The New York Mets: It’s Gotta Get Better, Right?

There’s a lot going on in Met-land lately, but I’m finding myself hard pressed to pay attention.

There’s talk of new uniforms next year…again! If it’s to be a ditching of the tired, oh-so-90’s “Mets In Black” look, I say “Hear! Hear!” I could go through the rest of my life with only the home cream-and-pinstripes and the grey roadies. I could even deal with the royal blue tops — sported by Los Mets a couple of weeks ago – sprinkled in here and there. Maybe the alternate jerseys from a couple of years ago with the ginormous “NY” on the breasts could make an appearance as well.

There are murmurs that the outfield walls might have kinder, gentler dimensions commencing in 2012 as well. There’s only so much that can be done, here: there’s an awful lot of concrete to be dealt with. I’d be in favor of lowering Great Wall of Flushing (thank you, Howie Rose!) from sixteen feet high to a more humane eight. I’d also welcome abolition of the cursed “Mo Zone,” where homers go to die. It’s interesting that the park was seemingly built with Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes in mind, neither of whom – possibly – would enjoy its fruits past 2011.

This is all well and good. Those deck chairs on this Titanic will be in perfect position. This is the definition of window dressing, designed to take our minds off a most depressing present. Yes, I have faith in Sandy Alderson. He’s saying all the right things and it looks like he and his squad are making all the right moves. We out here in the fan base are drooling over the prospect of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler becoming the new Seaver/Koosman and Brandon Nimmo launching balls over the erstwhile Mo Zone. And yes, I like what Terry Collins is doing in that room. I know the win tally is worse than Jerry Manuel’s final, fitful kicks last season, but Collins is doing what he was brought in here to do: fumigate the clubhouse. When he was hired back in November, I mentioned that this was most likely a tenting operation, designed to exterminate the funk emanating from Roosevelt Avenue. He seems to have done that. There are signs on the field – despite the stagnant win total – that this franchise is closer than we think to ascending to contention. The only game in this losing skein that was truly putrid was last night’s (8/22). They’ve been in almost every game they’ve played this year, and I think that says a lot about character, something that to the naked eye was absent from June 2007 through last year.

No. My concern is that all this window dressing we’re seeing right now is meant to distract us from the fact the old, fetid ownership is still in place and will remain so through the end of the 2011 season – and most likely beyond. I know there’s an Einhorn waiting in the wings, but the process is maddeningly slow and we have to watch the Wilponian dog-and-pony parade before anything of substance will shift. I have a fear that the longer Fred and Jeff Wilpon hang around, the greater the chance that all the good work of Alderson and co. will be undone by desperation and stupidity up in the tower.

But boy, did those Los Mets uniforms look good…

David Einhorn: International Man of Mystery

Last week, a rush of news from the Ivory Towers of Flushing informed the world that hotshot fancier David Einhorn had sunk $200 million of his hard-earned moolah into a shaky-at-best operation known as the New York Mets. Over here, it was immediately viewed as good news . If I were to listen to the MSM – which is really quite funny, if you’ve read any of my stuff at all – I would come away with a far different impression.

Adam Rubin and David Lennon would have us believe that Mr. Einhorn might actually be a bigger villain than Fred and/or Jeff Wilpon. Einhorn showed up at City Field on Memorial Day and gave the media…well…nothing. He did exactly what any savvy businessman who has entered into a deal which has yet to be finalized would do: said nothing. Could he confirm that the new deal had a clause which would allow him to take full control of the Mets? Can’t answer that. Will he be sinking more money into the team? Deal isn’t final, so I can’t comment. What do you think of the team on the field? Can’t say and I really shouldn’t. This drove the beat guys bonkers and as we see from the two citations above, they went straight to the trusty narrative: if the Mets are involved, it’s gonna be bad…REALLY bad. It’s actually funny to read.

So who is this Einhorn character, anyway? From most accounts, he’s the latest Wall Street wunderkind, the ballsy dude who, among other things, predicted the falls of Allied Capital and Lehman Brothers and made a tidy sum short-selling those two formerly august entities. He currently has his sights on Microsoft, which he feels is being mismanaged by CEO Steve Ballmer.

Sound familiar?

It seems he can also play the goofball, if he wants to, sporting the good ol’ backward baseball cap look at the poker table.

In fact, he finished in 18th place in the World Series of Poker in 2006, pulled down over $650,000 and immediately turned it over to his doppelganger, Michael J. Fox for his foundation for Parkinson’s research.

So the Einhornian mad poker skills serve him well in other areas, apparently.

Mets Notes: Einhorn, Pagan and the trouble with third base

The big news yesterday was the impending addition of David Einhorn as a minority investor. It’s interesting to read about the team’s newest acquisition, with my favorite part being how after he implored Micorsoft to get rid of its CEO, he then shouted GO METS.

All of the stories talk about how smart he is, which certainly beats having all of the reports mocking his brain power. Yet, I can’t help wonder if this is like when they talk about Supreme Court nominees. Usually they talk about whatever influential cases and judgments they have made. But inevitably there comes people who have done nothing outstanding on the bench. So here they talk about how the nominee is known for his intellect.

Still, I feel like this is good news. Hopefully Einhorn will have a voice in team matters and proves himself a worthy addition. And in the best-case scenario, there is an in-house successor ready to take over if Irving Picard successfully takes down the Wilpons in court.

RUNNERS ON THIRD BASE: Much has been made of the Mets’ trouble with the bases loaded. But overlooked in this has been just how evil third base has been for Mets batters. With a runner on third, the Mets have a .185/.288/.241 slash line. And with runners on first and third, those rotten numbers drop to .104/.164/.167 this season.

How bad is that? Baseball-Reference calculates splits relative to league splits. An average number is 100 and above that is a team that does well in that split and a number below that is a team that does poor. With runners on first and third, the Mets have a -8 sOPS+, which I can’t even find words to describe how awful it is. Their bases loaded sOPS+ is 56, which is horrendous.

10-GAME HOMESTAND: – Generally I dislike whenever someone talks about a key series when there are still over 100 games to play in the season. But this feels like a make or break point of the year. The Mets recovered nicely from their 5-13 start and have managed to stay afloat with two of their best hitters going to the DL. But now they have a 10-game stretch that includes Three against both the Phillies and the Braves.

The Mets are a combined 3-6 this year against their NL East rivals but all nine of those games came on the road. Will playing at home make a difference? If it doesn’t and the Mets go 2-4 (or worse) against the Phillies and Braves, it will be difficult to argue against those who call for the trading of impending free agents Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.

PAGAN RITUAL: Reports indicate that Angel Pagan could join the club in time for tonight’s game against Philadelphia. Originally, manager Terry Collins wanted Pagan to play a game in the cold weather after he appeared in eight games in Florida. But last night’s game in Buffalo was postponed. However, temperatures are warming up in NYC and there’s little reason to hold back Pagan. Jason Pridie provided a spark when he first came up but in his last 16 games he has just a .562 OPS.

Of course, it would be nice if Pagan came back as the player he was in the first half of 2010 (.845 OPS) rather than the one who we saw this year (.506 OPS) before he was sidelined with a strained oblique. Pagan did not set the world on fire in his Single-A rehab stint, but three of his six hits went for extra bases, giving him a .175 ISO.

RUNS IN SHORT SUPPLY: One day after exploding for seven runs, the Mets once again had trouble getting runners home on Thursday. While the weather was a factor, the heart of the matter is that the offense has not been productive recently. Even counting Wednesday’s seven-spot, the Mets have managed just 24 runs in their last nine games, an average of 2.7 runs per game.

The problem hasn’t been getting runners on base, as the Mets have stranded 80 runners in those nine games, reaching double-digit LOB in three games and no fewer than seven in any game during the stretch. You’ve got to get them on to get them home but it would be nice if they would get home more frequently. Clearly, too many of these runners were on third base. On close plays, Chip Hale should hold them at second base or wave them home.

Mets and fans find mercy in the rain

I actually went to bed feeling better about the Mets than I had in a week. A win will get that for you, however it comes about. And when I woke up, it got even better.

The Mets scored a run in the top of the first, then immediately gave four of them back, then scored five of their own in the second, all built around singles and doubles – a rare thing at Wrigley Field’s “friendly confines.” The tacked one on in the fifth and had two on and none out in the seventh when the umpires decided to roll out the tarps – much to the consternation of Cubs’ manager Mike Quade. I checked in the requisite hour-and-a-half later to discover the 7-4 score had gone final, amid a classic Lake Michigan monsoon. I was moved to warble a few bars of the Gordon Lightfoot classic “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” myself. Although, maybe not the best choice for Fleet Week.

And I think it’s apropos that last night’s victory involved a tarp, because apparently, Fred Wilpon received a bit of a bailout of his own. According to The New York Times, no less, the Mets have settled on a buyer The Times didn’t name names, but it’s come out in baseball circle Twitters that the new moneyman is hotshot hedge fund manager David Einhorn, the man who helped take down Allied Capital and Lehman Brothers, when their respective operations took on a slightly shady hue.

Once again, I’m getting a feeling of violent vertigo. On Monday, Fred Wilpon destroys hope. On Tuesday, the Mets look distracted and disinterested in an 11-1 loss. On Wednesday, the cleansing rains arrive in Chicago. On Thursday, Einhorn brings hope, along with a couple o’ bucks.

Ain’t baseball grand?