Will Carlos Beltran wear Mets hat when elected to Hall of Fame?

Once again Carlos Beltran is being discussed in regards to the Mets. This latest activity is due to comments that Beltran gave regarding his time with the team at a recent B.A.T. dinner. Beltran always has been a polarizing player among Mets fans and his most recent remarks have done nothing to bridge the divide between those who thought he was unappreciated and those who felt he was a choker.

I am firmly in the former camp but today I want to talk about Beltran in another manner. This offseason he signed a two-year deal with the Cardinals. If Beltran can stay healthy and produce during the span of that contract, he can strengthen what already is a solid Hall of Fame case. And barring a return to the Royals, Beltran will have spent more time with the Mets than with any other team in his career.

It’s entirely possible that 10 years are so from now that Beltran will go into Cooperstown wearing a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

For the benefit of those who feel like Beltran should not enter the Hall without a ticket, let’s look at his Hall of Fame resume. He’s a Rookie of the Year Award winner, a six-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and his 88 percent lifetime Stolen Base percentage is one of the highest marks in MLB history. He’s been an outstanding postseason performer, with a .366/.485/.817 slash line in 101 PA.

According to Baseball-Reference, Beltran has a lifetime 60.4 WAR following last year’s 4.4 tally. There’s no hard and fast rule for lifetime WAR and the Hall of Fame but anyone who has accumulated 60 WAR certainly deserves a long look. Let’s look at the people already in the Hall who played the majority of their career in center field like Beltran did. The following list is HOF members with at least 50% of their games played in CF, sorted by WAR.

Rk Player WAR/pos From To G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG
1 Ty Cobb 159.4 1905 1928 3034 13068 11434 2246 4189 724 295 117 1938 1249 562 897 212 .366 .433 .512
2 Willie Mays 154.7 1951 1973 2992 12493 10881 2062 3283 523 140 660 1903 1464 1526 338 103 .302 .384 .557
3 Tris Speaker 133.0 1907 1928 2790 11988 10195 1882 3514 792 222 117 1529 1381 283 436 157 .345 .428 .500
4 Mickey Mantle 120.2 1951 1968 2401 9909 8102 1676 2415 344 72 536 1509 1733 1710 153 38 .298 .421 .557
5 Joe DiMaggio 83.6 1936 1951 1736 7671 6821 1390 2214 389 131 361 1537 790 369 30 9 .325 .398 .579
6 Billy Hamilton 69.6 1888 1901 1594 7608 6283 1697 2164 242 95 40 742 1189 349 914 0 .344 .455 .432
7 Duke Snider 67.5 1947 1964 2143 8237 7161 1259 2116 358 85 407 1333 971 1237 99 50 .295 .380 .540
8 Richie Ashburn 58.0 1948 1962 2189 9736 8365 1322 2574 317 109 29 586 1198 571 234 92 .308 .396 .382
9 Max Carey 50.6 1910 1929 2476 10770 9363 1545 2665 419 159 70 800 1040 695 738 109 .285 .361 .386
10 Larry Doby 47.4 1947 1959 1533 6302 5348 960 1515 243 52 253 970 871 1011 47 36 .283 .386 .490
11 Edd Roush 46.5 1913 1931 1967 8156 7363 1099 2376 339 182 68 981 484 260 268 92 .323 .369 .446
12 Earl Averill 45.0 1929 1941 1669 7215 6353 1224 2019 401 128 238 1164 774 518 70 58 .318 .395 .534
13 Kirby Puckett 44.8 1984 1995 1783 7831 7244 1071 2304 414 57 207 1085 450 965 134 76 .318 .360 .477
14 Earle Combs 44.7 1924 1935 1456 6507 5746 1186 1866 309 154 58 632 670 278 98 71 .325 .397 .462
15 Hack Wilson 39.1 1923 1934 1348 5556 4760 884 1461 266 67 244 1063 674 713 52 5 .307 .395 .545
16 Lloyd Waner 24.3 1927 1945 1993 8326 7772 1201 2459 281 118 27 598 420 173 67 0 .316 .353 .393
17 Ned Hanlon 14.5 1880 1892 1267 5563 5074 930 1317 159 79 30 517 471 357 329 0 .260 .325 .340
18 Harry Wright -0.2 1876 1877 2 7 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 .000 .000 .000
19 Jocko Conlan -0.7 1934 1935 128 417 365 55 96 18 4 0 31 33 13 5 5 .263 .328 .334
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/27/2012.

The first 16 players on this list were chosen for their playing career. Hanlon was elected as a manager, Wright made it as a pioneer/executive and Conlan’s enshrined as an umpire. Our 16 CF have the following WAR:

Avg: 74.3
Median: 54.3

The average skews high due to the inclusion of inner circle HOFers Cobb, Mays, Speaker and Mantle. If we eliminate the top four and bottom four out of our 16-player sample, our average is 58.5, which tracks nicely with our median. Beltran is already above both numbers and could finish with over 65 WAR by the time his career ends. That would put him in the range of Snider, who everyone considers a no-brainer HOF selection.

Snider was an outstanding offensive player, even taking his home ballpark into account. His last season in Ebbets Field, Snider had 40 HR and a .955 OPS as a 30 year old. The following year in LA, Snider had 15 HR and an .875 OPS. But we can see by OPS+ how great Snider was offensively, as this stat neutralizes for park and league. Here are the top 10 OPS+ numbers for Snider and Beltran:

Snider: 171, 169, 165, 155, 149, 143, 140, 139, 137, 135
Beltran 152, 150, 144, 132, 132, 129, 125, 122, 114, 109

Essentially, Snider had Beltran’s career, plus three better seasons. But it should be pointed out that Beltran is still active and his career-best 152 mark came last season. If Beltran stays healthy, he will knock the bottom two OPS+ marks off his 10-best list during his time with the Cardinals.

So, how can Beltran be so close to Snider when the Duke laps him with the bat? Because there’s more to baseball than just hitting and Beltran stars in these areas while Snider – let’s just say he was a great hitter.

We already talked about what a phenomenal baserunner Beltran has been in his career. Snider had 99 SB and 50 CS in his career, so this is a big edge for Beltran. Defensively, the Gold Glove Award was instituted during the middle of Snider’s career and he never won one. Even if it had been around his entire career, it’s unlikely he would have been a recipient. Snider has a lifetime -2.1 dWAR. Meanwhile, Beltran checks in with a 7.2 dWAR.

When defense and baserunning are important components of your Hall of Fame case, it’s always a bit more troublesome for the voters than if the great majority of your value comes as a hitter, as is the case with Snider. Beltran’s career also lacks the narrative that Snider’s has. The Duke was one of three great CF in New York during the 1950s, he hit 4 HR in the 1955 World Series and had a 1.210 OPS in the series when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees. Beltran had the monster 2004 postseason, but that ended in a loss in the NLCS.

But even if he retired today, Beltran would go down as one of the top 10 CF in MLB history.

It seems like during his inspired play last year, that more Mets fans were finally starting to give Beltran his due. There’s a good chance Beltran will reach the postseason again with the Cardinals and performing well again on the national stage will only help his case with the voters. Here’s hoping that voters recognize Beltran’s greatness with election to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and that Mets fans rejoice when he goes in with a Mets cap on his plaque.

Are Mets fans over 2006?

Carlos Beltran seems ready to move on his from his post-Mets career by writing a new chapter for himself in St. Louis.

Doesn’t it seem ironic that Beltran is ready to turn the page with a team that he is so symmetrically intertwined with? As you all are aware, it was Beltran who took a called third-strike at the end of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright (who Beltran is set to team up with this year).

Naturally, Beltran has moved on and he wants Mets’ fans to do so too, but can they?

“I’m not thinking about the fans,” Beltran told reporters at Tuesday’s Baseball Assistance Team’s annual fundraising dinner. “I’m thinking about myself. I’m thinking about my chances of being with a team that I just wanted to have the opportunity to be in the playoffs. What happened in 2006, you have to turn the page. That’s over.”

“It’s already been six years. If they want to continue to think about that moment, that’s their problem. But I turned that page. I really moved on,” Beltran added.

Beltran is right. I know have moved on, and I look back fondly on what Beltran did for this club and I won’t let one strikeout define his career with the Mets for me.

The problem was that 2006 team was special and when Beltran was caught looking for the final out, no one thought that the Mets wouldn’t get back to the playoffs. What followed was two seasons of epic collapses with many fans questioning if the core of Beltran, David Wright, and Jose Reyes were to blame. And since 2009, the Mets haven’t even sniffed the playoffs.

Wrongfully, some Mets’ fans pin too much blame on Beltran for these years of futility and dashed hopes. But Beltran has never been the problem, he was just the easy scapegoat.

Where would the Mets be without Beltran’s 149 home runs, 559 RBI’s, .280 batting average and .500 slugging percentage during his seven year campaign in Flushing? Sure, the last three years haven’t been particularly rosy, but for the better part of four years, Beltran brought the Mets to the precipice of greatness.

Now only David Wright and Mike Pelfrey (who only made four starts that year, so that hardly counts) remain from the 2006 team. Sandy Alderson has all but blown up the stench of disappointment of those years and has implemented a plan of doing things his way, albeit met with resistant malaise. After all, it was his shrewd moves that landed prized prospect Zack Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Beltran in July.

While there was no postseason glory in Beltran’s time with the Mets, Beltran gave his heart and soul to the team. Beltran was misunderstood above anything else. Sure, he didn’t have the fan-friendly appeal and charm of a Jose Reyes or carried himself off the field that the way Wright does. You can’t hold his close-to-the-vest personality against him. That’s just who he is.

A lot of fans say that for $119 million, Beltran should have been more, but when he was on the field there weren’t many more productive center fielders in the league than Beltran.

There are a lot of people to blame for the failures of the 2006 squad (take your pick of someone in the bullpen) and the disappointing teams that followed since. However, Beltran should be low in the pecking order of whom to blame.

Beltran may sound a bit harsh with his latest comments, but some people need a wake-up call and it’s time for all parties to move on. Beltran has. I suggest you do the same.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Where do Mets spend money if Jose Reyes leaves?

All Mets fans are hoping the club brings back Jose Reyes for 2012 and the rest of his career. At the same time no one should feel confident about the Mets re-signing their star shortstop. While the Mets have some money to spend this offseason, even with the well-publicized reports of a payroll significantly lower than the 2011 version, they do not have a blank checkbook.

How high and how long will Sandy Alderson be willing to go to re-up Reyes? My opinion is that the salary will be more of a sticking point than the length of the deal. While the Mets would prefer a four or five-year deal, if Reyes stands firm on a six-year deal, I see the Mets accepting those terms. But I don’t see six years (or even four) at $20 million.

Reyes might give a slight home-team discount to the Mets if they are willing to go long term. It seems that a six-year, $100 million deal might work for both sides. Reyes made $11 million this past year, and would get a roughly $6 million raise under those terms. Plus it would more than double the amount that rival shortstop Jimmy Rollins got from the Phillies. Rollins signed a five-year deal with an option and ended up making $46.5 million over the last six seasons with Philadelphia.

However, it’s all well and good to speculate about Reyes giving a home team discount but if some team comes up with sacks of money no one should blame Reyes for refusing to leave $25 million or more on the table. Few ever imagined that Jayson Werth would command $126 million last year but that’s exactly what happened.

The bottom line is that Reyes will be one of the most attractive free agents out there and the Mets could easily get outbid.

Then the question becomes: Where do the Mets spend the money they had earmarked for Reyes on instead? The immediate reaction is pitching but there are no Cliff Lee types on the market this year, unless C.C. Sabathia opts out of his deal. The top pitcher likely to be available is C.J. Wilson. Wilson has been very good the past two seasons but do the Mets want to invest a lot of money in another LHP when they already have Johan Santana and Jonathon Niese penciled in the 2012 rotation?

It seems unlikely to me that Alderson would sink a ton of money into the free agent market for starting pitching. Center field and catcher are the next two obvious choices for the Mets to spend money. But there’s no catcher worthy of a big-money deal and the best CF option is probably Coco Crisp But the soon to be 32-year old did not have a good defensive season in 2011 and his 91 OPS+ was a shade beneath the 93 OPS+ mark turned in by Angel Pagan.

Checking the list of potential free agents compiled by Cot’s there’s just not a lot of names that jump out. There are some veteran starting pitchers – Mark Buehrle, Aaron Harang, Edwin Jackson – but do you really see Alderson giving $10 million a year or more to this type of pitcher? Buehrle has earned $15 million a year or more the past five years according to FanGraphs and is coming off a four-year, $56 million contract.

After a 14-win season in 2011, Harang will not sign for anything approaching what FanGraphs suggests his true value ($2.9 million) was this past year. Jackson’s numbers indicated he’s been worth $16.3, $15.2 and $17.0 million the past three years, during which time he made $15.55 million. He figures to look to cash in on this contract. Plus, when was the last time the Cardinals acquired someone and that person turned around after performing well and left St. Louis? I’m sure it has happened but it also seems like we hear about the Matt Holliday or Jake Westbrook or Lance Berkman types a whole lot more with St. Louis than just about any other city.

Last year, the fans were disappointed but not to an extreme extent when the Mets did not dip heavily into the free agent market. But if they lose Reyes and don’t bring anyone on bigger than, say Chris Capuano, it’s hard to imagine them not getting killed in the press and on talk radio. Generally, I don’t see Alderson being swayed too much by that type of thing, but when attendance dropped this past season by an average of nearly 2,300 per game, one figures ownership will want to appear to be doing something to reverse that trend.

Could it be that Reyes’ departure might be the ticket back in town for Carlos Beltran?

Mets fans finally embraced Beltran this season and it’s not a coincidence that the team played just .423 ball (25-34) after he was traded. And what might have flied under the radar some since the Giants did not advance to the playoffs is how well Beltran played in San Francisco. After getting off to a slow start with the Giants, which included a stint on the DL, Beltran was outstanding in September. In the final month of the season, Beltran put up a .378/.434/.700 line in 99 PA.

For the season, Beltran had a .910 OPS and FanGraphs pegged his season as being worth $21.1 million. It’s unclear how many teams will be interested in Beltran this offseason but there were quite a few looking to add him as a rental during the year. It would be surprising if the Giants did not make a big play to retain him for next season and beyond.

But the offseason is the time for wishcasting and it’s still fun for me to figure out a way for Beltran to return. Of course the issue would be where he would play for the 2012 Mets? Lucas Duda appears penciled in as the team’s right fielder but it’s no secret that Duda is stretched defensively in right. Can Beltran still play CF? It’s scary to think of a defensive alignment where Jason Bay is the best fielder but it’s fun to think what the team’s lineup could be:

Tejada
Murphy
Wright
Beltran
Davis
Duda
Bay
Thole

Defense is important but we saw the Cardinals move Lance Berkman to the outfield and make the playoffs. We saw the Brewers essentially punt defense this past season and they make the playoffs, too. There’s not just one blueprint to success.

While it’s fun to think about, I believe the chances of the Mets re-signing Beltran to be in single digits, maybe five percent. But even if it’s not Beltran, the Mets need to have a contingency plan for if Reyes moves on to greener pastures.

If Reyes leaves, who do you think the Mets turn their attention to on the free agency market?

Mets’ Season Can Still Be Called A Success

I’m a fan. I’d like to think I’m a realistic, objective fan, but I know I border on being a fanboy. The Mets are my team and I root for them come hell or low wins. They say love is blind and in the world of the fanboy, it’s also deaf and dumb. I teeter back and forth between the two. In a perfect world, I’d be celebrating a virtually unbroken string of success and pennants. I would be able to start preparing for the post-season sometime shortly after the All-Star break. Then I shake my head vigorously and realize that that sort of thing only happens across town.

Do I get mad when they do something stupid? Of course. Do I rail when fundamental mistakes on the field are made? Certainly. It’s not like the Mets can do no wrong. I see the flaws. If they weren’t patently obvious from watching this team day by day, I am reminded of them ad nauseumby the MSM – no homers, not enough pitching, weak bullpen, crazy ballpark. The owners have no money and are about to lose more in a civil lawsuit. Whatever useful players they have right now, they won’t be able to pay them next year, so it will never get any better.

That’s a nice, convenient narrative for the MSM to follow. The articles practically write themselves, don’t they? I can get it, seeing as they have history on their side: the prior GM/manager combo was inarticulate and inept. They could always be counted on to do the wrong thing, and then compound the error via miscommunication. Even with the new front-office regime, the narrative has still been expected to play out by the fans and the media.

As George Gershwin so memorably told us, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

In his first six months at the helm Sandy Alderson has already earned his Houdini wings. He jettisoned Frankie Rodriguez and that ridiculous, stifling, hamstringing vest option – not to mention whatever residual off-the-field baggage might remain from last season. He turned Carlos Beltran – supremely talented, still marvelous, but aging and with slightly brittle knees — into an elite pitching prospect. Well done.

As necessary – and bordering on brilliant — as these moves might have been, the MSM is heralding them the death knell for the 2011 season. It ain’t necessarily so.

As I write this, the Mets find themselves at 54-51, fresh off a road sweep of the Cincinnati Reds. Setting aside the current standings, I figure the winner of the Wild Card will need 90 wins to reach that little slice of Nirvana. Since that dreadful 5-13 start, the Mets have gone 49-38. 11 games over .500. For 90 wins, the Mets only need to go 36-21 in their final 57 games. Fifteen games over .500.

It’s possible. It’s doable. Is it realistic? Ask the fanboy…

Our farewell to Carlos Beltran

Here at Mets360 we were all huge fans of Carlos Beltran and we thought he deserved a special send off. I asked everyone to chime in with their thoughts and here’s what he meant to us.

Charlie HangleyMeet the (new) Mets, meet the (new) Mets…

That’s what I was singing in December 2004, when Carlos Beltran hitched his wagon to this star-crossed franchise, and he vowed to lead them in “a new direction: the direction of ‘winning.’” Hard on the heels of the signing of Pedro Martinez, I could not believe this was the Mets – the pinchpenny, meek, wouldn’t-harm-a-fly, NYC joke/doormat Mets – spending money and talking big. I had a feeling of “You ARE a real boy, Pinocchio!” Together, Pedro & Carlos gave us fans a voice, relevance, a “swagger” – in the current parlance. It was too quick a seven years, and injuries and one curveball dimmed the excitement, but BOY was that swagger fun…

Mike Koehler – It hardly comes as a surprise, but Carlos Beltran is leaving Queens. A myriad of claims, quotes and hints from anonymous baseball officials during the past two weeks indicated Mets GM Sandy Alderson wouldn’t be able to get a top-level prospect like Zack Wheeler for an aging slugger with bad knees and a contract preventing arbitration offers.

But just who is Wheeler, the 21-year-old pitcher Giants fans vehemently argued would be too much for Beltran? Wheeler, born in Georgia, has spent 2011 in their Class A Advanced affiliate with mediocre numbers. He sports a 3.99 ERA with 98 strike outs and 47 walks in 88 innings. Scouting reports project his fastball – mid 90s – as a plus offering along with a fantastic curveball. He also sports a changeup still demanding a fair amount of work.

Despite pitching just one level under Double A, Wheeler is likely several years away from breaking into the big leagues. When he does, it’s not unlikely he finds success as a front-end starter, although not necessarily an ace with some of his lingering mechanical issues.

Tanya Mercado – I will go on record to say I am a fellow Puerto Rican. With a last name like Mercado, how could I not be? As such, I have never been more proud of a baseball player than I have been with Carlos Beltran with his on and off the field performance. He has exuded all of the characteristics of our people: hard working, proud yet humble, passionate, and energetic. I have watched Beltran make plays in the outfield and there is no other player out there who is as graceful or powerful as he is.

It was entertaining watching him run the bases right on the heels of Jose Reyes. It was fun watching him hit 208 doubles and 149 home runs. Did I mention the 559 RBI’s? Think of what could have been had his knees not given out. Definitely something to think about. He was great with the media always fielding questions about trade rumors and his injuries. He was always a man and never gave an excuse for failing like when he should have slid rather than just go to home plate standing. With his baseball academy in Puerto Rico, he has never forgotten where he came from, giving other young people a chance to enhance their baseball skills while continuing to strive for academic excellence. El no esta con nuestro equipo, pero siempre estara en nuestros corazones. ¡Viva Carlos Beltran!

Doug Parker – Carlos Beltran is not featured on his own rookie card. Back in 1995, Topps got his profile mixed up with light-hitting Juan LeBron, who never made it out of the minors. So Carlos appears on Juan’s rookie card, and vice versa.

And I think this is an apt metaphor for Beltran’s career with the Mets. Much like Kevin McReynolds a generation prior, you never got the sense that the Mets or their fans were quite clear on the overall concept of Carlos Beltran. Heck, when all is said and done, I don’t know if Carlos Beltran was ever clear on the overall concept of Carlos Beltran.

So farewell, Carlos– we hardly knew ye…

Dan Stack – I remember being excited the day the Mets signed Carlos Beltran. The man was coming off a ridiculous postseason run with the Astros. I figured he would be a cornerstone player for years on the Mets and that’s exactly what he was. Make no mistake about it. Beltran was an impact player in his time with the Mets. Despite some peaks and valley’s (particularly his first year with the Mets), Beltran was always a formidable force at the plate. Sure he had some flaws, but no player is without their flaws.

The one thing about Beltran that will define his legacy with me, and with many other Met fans, is the fact that he was misunderstood. Whether it was the called third strike against him that ended the 2006 NLCS or his decision to get knee surgery prior to the 2010 season without the consent of the Mets staff, he hasn’t won over too many fans. However, I will remember him for all the good he did and not the bad. Beltran was the biggest reason the Mets made the 2006 NLCS with his MVP-type season.

So long Carlos, you will be missed!

Denise Winter – While many feel that watching Beltran help the Giants win would be like sticking a knife through their very own heart, others feel that it wouldn’t matter either way. And the truth of the matter is that Beltran will be a rental player for two months. After the season, he is free to go play anywhere he wants, including back to the Mets, if they both so desire.

So why not get the best possible in return for him – no matter where it’s from – while you can? Trading him at this point is not giving up on the season. The season was over a long time ago. Instead, why not wish him well and enjoy his success with a winning team, if that should end up being the case?

Brian Joura – I was one of the people that Mike mentioned above, one who thought that the Mets would be unable to get much more than a “C-level” prospect for Beltran. I was wrong. But I think that people are being a little too excited about Wheeler. Is he a good prospect – absolutely. He’s a top draft pick with a great arm. But he’s also got some serious control issues. This year he has a 4.81 BB/9 which is really not good. J.A. Happ has a 4.81 BB/9 in the majors this year (the worst mark among qualified starters) and he has a 6.12 ERA.

To be fair, Wheeler has made progress with his walks. In 2010 he had a 5.83 BB/9 in his debut season in pro ball. But he needs at least two more years in the minors, with similar-type improvements in his control, before we can think about him being with the Mets. I think he’s a “B-level” prospect.

As for Beltran, I’ve already written a ton about him this year. I’ve been on record as saying he was never appreciated, that he ranks with Darryl Strawberry as the top hitters in production for the Mets in their 50-year history. He had an outstanding half-season for the Mets here in 2011 and I’m rooting like anything for the Peppermint Patty plan to take place.

Thanks for everything Mr. Beltran.

Trade Deadline Finds the Mets In An Unfamiliar Position

As we rapidly approach 2011’s edition of the dreaded “Trading Deadline” (cue dramatic organ music: DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUUNNNNNH…!), the Mets are in a situation they haven’t been in since at least 2004: being courted.

It only makes sense that Carlos Beltran will be traded in-season. The logical, clear-cut, business and baseball reasons have been enumerated since last year’s winter meetings: expiring contract and the impending free agency that goes along with it, an idiotic clause in the contract wherein Beltran cannot be offered arbitration and so the team that hold that contract cannot receive any compensatory draft pick if/when he signs elsewhere and a limited budget – he said politely – on the Mets’ side, so that signing him to an extension hasn’t even entered into the discussion. So it has been known far and wide in baseball and media circles that Mr. Carlos Beltran is on the trading block and most available.

With common knowledge being what it is, the Mets are now the handsome high-school quarterback a month before the Sadie Hawkins dance. Teams seem to be lining up in front of Sandy Alderson’s office, shouting “Pick ME! Pick ME!” Alderson now gets to play Monty Hall in this high-stakes game of “Let’s Make A Deal.” He’s been sifting through the offers with a fine-tooth comb, weighing the pros and cons of each. The MSM is beside itself with speculation as to who the “leading” candidate is to land Beltran: the Phillies, the Giants, the Rangers, the Braves, the Yankees, the Nippon Ham Fighters – ha! Just seeing if you were paying attention – have all been rumored to be at the head of the line in bidding for Beltran’s services. Then we hear that the Phillies have dropped out, or that they’re back in. We’ve also heard that Alderson’s price is too high, or that it isn’t high enough. Or that the Mets are getting Victor Zambrano and Ollie Perez back…

Wherever Alderson’s gaze settles, we fans will have to be satisfied with the ol’ standby “Hope-for-the-future” scenario, while losing a splendid ballplayer, who gave most of us thrill after thrill for the past six-and-a-half season. It’s unfortunate that his time in New York will always be stained by a killer Adam Wainwright curveball, but Carlos Beltran was one of the top-five position players in the history of the franchise. Many of us up in the grandstand may have lost sight of that amid the injuries and the bleating about the impending trade, but as the song says, “We gonna miss ‘im when he’s gone…”

Carlos Beltran and the Peppermint Patty plan

Surely I cannot be the only one checking MetsBlog five times a day to see if Carlos Beltran has been traded yet. I don’t want him to be dealt but it’s hard to imagine a scenario right now where he’s not flipped to another team.

We all know that Sandy Alderson was brought in to be the adult in the room and it’s his job to make the unpopular decisions that are in the long-range best interests of the club. While trading Beltran may be unpopular only in my mind, I at least try to content myself with this version of events.

If the Mets end up getting Domonic Brown from the Phillies or Mike Minor from the Braves or Zack Wheeler from the Giants that will be a nice haul and a feather in Alderson’s cap. Originally I believed that concerns over Beltran’s age and durability, along with his contract clause stating his team could not offer him arbitration would significantly limit his trade value. However, the sheer number of teams kicking the tires on him indicates a bidding war is likely, which will drive up the price.

I would still be surprised if Alderson can snag an “A-level” prospect for two-months of Beltran. But then again, who saw Kazmir for Zambrano? The Mets’ chances of pulling off a heist like this seem better now than at any time since the early Frank Cashen days. Generally, I don’t think it’s wise to ask for the moon in a deal, but when you have a half dozen or more teams asking about the same guy, this seems like the time to be bold.

Now, I have a new way I want the Beltran saga to play out, one which I affectionately call the Peppermint Patty plan.

There was a story line in Peanuts where Charlie Brown was going to improve his team by trading his best player to Peppermint Patty in return for five players. Now, Chuck’s best player was Snoopy. Leaving aside the ethical questions about trading your dog, the interesting part about this was from Peppermint Patty’s team.

The five players she was going to trade for Snoopy were never going to play for Charlie Brown’s team. Instead, they were going to “retire” rather than play for the worst team in sandlot history. Only they weren’t really going to retire, they were going to re-join Peppermint Patty’s team. The rest of Chuck’s team finds out about the proposed trade and forces him to cancel the deal.

Back in real life, we find out that Beltran’s new agent – Scott Boras – claims that the veteran outfielder would be open to returning to the Mets as a free agent, even if they dealt him during the regular season. Wouldn’t that be the best of both worlds? The Mets get a chip or two to bolster their farm system and also bring back Beltran for 2012.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario better than Carlos Beltran batting third for the Mets in 2012 and Wheeler pitching Opening Day for Binghamton in Double-A. Because Beltran has come back to be a force for the club in 2011, it’s no longer completely unrealistic to contemplate him coming back in 2012. If he’s willing to come back on a two or possible even three-year deal for less money than the $18 million or so he made in 2011, it would be great to see him back in Queens.

According to FanGraphs, Beltran has already produced $17.4 million worth of value in 2011. Due to age and injury concerns, he should get less than this in free agency. Would Alderson pull the trigger on bringing Beltran back on a two-year, $28-million contract? Will Boras be able to get him an even better deal?

However, that’s putting the cart before the horse. The first part of the Peppermint Patty plan is to trade him for prospects. It will still be tough to see him go and show up against the Mets playing for another team. But as long as there’s hope for him returning in 2012, there’s a reason not to be too depressed about a deal.

Citi Night: A Met Game Odyssey – Part The Second

When I left you last time , faithful reader, I had just sworn off buying Met tickets. You may recall, I was in high dudgeon, brimming with moral outrage and righteous wrath. I vowed that my own personal boycott would force the House of Wilpon to revamp the front office, which would turn out a better on-field product, which would make a ticket purchase sensible again – i.e.: get me a shot at the post-season again someday.

Last year, it worked for my spirit as well as my pocketbook. 2010 was a cruel season, highlighted by sporadic contention in the first half and utter dismay after the All-Star break. The Mets took off from the time away in full nose-dive. I was looking like a genius. Oh, I still watched most games on SNY or followed along on my Blackberry. Hell, I even devoted a few pixels and keystrokes to this most unworthy cause. But overall, I rather enjoyed not hauling my sorry butt onto three trains or over two-and-a-half bridges and down a couple of pot-holed highways to sit in the heat in a ballpark bereft of Mets’ signature, complete views or any sort of fun. My cable money and my natural angst; that was all they’d get.

As this 2011 season dawned, things seemed to shift – karmically, at least – as we’ve seen. The management team was revamped, and the early season did show us a somewhat better on-field product. Being a Met fan, of course I viewed the 2011 season with a mix of apprehension and excitement, delight and dread. Sarah had talked about going to a game this year – she had come to one game at Shea with me and had never been to Citi Field – and I was actually warming to the idea as I saw some good and some bad. Summer is moving along now and we found ourselves at a block party in Long Beach with some family, the last weekend before the All-Star break. My cousin – Jim’s father – turns to me out of the blue and says, “Wanna go to the Met game on Friday?” (7/15)

I thought for a minute – briefly considering turning him down outright, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned. I looked over at Sarah and asked her the same question. “Who are they playing?” she asked. “Philly,” says I. “Oh, GOD,” was her reaction. She doesn’t like me when I watch a Mets/Phillies game. I become a little…”intense” would be the polite way to put it. “Obnoxious” would be the real way to put it. Screaming at the TV, making up nasty nicknames for Shane Victorino, laughing maniacally whenever Ryan Howard strikes out: I am most unattractive. She’s afraid for me in mixed company. “It’s Fireworks Night,” I said as an inducement. She thought for a minute and said, “OK! It’ll be fun, I think,” giving me a sidelong look that implied “…if you behave like a human being.”

So we got it all set up. Jim, Sr. bought the tickets. We had originally talked about the Pepsi Porch, but that was cost prohibitive for Pyrotechnics Night – the official “Avenue Of The Americas” moniker – for nine (!!!) people (his wife, all four of his kids, a friend for one of them, Sarah & me). Instead, he found some really great seats one deck below. Section 103, 7th row, smack dab between the right field foul pole and the Mo Zone. We’d be able to see everybody!

To get this thing to work, though, required somewhat of a General Patton operation. I work in an office forty miles from my home – in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge. I work until 4:00. With a 7:05 game time, it would not work for me to buck rush hour traffic back to Basking Ridge, then turn around and head back to the GWB to get to NYC. Not even thinking about the fact that Paul McCartney was playing at Yankee Stadium that night, which would only snarl things up even further. We also had a plan for the three older kids, plus the friend, to come back to our house after the game, hang out on Saturday, and then we’d drive everybody home and hit the Beach on Sunday. So Sarah drove me in, dropped me off with my play-clothes and would pick me up and we’d be on our merry way.

We’d be meeting Jim, Jr. & my Goddaughter, Beth, at McFadden’s at Citi at about 5:30 for some pre-game libations – and possibly dinner – but definitely the “libations” part. I got off the Grand Central Parkway, made my way past the famed Iron Triangle of…umm…“auto repair facilities” (aka illegal chop shops), dropped Sarah off McFadden’s front door and went to find convenient parking.

HA!

I drove all around the perimeter of Citi Field trying to find an entrance to a lot that would leave me close to the center field/bullpen entrance. No luck. I kept going and found myself deep in the heart of Corona. I saw waaaaay too many red-shirted Pennsylvaniacs walking down Roosevelt Avenue toward the Citi, and then finally figured out that I’d better turn around. I navigated the grid of one-way streets to get back to the ballpark, only to get stuck behind a wrecker hooking up to a parked car. Backing through a luckily non-busy intersection, I finally got back on Roosevelt going toward the ballpark. I still couldn’t find a friendly entrance. I drove past McFadden’s and saw Sarah, Jim & Beth waiting outside. I gave them a friendly wave and a yell as I sped on past. I ended up getting back onto the Grand Central, going through LaGuardia Airport to get turned around, and making another pass at it.

Oy…

Finally, I got into the parking lot, paid $19 – a crime! – and found a spot near the fence, so I’d remember where the damn car was. The downside was that McFadden’s is in center field and I was parked behind the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. That made for a pretty long walk to get some cold alcohol. And it made me apprehensive about the end of the night – Sarah had double knee replacement back in March. I walked the whole way wishing I could’ve gotten closer in.

After some strange drinks – the kids are 26 and 25 – and tasty nachos, we headed upstairs, where we met the rest of the gang. The game itself was basically a drag, but the experience was pretty awesome. First of all, it was good to have Sarah get her first taste of Citi. I was able to point out where the new Home Run Apple was in relation to our seats, show her where the Shea Bridge was and my little game rituals. She had a lot of fun, anyway. Secondly, it was great to be taking in the game with that much family around. There was a lot of elbowing, guffawing and pointing. And my niece was nice enough to video me on her phone, doing a seventh-inning “Lazy Mary” crazy dance. Mercifully, she hasn’t put it on YouTube or Facebook yet: of all the things that would make my face viral, I pray that isn’t it.

Another great thing was, being that close to the field, we could make ourselves heard by the players. As the Mets’ right fielder was shagging fly balls before the first pitch, I stood up in my Darryl Strawberry BP jersey and shouted “Carlos BelTRAN!” and pointed at him. He looked up at me and gave me a point right back from hip-level. Very cool…

The capper was Sarah & me making our way up to the Shea Bridge in the bottom of the fifth and meeting my friend Jason Fry – co-chieftain with my other friend Greg Prince of the excellent Faith And Fear In Flushing, my second-favorite blog – and his wife Emily for a quick chat. Standing there, we missed Raul Ibanez’s laser shot of a homer that landed about seven seats next to our group…and the stand-up guy who threw it in disgust back onto the field. We had a great chat about the sad state of things Met-wise, Sarah’s new knees, the weird-o Philly fans surrounding us, the hope for better times ahead and we made plans for our annual rendezvous at the Jersey Shore on Labor Day weekend.

And of course, fireworks! They were spectacular and a fitting reminiscence of 1986, when the fireworks were actually on the field, instead of mere promotion.

So the night was great. The game sucked. It happens.

The bottom line, though, is that it will not be another two years before we go back.

Mets Notes: Playing without Beltran, Pagan’s splits and April 21st

Now that a trade of Carlos Beltran seems imminent, people are coming out of the woodwork to defend him and his production in his time with the Mets. But where were these people at the beginning of the year? Mets fans pledged their allegiance to Jose Reyes and now it seems likely that the club will try to retain Reyes after his contract is up, due in some part to the support from the faithful.

Reyes is younger, plays a more important position and came up through the farm system – three pretty good reasons for fans to prefer him. But the deafening silence from most of the fan base (we felt differently) in regards to Beltran the first three-plus months of the year was inexcusable. Especially as Beltran was thought to be the most fragile Met at the beginning of the season and has instead turned into the team’s most durable player.

And of course there was the matter of production. While Reyes wowed the fans with all of his multiple-hit games, Beltran was simply leading the team in HR (15), RBIs (61), walks (52) and OPS (.917) while placing second in runs (56).

Also, the Mets missed Beltran more when he was out of the lineup than they did Reyes. While Reyes gets credit for igniting the team, the club is 7-8 when he does not play. Meanwhile the Mets are 1-4 when Beltran is out and is 2-7 in games he does not start. It could be ugly without his bat in the lineup the final two months of the season if Beltran is indeed traded.

ANGEL OF THE EVENING: Angel Pagan gave the Mets the win Wednesday night with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. So far this year, Pagan has a .750 OPS in night games (213 PA) compared to a .427 OPS in day games (82 PA). Additionally, 17 of his 18 extra-base hits have been under the lights, including all four of his home runs.

Pagan also has a big difference in his results based on where he bats in the order. When he’s in one of the top four spots in the lineup, Pagan has a .144 AVG (16-111) compared to a .289 AVG (46-159) when he bats fifth or lower. Obviously there is a lot of overlap in these two splits, as Pagan batted second in the order early in the season when the club played more day games.

However, when Pagan first returned from the DL, he played 34 games where he mostly batted fifth in the order. He had a .305/.379./.414 slash line in those games. Then he moved to the leadoff spot with Reyes out and in 12 games batting first he managed just a .192/.246/.288 line.

RAH RAH RAH FOR R.A.: Starting pitcher R.A. Dickey did not have his best stuff last night but he battled and gave the Mets a chance to win. Dickey’s record this year is just 4-8 but that’s not really indicative of how well he has pitched, especially here recently. Dickey got a no-decision last night in a game the Mets eventually won. In his last six starts, the Mets are 5-1. However, Dickey has recorded a 1-1 record in that span.

IZZY DURABLE ENOUGH FOR CLOSER?: Wednesday night Jason Isringhausen pitched two innings in the Mets’ extra-inning game and picked up the win. It was the first time all season he went for more than an inning and the first time in more than two years an outing extended into a second frame. He last pitched two innings on 5/27/09. Isringhausen appeared in just four more games after that multi-inning appearance in 2009 before being sidelined with an elbow injury, which kept him out of the majors until he resurfaced with the Mets this season.

DO YOU REMEMBER APRIL 21st?: That was the day the Mets came closest to fielding their expected lineup. The batting order that day was: Reyes, Pagan, Wright, Beltran, Bay, Davis, Turner and Nickeas. Doesn’t that look nice? They won that game, 9-1. Of course, Pagan got hurt in this one and ended up missing more than a month. By the time he came back, both Davis and Wright were sidelined.

Compare that to the lineup the Mets trotted out on July 18th, which was: Pagan, Harris, Murphy, Hairston, Duda, Bay, Thole and Tejada. Not surprisingly, the Mets lost that game, 4-1. Since then the Mets have gotten back Reyes and Beltran and Wright is expected back soon. However, it’s unlikely that Davis will return and Beltran could be traded any day, which means we will never get to see the expected 2011 Mets lineup.

I’M GONNA DJ AT THE END OF THE WORLD: Since being recalled in mid-June, D.J. Carrasco has made 14 appearances and 11 of those were games decided by three or more runs. The last time he was brought into a close game was July 10th, when he came on with the Mets losing 2-0. He promptly gave up two RBI singles to give the Giants a 4-0 lead in a game that ended up being 4-2. Here are the final scores in the games he has pitched since June 24th:

8-1, 14-5, 16-9, 5-2, 5-1, 6-0, 4-2, 7-2 and 8-5. That last game the score was 4-0 when Carrasco came on and he added a run to the deficit. Since the recall, Carrasco has a 4.50 ERA and has 5 BB and 6 Ks in 16 IP. Is there any wonder that Terry Collins has such little faith in him and uses him primarily in low leverage situations?

Mets’ Second Half: It’s Either Sadness Or Euphoria


A Billy Joel lyric never seemed so apt.

Tomorrow night (7/15), the season re-starts with a half-clean slate. This is when baseball takes on a different hue: more serious, less romantic, more about action than speculation. The stakes get raised in the second half, and the surprises of April, May and June are usually worn away by harsh reality or cruel fate once the ides of July pass — see the 2010 San Diego Padres. August 1 arrives with fans either saying, “Now, we got ‘em!” Or, “How could they trade Hank Soandso?” Or, “Meh, at least we didn’t do anything stupid…” Most years, where the Mets are concerned, I root pretty hard for that last one.

We’ve taken a look back at the 2011 so far. Now it’s time to dust off the ol’ crystal ball and see what could lie ahead for this stalwart band of orange-and-blue footsoldiers. Remember, none of this is written in stone: it’s merely the dime-store, crackpot predictions of your intrepid columnist. So here goes…

Goodbyes: There may not be any more. In the aftermath of the midnight All-Star deal that sent Francisco Rodriguez out to Suds City, the MSM is beside itself predicting Carlos Beltran will be headed to San Francisco. Or Detroit. Or Philly. Or Arlington. Or Boston. Or the Bronx. My guess? If the Mets are still within three-to-four games of the Wild Card come July 31, Carlos Beltran won’t be going anywhere. He has been the most consistent cog in this sometimes well-oiled machine, the rock on which this lineup has been built. He’s become the wise old head in the clubhouse. Now, if the team gets filleted on the field over the next three weeks, he probably will be headed to one of those other climes, but for what the Mets are reportedly asking? I don’t see it happening before August 31 – by which time, the baseball landscape could look far different than right now.

I think the only other moveable piece right now would be Mike Pelfrey, and quite frankly, I’d be beyond shocked if there were any interest from a contending team, though the Tigers are supposedly looking for starting pitching. But Pelfrey probably wouldn’t fetch much on the open market. It’s also possible that Tim Byrdak could be heading out – lefty relievers are always highly sought-after – but age and track-record might conspire to keep the return suppressed and Sandy Alderson may just sit it out.

The “Trade-Jose-Reyes” talk hasn’t completely gone away yet, but if Jose gets traded in-season…well, it’ll take a while to get over that one: I’m not as resilient as I was when I was 12 and Tom Seaver went away.

Hellos: Jose Reyes is looking like he’ll be back at the end of his 15-day hiatus. David Wright is due back on or about July 22. I would hope Ike Davis should be returning sometime before the tenth of August, with Johan Santana following shortly thereafter. Those could be your “big moves” right there: the talent represented in those four players could be the difference between the 77 wins the “experts” predicted at the start of the year and upwards of 85 wins and true Wild Card contention ‘til the end. If two of the four come back strong, the team will be in pretty good shape. If all four come back well… Sorry, I was dreaming of October, there, for a second. Of course, there is the chance that none of them will return to tip-top form – and the true orange ‘n’ blue in me is steeling myself for that eventuality. As the title of this piece reads…

This is the nature of the beast with a .500 ballclub: the Magic 8-ball tends to read “Reply hazy, try again,” or “Outlook not so good.”
The Mets could end up at their decidedly conservative over/under number, but they could just as easily finish closer to 89 wins and Wild Card Nirvana.

Could be fun. Could be misery. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Is Carlos Beltran next to be traded?

We’re all thinking it.

With the Mets trading combustible closer Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) on Wednesday to the Milwaukee Brewers in an obvious salary dump, Mets’ fans are probably waiting for the other shoe to drop. The shoe in this case would be Carlos Beltran.

So, are the Mets on the verge of trading their All-Star right fielder?

Naysayers of the K-Rod deal will invariably think a fire sale is imminent. Many critics will think, well, if you trade K-Rod you have no intentions of putting the best possible team on the field.

Not so fast.

Let’s all gather our collective breaths and think about this deal for a second.

The move to trade K-Rod had to happen. K-Rod was on the cusp of having his 2012 $17.5 million vesting option kick in, as he was well on his way to surpassing the 55 games completed threshold. The Mets showed some shrewd business sense in this deal, and come hell or high water, they were going to dump K-Rod on a team. If it was Wednesday or the last day of the trade deadline, a deal was going to be done if there was a buyer. It just so happened they pounced on the first deal Milwaukee offered. The two players to be named in this deal are inconsequential.

I don’t necessarily think the Mets are giving up. The Mets wanted to be free of this contract and not have it hang over the club as a black cloud any longer. Besides, it’s time we see what closer-in-waiting Bobby Parnell can bring to the table (if the Mets go that route).

But enough about K-Rod. Let’s discuss the other most talked about trade chip on the Mets in Beltran.

As it stands, the Mets are 46-45 and 7.5 games out of the Wild Card. They are on the brink of being of being a non-factor in the race for the playoffs. This weekend’s series with the Phillies may loom large if they are to remain a playoff contender or not.

I believe the Mets have every intention to maximize all they can get out of Beltran while seeing if the team can tread enough water until the calvary is supposed to return (Jose Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis). The hope here is that the Mets can stay within that five games back range. But, if the Mets find themselves 10 or so games back in the next two weeks or so, it could be bye-bye Beltran.

At the end of the day, Sandy Alderson is making the moves that fit his ideologies and long term visions. K-Rod was NEVER part of those plans. Beltran, on the other hand, was always a wait and see project.

Beltran has shown a great deal of game in the final year of his contract. He was named an All-Star after batting .285 on the season to go with 13 home runs and 58 RBI’s (both team highs).

He has been an inspiration to the team with his play this year. Beltran has stayed healthy and has been the backbone to the Mets success this year. But if the Mets just continue to be a so-so .500 team (which many of us figured them to be in the first place), then it may make the most sense to deal Beltran.

However, with the way Terry Collins has managed this team, the Mets have proven that they will  go down swinging. And until it seems hopeless that the season is a lost cause, Beltran will be a part of the Mets. You know, if the Mets had the idea of already throwing in the towel, I think they could have worked out a deal with the Giants (who have shown interest in him) this past weekend.

For now, Beltran is a Met trying to make the playoffs. Let’s hope that can be said again in September.

The Story of 2011 (So Far) As Told By Mets360

We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2011 New York Metropolitans’ baseball season, chronologically, if not statistically. The Mets sent two players to the game, one of which will play – a commendable showing for a team which had been predicted to act as the spittoon of the NL East and began the year five up-thirteen down. It’s been an interesting ride, I think best told in the narrative you’ve – hopefully! – read right here.

It all started in mid-October, amid the bunting and circumstance of the 2010 post-season, when the Mets’ owners, Fred and Jeff Wilpon (he said with a straight face) made what could be a franchise-altering announcement, the hiring of veteran miracle-worker Sandy Alderson – in the current argot, a “game-changer.” It was pretty universally praised as the best hire they could have made (face still straight.)

Once Alderson moved into his Citi Field office, he bought in some old friends: J.P. Ricciardi, erstwhile Toronto GM, and Paul DePodesta, late of the L.A. Dodgers. Ricciardi was brought on to oversee the major league and business aspects of the operation, DePodesta to handle the scout/drafting/player-development wing of the building. Speculation then ran rampant in the blogosphere and MSM as who would succeed Jerry Manuel as the field boss of this rag-tag crew. From a field that included fan fave Wally Backman, Clint Hurdle and other in-house candidates Bob Melvin and Chip Hale, Alderson finally settled on dark-horse Terry Collins just before Thanksgiving.

With the front office and field staff firmly in place, it was time for the winter meetings, where Alderson dazzled us all by doing…nothing. Basically. Oh, he came away from Orlando with a couple of Rule V players, Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato, but not much else to show for the trip. And this was a good thing.

(As an aside, right around this time, the good folks here at mets360 took on a new writer)

The winter continued apace, with the usual hot stove stuff: observing rivals’ activity , the annual Christmas party , evaluating talent on hand and signing some new players – not a single “big name” among them. Amid the snows in the Northeast we waited for those magic words: pitchers and catchers report. We looked forward to the kids, looked back at the heroes and started planning our summer.

The major bombshell was that the Wilpons weren’t as financially set as we were led to believe. The announcement that they were looking to take on a partner or partners to help steady their monetary ship just served to confuse matters. Did this mean they didn’t have enough money to sign Jose Reyes to an extension? Would Alderson be able to swing a mid-season trade if the Mets were in contention or would he be hamstrung by a small wallet? It made the arrival spring training all the more imperative: let’s stop all the talk and get ON the field, already!

Spring training, of course, brought with it its own set of actors and story lines: players switching positions, new faces , old faces and speculation. Of course, these being the Mets, there was no small number of clack clouds hanging over Port St. Lucie — the health of Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay; question marks comprising the starting rotation and the guillotines hanging over the heads of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. All of this amid much head-scratching and speculation over the ownership mess. The only real surprise of the spring was Collins naming Emaus his Opening Day second baseman.

The Opener final did arrive on April 1 – an uncharacteristic loss – and was followed by two straight wins over Florida, a defeat of the Phillies in their first 2011 visit to Citizens Bank Ballpark, and a near miraculous comeback from seven runs down the next night. People were starting to notice – and the Mets got stage fright. Over their next thirteen games, they posted a ghastly 2-11 mark, causing pundits to put a premature end to the year and we fans to question our own loyalty.

Fortunately for the Mets, the season goes on a great deal longer than eighteen games. Sandy Alderson waded into the situation and dismissed the flotsam that floated north with the team: Blaine Boyer, Chin-lung Hu and the failed experiment, Emaus. Ike Davis got off to a blazing start, and with some deadwood cleared and new growth arrived on the doorstep – Dillon Gee, Justin Turner, Jason Pridie – the team also found reserves of a less tangible nature: some would call it “heart,” some would call it “guts,” some would call it “grit.”

As May dawned, spirits were running pretty high for this scrappy bunch – until the ghosts of 2009 and 2010 swept across the landscape, like persistent rain. Davis and David Wright collided on a pop up which resulted in a lengthy trip to the DL for Davis (he’s still there). Two weeks later, Wright was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back and he went on the Disabled List (he’s still there). You couldn’t say enough about the resilience of this bunch: every time they got close to the brink, they found a way to bring themselves back.

Until the owner opened his mouth again.
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Just before Memorial Day, the New Yorker magazine published an interview with Fred Wilpon in which he bemoaned the injury cycle of his team, tried to slag his best player (impending free agent Reyes) and take himself to task for giving big money to Beltran back in 2005. Then, two days after that, it was announced that they’d found their partner at long last – hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who graciously agreed to pony up a cool $200 million for 35% of this limping operation. The details are still being hammered out at this writing, but it looks like Einhorn will add his name to the door by early August.

June had Terry Collins show the fiery side of his personality – and gain the respect of the fans in the process. After a lackluster performance against Pittsburgh, Collins closed the door and aired the team out. He did it succinctly, eloquently and unambiguously: when it was over, everybody knew what he meant. Well, the alarm apparently went off because the team then went on a 16-10 tear through June, which found them peaking their head above .500 for the first time since April. June also saw the engines rev up to put Reyes in the All-Star game as a starter. Jose made up a half-million vote deficit to finally pass Troy Tulowitzky on the Friday of July 4th weekend.

Just in time to tweak his hamstring and take his turn on the DL.

And yet, here the Mets sit at the break, one game over .500 having come off a 4-3 West Coast swing – a respectable showing for a team even at full strength. So far, 2011 has been quite the thrill ride, no?

PS — I’m making my first 2011 foray into Citi Field this coming Friday (7/15). Vs. the Phillies. On Fireworks Night. I may put in for combat pay… I’ll file a full report next week.