the past)

While it remains unlikely the Mets will make the postseason, it is still fun to watch this team. Beltran has been one of my favorite players since the team signed him, and I’d love the chance to watch him for a few more months.

More importantly, with the size of Beltran’s contract, the Mets could always trade him after the deadline as he is sure to make it through waivers. That way they can see if maybe they have a run in them, or wait out a desperate team. Perhaps a contender has a big injury and needs to replace the bat in the lineup. Beltran would be, by far, the best option out there. Hopefully that would lead to a better deal for the Mets.

Another possibility I’ve been thinking of is re-signing Beltran. It might be a long shot, but if Beltran would sign for cheap, he could be a good piece. I wouldn’t sign him and expect him to be the full-time starter, but bringing him back as one of several outfield options would be great.

I say one of several because I am still weary of his knees. I was not a fan of relying on Delgado at such an important position in 2009, but if he stayed healthy, it would have been a brilliant move. If you re-sign Beltran, but have other options in the fold, it is a brilliant move. Having a healthy Beltran in right field would do wonders for the Mets next season, and there is less of a chance he gets re-signed if he is traded this season.

So I guess, my decision as GM would be, trade K-Rod if you can, and hold on to Beltran unless there is an offer that blows you away.

Bay is Back

I know I am a little late to post about this, but I promise I’m not just joining the bandwagon.

Anyway, since being benched for two straight days, Jason Bay has been on a tear. He is hitting .347 with four home runs and 17 rbi’s in 18 games. (thank you SNY for doing that math for me ; – ) )

I have been waiting for this day (stretch?) since the day we signed him, and, as much as I can’t prove it, I’ve continued to expect it to happen since the day we signed him. I know he has been awful for the Mets, but you don’t just forget how to play baseball. How often does a player go from career averages of 20+ home runs and a .270 average, to 6 home runs and a .210 average? Maybe, just maybe, at the twilight of your career, but not at the age of 31.

After his first dreadful season, I thought of David Wright. In his first season in Citi Field he failed to hit double digit home runs. It seemed the ballpark got in his head. The following season, David fixed the problem and returned to being the type of hitter we expect him to be. Was it that far-fetched that a guy who just signed a big contract for a team in a big market was having the same struggles? This season Bay started out poorly again, but the guy was coming off a rib injury to start the season, and after struggling early, started to come apart at the seams. He was playing poorly, and with all the attention he was getting, he was pressing to break out.

After a particularly poor stretch Collins decided to sit him down. This move received a lot of scrutiny, but I didn’t think it was a bad idea. When all you’re doing is thinking about ways to adjust your swing, sometimes just forgetting about it is the best idea. (It’s similar to those times you lose track of your conversation. When you actively try to remember what you were going to say, it never comes to you. When you finally forget about it and move on, you suddenly remember) I was hoping this could apply to Bay. So far, it looks like it is paying off.

With his recent success (I understand 20 games is a small sample size with 162 games in a season, but he has never had this kind of stretch for the Mets. Think about it: 4 home runs in 20 games, as opposed to 8 in the other 135 games he has played in) I began to think of Carlos Delgado. Remember him? After a good 2006 season, Delgado was flat out terrible. He continued this poor play and power outage until the middle of the 2008 season. At that point he went wild. In the second half of the season he hit close to .400 and hit a home run every other day. (Ok that was an exaggeration…but it felt like that. Every time we needed a big hit, he came through. Part of me wonders if he had to sell his soul for that type of production, or at least the rest of his baseball career. The following season he got hurt early and hasn’t made it back to the majors.) He almost got the Mets into the playoffs that season by himself. So if Delgado could have that type of turnaround, maybe Bay can too.  Let’s just hope his career doesn’t end next season.

If Bay can continue to produce at this level, the Mets could climb back in this race. I don’t think this is ridiculous to expect either. It might be a small sample size, but this streak isn’t all about luck. He clearly looks more confident at the plate. He isn’t rushing his swing, and is staying strong on his back leg. I feel the only reason I refuse to state he has turned it around is I’m afraid to jinx it. That and the Mets have a nasty habit of messing things up just as you start to believe in them. (maybe I should learn from this and refuse to believe in them no matter how well they do. Even if they are 7 games up with 17 left to play, I should just refuse to believe they’ll make the playoffs)

I understand the Mets are teetering around .500 and that screams mediocrity, but after that terrible 5-13 stretch to start the season, they have gone 39-29, posting a winning record in both May and June. That is with Bay doing nothing, and Wright, Davis and Santana on the DL. The Mets are in the top 3 in almost every offensive category, with the big exceptions being home runs and total runs. With the possibility of Wright and Bay adding more pop, the Mets are likely to see vast improvements in both categories. Who knows, we might get lucky for the first time since ’69 and have Davis come back this season too.

Perhaps all of this is a little too optimistic for 20 good games from one player, but the team has given me reason to hope. For the first time in a while they are playing the game the right way. They are taking the extra base, coming back late in games, getting two out hits, working the count in their favor. It pains me to know that despite all of that, they might not have the talent to make the playoffs. I’m not a real religious person, but for some reason I’m a believer in sports karma. I just feel a team that plays the game right should make the playoffs.

On to Baseball

With the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup, hockey has come to a close. All that is left standing is baseball, so until September or, if the NFL lockout continues, October (yay hockey! good thing you already got your annoying lockout out of the way!) there is only one sport left to watch. Let us all be thankful it is played almost every day.

Perhaps what is most fitting, is the day hockey ends the Mets have reached .500 for the first time in a while. Yes, the Yanks had themselves quite a day as well, but winning isn’t really new to this club. Why don’t we give some much deserved attention to the Mets today, as they have made themselves relevant for probably the first time since 2006. (I know, I know. They were relevant in 2007, 2008 and yes I’ll give them up until June of last season as well)

At the start of the season, I used to joke with a few of my buddies that whenever the Mets were tied they were losing. A one-run lead might as well have been a tie, and if they were losing it was hopeless. Now, I don’t feel that way anymore. If they are within two runs prior to the eighth inning I believe they can pull out a win. Crazy optimism for a team that just reached .500 and can’t even hit a home run during batting practice in Yankee Stadium. Especially when you consider two of their best offensive players (David Wright and Ike Davis) are currently on the DL and, with the Mets’ injury history, might stay there all season.

I don’t know exactly what has changed about these guys, but they have a swagger and a confidence I haven’t seen since April of 2007. I guess some of that credit has to go to Terry Collins. This next line has been repeated a lot by people covering the Mets so I am sorry for repeating it but: He might not be the best in-game manager, but he has kept the players accountable, and has kept them playing hard, while in previous years the players might fold with such important players on the DL. Another factor that is clearly helping the team is the play of the young guys. Gee, Niese, Turner, Murphy, Tejada, and even Pridie have been great. They have been playing so well I almost don’t want David Wright, Johan Santana and Ike Davis to come back. (I can’t stress the almost enough. I am beyond thrilled with the way these guys have played, but I am not crazy or optimistic enough to believe that this is going to continue all season.)

I doubt the team can catch the Phillies this season, but the Wild Card is not out of the question. I am not crazy enough to predict them actually winning it, but with their recent play they at least have me believing it is a possibility. For a sport that has 162 games, that is extremely important. I love baseball, but it is easily the most painful sport for the simple fact that your team can be eliminated at the end of June, and you still have 3 more months with nothing else to watch but your sorry excuse for a team. Staying relevant till football or hockey starts is awesome. Yankee fans, you might not know this, but it is 100% true. Especially if you are a dedicated (and probably stupid) enough fan to watch all the games even though you know there is no point.

Returning back to today’s game, it was awesome getting to .500 beating the Braves in Turner Field to secure a series victory. At the end of the game, when they said
that this was the first time the Mets have taken the first two games of a series from the Braves at Turner Field since… my mind went racing. I started to wonder if I was even born the last time it happened. I’m joking, but it really seemed like forever ago. The Braves have just absolutely owned the Mets in my lifetime, and at Turner Field it isn’t even a contest. When they finally gave the answer as May 2009 I was in shock. I know that is a long time ago, but it just seemed too soon. I’m conditioned to expect a loss when the Mets go to Turner Field. How in the world did they get two straight wins there as early as 2009?

On a side note: how insanely awesome was that lightning? When they showed us that clip I was mesmerized. In fact, I was almost upset they went back to the game. Honestly, during the rain delay, I would have much rather have watched that than the analysis they were giving us. Hell, I would have rather watched that than the Stanley Cup Finals game. I love game 7’s, but when the score is 4-0 and I don’t care about either team, the game becomes increasingly less exciting every second.

Anyway, tomorrow they play the final game of their road trip with a chance to sweep the Braves. I wonder if SNY will tell us the last time that happened at Turner Field if the Mets win. (I’m gonna guess sometime in 1989) With the way the Mets have been playing I really think they have a chance to win tomorrow and avoid falling back below .500. I guess the most important thing about this is: I am actually excited about the game tomorrow. Not interested, not obligated to watch, but excited. That is why, no matter how awful things get, I will always love baseball and sports as a whole. When you get excited about your team, there is no better feeling. NONE.

Musing Martinez

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York has it on the authority of “organizational sources” that Fernando Martinez, the Mets one-time top prospect and former Teenage Hitting Machine, is waiting in the wings in Denver in case banged-up Ike Davis needs a DL stint.

Ostensibly, there’s not much news here. If Ike stays healthy, Martinez, who has hit to a tune of .292 in Buffalo so far, can easily be shipped back to the North Country. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.

Even if Ike avoids the Disabled List for his strained calf/balky ankle sustained from carrying the weight of the Mets’ offense colliding with David Wright on Tuesday, Martinez is a viable option to replace a struggling Willie Harris on the Mets abysmal bench. Harris, who has struggled mightily in the past month, is easily replaced by Jason Pridie’s surprising power and ability to play center (in a very small sample-size, of course). Although Terry Collins may be hesitant to shift Carlos Beltran back to center field, Martinez could slide easily into right field with regular at-bats. Pridie can be moved to the bench, and theoretically be protected from being over-exposed too fast. With a Mets’ regime trying to squeeze every bit of value from its assets (something the Minaya/Manuel duo seemed loathe to do), limiting Pridie’s at-bats may transform him into a more-valuable Willie Harris off the bench, at least for the short term.

If Davis is inevitably disabled, Martinez, who can fill in at first in a pinch, can push Daniel Murphy back to second if Justin Turner doesn’t match up well against that day’s starter. Turner returns to the bench, Beltran to right, Pridie to center. Although providing roster flexibility is not (and certainly was not) the ideal role for Martinez, any major league at-bats are a precious commodity for the oft-hurt outfielder. With Angel Pagan still out indefinitely, roster creativity remains the Mets’ best bet to, at the least, sustain their current level of outfield production.

That is, unless Martinez suddenly is adopt the moniker of the  “22 Year-Old Hitting Machine.”

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Bye bye bye

Via ESPN

Left-hander Oliver Perez is one step closer to being released by the New York Mets.

After Perez allowed three runs on four hits and two walks in three innings against the Houston Astros on Tuesday, general manager Sandy Alderson, manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen met to discuss Perez’s fate. The trio decided to move Perez from rotation consideration to the lefty-specialist competition in the bullpen, a team source said.

Happy to see this organization isn’t as delusional as the last. Perez had a great year…in 2007. Ever since he has been nothing but a headache for this team. Worse, it seems he never puts the work in to get better.

Back in 2007 he had good velocity and good movement on his pitches, so even though he was erratic he still managed to be effective. Unfortunately due to his poor work ethic, injury history, and to an extent, the WBC, Perez is not the pitcher he was. With what little he has shown during Spring Training, the sooner we get him off this team the better.

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