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 06/30/2013 – The 5th Quarter

Hosted by Jake Brown and Andrew Fertitta. Topics on the show included thoughts on the Aaron Hernandez situation, the Nets big trade, the A-Rod/Cashman fiasco, Mets manager Terry Collins and more.


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 Harvey Brings Hope to Mets Future

Mets young phenom Matt Harvey. Photo by Rob Kowal.

It has been a rough second half of the season for the New York Mets. The Mets were 45-38 and in the National League Wild Card lead the day after the 4th of July. The day after the 11th anniversary of 9/11, the Mets record is 65-78. They are 10.5 games back of an NL Wild Card spot and an astounding 24 games out of first place in the NL East.

It has been a disastrous second half once again for Terry Collins’ squad. The Mets have not made the playoffs since 2006 and have yet to finish at .500 since Citi Field opened its doors in 2009. Despite the second half struggles, Terry Collins has hope for the future. The future begins with the Mets starting rotation, which is expected to be their biggest strength next season and down the road. Collins is ready for what the future holds in the Mets rotation.

“If you’re going to build a winner, you got to start on the mound. You look at what Matt’s going to bring to the table. You still got Jon Niese and you got Wheeler coming. You got power arms in the pen. You got R.A. Dickey’s got pitching in him left. Dillon Gee will be back. There’s a bright future because our pitching is going to improve. I really think our pitching is going to be very, very dynamic here in a couple of years.”

Wednesday night at Citi Field, Matt Harvey continued to show that he is ready to be a major part of this Mets starting rotation for years to come. Harvey struck out ten batters while only allowing one run against the first place Nationals. It was Harvey’s second to last start of the season as the Mets will be shutting him down after his next start. Harvey has posted a 2.92 ERA to go with 63 strikeouts in 52.1 innings so far in his rookie season. Collins praised his young pitcher to reporters following the 2-0 Mets loss to the Nationals Wednesday night.

“This is where he belongs. This is where he wants to be and he’s out because of that tremendous makeup. He’s going to show people that he is the guy, that he does belong here, and that he does have the stuff to be the guy. As he said when he first got here, I don’t want to be just a guy, I want to be the guy. I think we’ve all witnessed he certainly has that capability.”

If the Mets want to win a division title in 2013 for the first time since 2006, it has to start with their pitching. Collins spoke about the success of division foes due to a strong rotation.

“As long as you got those core guys getting people out. We’re seeing it in Washington. We’re seeing it in Philadelphia. We’re seeing it in a lot of places where pitching is your team. I tip my hat to the people that have gone out and acquired some pitching.”

 Mets’ Midterm Marks – “B” Happy

No final grades as yet. We’re only halfway through the season. The Mid-Summer Classic is in the offing, and we still have three solid months of baseball to be played.

Now, about the Mets. Taking everything into consideration – the new front office, the old financials of the owners and all THAT, the introduction of a prospective new minority owner, the ridiculous design of the playing field dimensions and the injuries. Taking all these factors into consideration, to be hovering around .500 at the halfway point I’d give the club a sold ‘B” grade.

Sports Illustrated picked the Mets to be ugly this season, yet as of this writing they‘re 3rd in the NL East. Pretty respectable, considering they have the Braves and the Phillies ahead of them – both superior clubs.

With keys lost like Santana, Wright and Davis, role players like Murphy, Pridie, Turner, Tejada have plugged the holes and performed more than adequately. Carlos Beltran has played above and beyond. No one would have counted on Carlos to be in the lineup as much as he has and to make an impact daily. A most pleasant surprise! Bay? We‘ve discussed this already. He’s under achieved seriously, and although he’s shown some signs of snapping out of late, he’s got a long way to go. And the overwhelming play of Reyes. Jose is having an MVP-type season. Sandy Alderson has a big decision to make on whether he wants to re-sign Reyes, or deal him and build his money-ball club. If dealt, however, he’ll never receive equal value or replace what Jose brings to the lineup. Right now he’s performed like he’s one of the top 5 players in the game.

Mike Pelfrey’s issues and inconsistencies are not physical I’m afraid. Chris Young loss was a big one. Capuano, Gee, Niese hqave all been solid. Dickey has been his bulldog-self. Pitching for the Amazin’s has been a pleasant surprise. K-Rod wouldn’t fit the mold of being a Mets’ closer if he didn’t make you sweat every time he appears. I’d still try to find a taker for him sooner rather than later and groom Bobby Parnell to close. Problem is there are most likely zero teams interested in Frankie.

The Mets have made do with less. There’s another factor however. The leadership. I admit I was not in favor of the hiring of Terry Collins. I felt the club needed to keep a tie to the past and make a popular choice for the new skipper, like Wally Backman. I was wrong. Terry Collins has been a GREAT hire for this club, and it’s a welcome and refreshing change from the regimes dating back numerous years. A manager who was tagged with “losing the clubhouse” in the past scared me, but this is a perfect example of a man who can learn from his experiences. Terry Collins has taken a damp sponge and parlayed it into a positive glass half-full!

Despite the injuries and the other factors, Reyes is captivating the country, Beltran’s an All-Star and Terry Collins is right for the reigns. Met fans shouldn’t “settle” and be satisfied with a .500 club, but they certainly should “B” happy with their team at the break.

 A Good Start Is Just What The Doctor Order

Yes, it’s only 4 games into the young season, but the New York Mets are off to a 3-1 start and are attempting replace all the negatives from last year with new and hopeful promises. Even though they had an Opening Day dud down in Florida against the Marlins with pseudo-Ace Mike Pelfrey giving up a grand-slam to John Buck, the Mets were able to take the last 2 games of the series with timely hitting from newcomer Willie Harris and great pitching from Jonathon Neise and R.A. Dickey. With that winning series, the Mets were able to get their 1st series win on the road out the way early. I mention this because it took the Mets in to June last season to get their 1st road series win. Automatically, it’s a better season.

If the Mets can keep up the aggressive play and good pitching, it will go a long way in turning this season into an overall positive. The Mets’ franchise has been battered and beleaguered by mismanagement that has permeated through the entire team. Not to mention the Bernie Madoff mess that overshadowed the entire offseason. So far, through 4 games, the Mets seemed to have bought in to what newcomer Terry Collins is preaching as manager.

You might have questioned some of the moves Collins has made so far. Why he pinch-hit for Josh Thole on opening day with Scott Hairston when they were down 5-2? Why Josh Thole sat last night for the lefty Cole Hamels? Terry Collins has a prerogative to not only get all of his players some at bats early on but also to find out what his players can do in certain situations. Granted, Thole is considered your everyday catcher and, at 24 years old, he should be getting all the at-bats he can. However, Collins has a plan and with the early returns positive, you can’t question it excessively.

I’m not saying the Mets are going to win the World Series because they’ve won 3 of 4. I’m not saying that by the end of the month they’ll even be .500. What I am saying is for a team that was picked by most experts to be horrid this season, to be in one way or another a joke around MLB, they have come out of the gate strong and are playing the way you would want them to. And, if they can maintain it, the loyal Mets fan base will have something to cheer about this season.

 Are Luis Castillo’s Cries of Unfair Treatment Justified?

Photo by Keith Allison

By now, every Mets fan knows that the team cut Luis Castillo free yesterday, parting with the past-his-prime second baseman with one year and $6 million left on a four-year deal that was a disaster from the minute it was announced in November of 2007.

The move doesn’t catch anyone by surprise. Castillo’s fate was written on the wall as soon as Sandy Alderson stepped in the door in November.  His injury-plagued 2010 certainly didn’t help his cause; had he recorded enough at-bats to qualify for the OPS leaders a year ago, his .604 clip would have been the second-lowest in the major leagues, ahead of only Cesar Izturis.

Castillo will likely be chided by fans and media alike for his last words to the Mets upon getting his release. According to Newsday, he told manager Terry Collins that he felt like he didn’t get a fair crack in the team’s five-headed second base competition. “I said, ‘I came here to play and you didn’t give me the chance,’ ” he told Newsday’s David Lennon. ” ‘You didn’t use me.’ ”

On the surface, Castillo doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on (and no, that’s not a crack at his bad knees). The Mets paid him to play poorly for them for two of the past three years (it’s easy to forget, but he hit .302 in 580 at-bats with an on-base percentage of .387 in 2009, when he stayed healthy). They watched as the All-Star attributes he demonstrated with Florida vanished. His range in the field evaporated, his speed was sapped from him, and his .320 averages started dipping south of .250, magnifying his biggest flaw (a lack of any power whatsoever) even further in the process.

Yes, it’s hard to imagine that any of the parties involved (including Castillo) expected him to win the second-base competition. And Castillo’s 29-at-bat spring training sample showed more of the same: a .289 average, no power, and suspect fielding. When you can’t beat out players like Luis Hernandez and Brad Emaus for a starting job, you are best served elsewhere.

But consider this: Instead of Castillo saying “I didn’t get a fair shot” with the Mets, does he mean that he didn’t get a fair shot anywhere to earn a roster spot? It’s clear he wasn’t going to earn it here unless he put up Ty Cobb-like spring numbers at the plate and looked like Ozzie Smith in the field, all within a tiny sample size. Castillo might have been saying that the Mets should have cut him sooner rather than later, allowing him to look for a job elsewhere.

It certainly would’ve made sense from the Mets perspective. They would have avoided the headache of having Omar Minaya’s two albatrosses (Castillo and Oliver Perez) taking up roster space in camp. And Castillo would have had a chance to give a new organization a fresh look at him for a cheap price. Now, Castillo will likely have to start the regular season in the minors so whatever team he latches on to can go through that evaluation process.

Some might say things like “tough”, “it isn’t like Castillo isn’t getting paid”, and “he sucks”. These are all fair points, and the Mets certainly had every right to hold Castillo to his contract. It just seemed rather pointless. It’s possible that the Mets’ financial troubles forced them to hold him into spring training until they could find the money to buy him out, but otherwise, it made more sense to cut the cord and bury the cost to avoid the subsequent media distractions that followed.

One thing’s for sure, and that’s that Castillo will not be missed by Mets fans. He, along with Perez, were vilified by the fan base, frequently pointed to as scapegoats for the team’s problems. Make no mistake, they were terrible investments from Minaya. (This writer sensed that both would be from day one.) Castillo’s scapegoat status was larger, perhaps, because of the way a Mets-Yankees game ended on June 12, 2009, which overshadowed what was actually a decent. (Perez, remember, kept the Mets in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, and put together a decent 2008, so Mets fans had an easier time accessing positives before he signed his new deal.)

But Castillo should not be met with as much disdain as Perez. Perez was audacious enough to frequently rebuff requests from the Mets to figure out whatever mysterious problems ail him in the minor leagues last season. We have no reason to believe that Castillo would have refused such a request, as it was never posed. And Perez’s career went into the tank as soon as he inked his contract. Castillo still put together one decent season at the plate, at least.

Castillo’s situation reminds me a lot of Rick Dipietro’s with the New York Islanders. They both were offered bad contracts; it’s not their fault they signed them. They both proceeded to suffer recurring injury problems, problems that their respective teams had ample warning about before said contracts were offered. It was no surprise, then, that they were unable to live up to the terms of the contract. Perhaps they failed more spectacularly than anyone expected, but at least they tried to fulfill their deals to the best of their ability. The same cannot be said for Perez, although the warning signs were there, too.

Regardless, Luis Castillo’s era in New York is over. He will be the next in a long line of failed big-money acquisitions in this organization, alongside the Roberto Alomars, Bobby Bonillas (twice), and (soon-to-be) Oliver Perezes of the world. The bad will greatly outshine the good, as it should, and Mets fans will be stuck with another player to try to forget.

It just didn’t have to last as long as it did.

 Mets Issues Could Overshadow 2011 Season

**This was an essay I submitted to the MLB Dream Job contest and figured I’d share with you.**

The biggest storyline for the 2011 MLB season could be the Mets and the Wilpon’s status with the team following the news of their involvement in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and the lawsuit administered by the trustee of Bernie Madoff seeking upwards of 1 billion dollars.

Since the news broke about the Wilpon’s, the topic has been discussed incessantly on NY sports talk radio stations, which means it’s on people’s minds.  The audacity of the allegations, claiming the Wilpon’s “should have known” Madoff was a fraud, has captivated listeners, who have also conjured up their own defenses in the process. With the case not anywhere close to being settled, you can expect more and more coverage and discussion as the months progress.

It’s a big storyline for baseball considering the market its taking place in. Having a New York team under public scrutiny and the possibility of the owners having to sell the team casts a dark cloud not only over Major League Baseball but over one of the biggest and most popular cities in all of sports.

The Wilpon’s have already sought minority owners, wiling to hand over 25 percent ownership in exchange for silent money. An investment group led by Martin Luther King III publicly admitted interest in the Mets, but only if it was more than a 50 percent stake. What’s more, looking at some of the names that have expressed interest such as Mark Cuban and even Donald Trump, it’s very unlikely any partner they bring in would want to be silent.

All of the off-field distractions could be a further detriment to a Mets team that has experienced quite enough heartache recently. The Mets, under constant ire from the fan base and the media, struggled with historic, late-September collapses, questionable free agent signings of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, domestic issues with closer Francisco Rodriguez that led to a subsequent arrest, as well is organizational issues with management of player injuries.

During the offseason, Mets ownership decided the team needed new voices and a clear-cut plan that would ensure sustainable growth and success. Sandy Alderson, the proponent of “Money Ball” during his tenure with the Oakland A’s, has replaced Omar Minaya. Terry Collins, having gone 11 years since his last managerial job, replaced Jerry Manuel. A new mindset and new voice has been instilled in a Mets team that desperately needs new direction.

It should be a very interesting season in the Big Apple. A season that could bring monumental changes if things don’t work out for the better.

 Prediciting How Many Games the Mets Will Win in ‘11?

As of right now, I’ll put the Mets at 85 wins for the upcoming season.

That win total puts them in contention to compete for the Wild Card, which could mean for an exciting September at Citi Field.

I honestly think that is a realistic goal for this team. The bar isn’t set too high nor is it set too low.

Obviously, so many questions have yet to be answered as we are still a couple of weeks away from Spring Training, but when you look at this club, 85 wins is achievable, I believe.

Looking at the potential make up of this year’s ball club there should be reason to believe. Yes, I know many fans are disappointed that new GM Sandy Alderson didn’t break the bank and make a splash this off season, but you know what, I think the Mets have enough talent to contend.

The Mets have a young core of players who should continue to make strides in developing this season. Many players are in walk year of their contracts such as Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, which will provide extra motivation on top of what manager Terry Collins has or will tell the media. Jason Bay has something to prove after a disappointing first year in Queens. Free-agent pitchers Chris Young and Chris Capuano, who were brought in on one-year, incentive based deals, will be pitching for big pay days. Plus, one major area Sandy Alderson has addressed this off season was depth, which would play a big dividend in the team’s success in 2011.

I understand a lot of things have to go the Mets way in order to be successful this season, but with the new management present, things are only going to look up for Mets fans to believe once again. This season should be no different.

 11/28/2010 – SPORTSTALK1240

Hosted by Brandon Contes. Guests included Matt Cerrone from metsblog.com. Topics on the show  included the Mets hiring of manager Terry Collins, the Derek Jeter contract situation, and the days NFL games.

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 Right Call with Collins

I admit, Wally Backman was my top choice to be the next Mets manager.  He was a championship Met, is fiery and had success at Brooklyn this year.  However, when Terry Collins was named manager, I applauded the decision.  Here is why:

Watching his press conference, I saw something I had not seen with this team since Bobby V, a manager with energy. Collins was full of it and still managed to maintain a thick skin, a good combo to have in this very tough sports market.

The most important part of the Collins hiring is his familiarity with the Mets minor league system.  Collins was their field coordinator last year and became familiar with the teams younger players.  He knows Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Nick Evans, Ruben Tejada, and Lucas Duda.  Most if not all of those players will figure into the 2011 big picture.  Another reason the Collins hire works is because new GM Sandy Alderson went on record and said the Mets do not have much flexibility with their payroll this season.  Reading between the lines, if improvements or replacements need to be made with this team for the upcoming season, then they will have to come from within. Who better to get insight on these decisions from, then the man who oversaw all these players, Terry Collins.

If Carlos Beltran or  Angel Pagan goes down for a long period of time with an injury and it comes down to making a trade or bringing up lets say Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Sean Ratliff, Collins will be able to determine the readiness of each player and how they might fit on the team.  Even if Mets management decides to recruit via trade, Collins can help assess a trade proposal by providing the most accurate analysis possible, observation.

Collins has previous MLB managerial experience, more than all of the other serious candidates combined.  In 6 seasons as manager, Collins has had five winnings seasons with an overall winning percentage of .506 and an overall record of 444-434.  He’s not exactly Connie Mack, but he is certainly consistent.  Collins has yet to manage in the 21st century, so his adapting to today’s game will be an intriguing process.  Collins vowed to bring fundamentals and execution to the 2011 Mets.  He also stressed strong and aggressive  base running.  He did not rule out the Mets competing this year.  I like what I have heard so far.  I hope the call to go with Terry Collins as manager is the right one.

 11/21/2010 – NY Baseball Digest

Mike Silva hosts. Guests will include Ray Kluever, professional baseball umpire for 11 seasons from 1979-1989, who shared stories from behind the mask. NYBD contributors were also on to talk about the Mets managerial search, Derek Jeter’s contract, and other New York Hot Stove news.

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