Nature Of The Beast: .500 Mets Are Jekyll & Hyde

Apparently, I spoke too soon: fire the fanboy.

I suppose this is what a .500 team looks like. A sublime string of wins, crisp games and smart play is followed by a ghastly stretch of boneheadism, vapid offense and corresponding losses. Baby steps, I suppose, but that doesn’t make the dour, Indian-pudding taste of these last three games go down any easier. Each one was winnable in its own way, but each was littered with mental mistakes, limp-noodle bats at the wrong time and just…one…bad…inning in a nearly flawless effort from the odd starter or reliever. That’s all it takes for a season to turn to trash in a big hurry. It would seem that the only difference between a .500 ballclub and a .667 one is consistent bad timing: the hit with the bases loaded that isn’t made, the botched cutoff throw that leads to a run, the Jerry Meals call the pitcher doesn’t get. Ron Darling’s mantra from 2007 and 2008 is playing in my head: “A lot of times, it’s not ‘how many,’ but ‘when’ that makes the difference.” The last three games, the “when” has not been the Mets’ friend.

Again, this is how it seems to go with .500 teams. The stars never seem to align in just the right way, and the sad fact is, a .500 team can pretty much only rely on the fates. Casey Stengel famously told us in 1963 that “You make your own luck.” Shaping your own destiny takes talent, as well as confidence and hard work. Right now, there isn’t enough talent to win the day, and the a scrappy attitude can only take one so far – despite whatever Wayne Hagin thinks about David Eckstein. Until the David Einhorn money comes in and/or the Bernie Madoff lawsuit is settled, there is little that can be done to remedy the situation. Then, Sandy Alderson can put his Jedi mind tricks to use in the off-season and acquire some frontline players – preferably a true slugging outfielder to relegate Jason Bay and a quality starting pitcher to replace Mike Pelfrey – and some prospects to restock the farms.

We fans can see better times ahead. The horizon looks clear, despite this franchise’s widely noted propensity to screw up the best of circumstances. Until that future comes into a little sharper focus, we fans are going to be stuck on the rollercoaster.

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…

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…”

Alderson is the Mets’ setup man

The New York Mets should have been in full playoff contention by this time. Yet, as usual, injuries killed this team. Although they are not in realistic playoff contention, there seems to be an aura of playoffs with these Mets. They won’t give up.

Sandy Alderson says he expects the team to compete. This is expected no matter what position you are in. Even if you are out, I believe in taking everybody down with you. So should the Mets. So is this what Alderson means or is he serious about making a run for the playoffs?

Here are the facts. Carlos Beltran is believed to be gone by the July 31st trade deadline. David Wright comes back today. WFAN’s Ed Coleman said the Mets have put a August 21st date for Johan Santana to return. Do not count on Ike Davis coming back. Jason Bay had a hammy issue. The Mets have a lot of ground to make up and not much time to do it in.

If the Mets were to seriously go for it, it will be one hell of a battle. Both the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are looking for bats to help their cause. I believe they will get it. In which case, Alderson needs to just build for next year. Miracles do happen though. To make a serious run this year, the GM needs to find solutions for right now and worry about next year in the offseason.

I do not believe Alderson will find solutions for right now. He is looking at next year and beyond. He knew they would be longshots. Despite they have managed to play above expectations, they will more than likely not contend. So we really are being set up, Mets fans, but for the future.

Just go out and have fun. Cheer for your team knowing the future is yours. Alderson’s got this.

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.

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.
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.

Where Do the Mets Go From Here?

“Walk right side? Safe. Walk left side? Safe. Walk down middle? Squish, like grape.” – Mr. Miyagi to Daniel-san in the original KARATE KID

So they’ve hit a season’s high in terms of winning percentage, climbing the dizzying heights of three games over .500. So they’ve taken a second step on the way to what could be considered a successful season. So they’ve proven they can beat up on their far weaker NL doppelganger – and Wilponic innamorata – the Los Angeles Dodgers. So they’ve won four in a row without the services of TMEPIB, Jose Reyes – who will either be headed to the disabled list or to Phoenix for the All-Star game: nobody’s sure which. They’ve clinched a series win over the Dodgers, and could secure a winning West Coast road trip – and when’s the last time THAT happened? — if the sweep is completed tonight (7/7).

Now what?

General Manager Sandy Alderson is in the unenviable position of being right in the middle of a season, the success of which could be determined by the moves he makes – or doesn’t make – in the next four-to-six weeks. Kind of apropos that that’s the time frame: we Met fans are more familiar with those words than most. That’s the “standard” timetable the team has historically fed the MSM as a recovery time from an injury. Any injury. From a hangnail to a fractured femur. First thing you hear – after the dreaded “day-to-day” – is “out four-to-six weeks.” Sandy Alderson is walking a fine tightrope. He has three options, in the opinion of your intrepid columnist, none of which is a fail-safe option and all of which come with their own set of trapdoors.

Does he try to swing a big trade as a “buyer” and risk chasing a season which retrospect may tell us was a pipe dream? Look no further back than 2004, when Scott Kazmir was dispatched under the short-sighted notion that the Mets were “in it” at seven-and-a-half games back in the Wild Card race. The Mets’ farm system is JUST beginning to show stirrings of becoming a strong one once again. Now is not the time to eviscerate it.

Does he operate in “seller” mode and bail on a season which has started out so surprising and satisfying and risk further alienating a fan base which is already feeling disenfranchised? If you need an object lesson on this scenario, check out how empty Dodger Stadium has been this week. A park which was sold-out on a nightly basis has been reduced to playing host to between 5,000 and 15,000 on a given night. Remember, this was the first franchise to break the three-million attendance mark. They may not do that in the next three years combined. Sandy has got to be taking a look around and envisioning a similar picture three thousand miles east.

Does he simply stand pat and wait for the walking wounded to be right again and risk ridicule for sitting on his hands while rival teams trade their way into contention? In the eyes of the fans, this non-move would put him right up there with Omar Minaya as a dart-board model. Most fans want their GM to DO SOMETHING if they’re on the cusp of contention. They want their team improved on for the stretch run, if there is to be one. As noted, Omar did nothing down the stretches of the infamous 2008 – 2010 and…well, we know what the results were.

There is a Chinese blessing – though some, like me, consider it a curse – which wishes the recipient, “May you live in interesting times.” For Sandy Alderson and the Mets, 2011 is pretty interesting.

The 2011 Mets: Keep ‘Em Guessing

I was vacationing in the Catskills last week, and I’m not sure if I missed anything.

I know that the “meaty” portion of the Inter-League schedule began with a dreadful, boring three-gamer with the Angels at Citi – and what the hell is a Tyler Chatwood, anyway? Dropping two-of-three to an Anaheim squad which is the Webster’s definition of “mediocre” did not send me off to the mountains brimming with confidence about this year’s Amazin’ edition.

Luckily, form held in the next three contests against the not-so-swingin’ A’s. Granted, this crew had a different, more professional look after a player mutiny cashiered former skipper Bob Geren. Geren was succeeded by would-be Mets’ handler Bob Melvin, who has turned things around a bit with a little lineup tinkering, but other than the good ol’ green-and-gold togs, this Oakland team bears little resemblance to the dynastic teams of the early-70’s or late-80’s. To wit: losing the second game on a walk-off Hit-By-Pitch – although that might have been payback from the Baseball Gods from the Balk-Off travesty in Atlanta the week before. The Mets then went down to Texas where they trembled before the massed might of the Rangers’ power attack on Friday night (6/24), then made the Rangers bleed to death with a thousand razor nicks the next two days to come away with a most unlikely and encouraging series win.

I’m not entirely sure I should be encouraged.

Before the final game in Texas, I was speaking with a cousin of mine – a Yankee fan – who I hadn’t talked to in awhile and asked me what I thought of the Mets this year. My honest-to-God answer was “I have no idea.” This is a team missing three key components, yet they are still at .500 This is a team without a true thumper in the middle of the lineup, yet they managed to put 23 runs on the board in three games in Texas – without the benefit of a single homerun. This is a team that gives away a win on a balk, then wins a game on a soft HBP with the bases loaded. I did a little quick and dirty math and discovered that, of the Mets’ 26 series this year, they’ve won 12, lost 12 and split two. That’s .500, alright. There is really no way to pigeon-hole these Mets. Unfortunately, this could hamstring Sandy Alderson as we make our way toward the trading deadline, but I’m sure he’ll find a way to make it work, as he is The Smartest Man In The Room.

If the confounding play of these confounding Mets doesn’t drive him balmy first…

Month of June could ultimately define Alderson’s tenure with Mets

With the Mets still playing just good enough to be four games back in the Wild Card standings prior to Wednesday’s game, General Manger Sandy Alderson has some tough choices to make.

Alderson will have to balance a delicate situation in the next month by trying to please a growing apathetic Mets’ fanbase, while also trying to build a competent ballclub through his own innovative visions.

These two ideologies are set to clash in the upcoming weeks. Either way you slice it, the choice Alderson makes to determine the Mets’ future will undoubtedly be universally un-liked.

Channeling your inner die-hard fandom, you have to love how gritty and determined the Mets are playing in the face of adversity(injuries, economic woes, owner tirades).

Who doesn’t enjoy the Mets getting unexpected production from the likes of Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada and Dillon Gee?

Who doesn’t get a smile out of the improvement Daniel Murphy has made in the last month or so?

This club just does not quit, and that’s what you love to see as a fan. When the Mets get their full lineup back with the return of David Wright and Ike Davis (not to mention the anticipated return of Johan Santana), there is a faction of fans/media that think the Mets could contend for a wild card spot.

It’s not a real stretch to imagine they can’t. After starting 5-13, the Mets have gone 24-19 (which places them well above the means in the NL) since.

And that’s why it will be so hard to say goodbye to fan favorites like Jose Reyes, if Alderson does decide to trade him at the deadline, as everyone is penciling him to do.

Trading Reyes would absolutely cripple any chance the Mets would have at the postseason (basically rendering them hopeless). Dealing Reyes would also strip the fanbase of any plausible excitement in the last few months of the season. A reason to go to the park, if you will.

Even with a full lineup, does Alderson really think this team can contend as presently constituted? That’s a tough decision he’s got to deal with. He can’t think like a fan, he’s got to think like an executive.That’s what he’s getting paid the big bucks for.

We haven’t even delved into the possibility of trading other cornerstone players like Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez.

Regardless of how well, or not well, the Mets are doing in the present, Alderson has to think what his team is going to look like in 2012 and beyond.

Playing devil’s advocate, can Alderson even afford Reyes? Wouldn’t he have to pay ‘Carl Crawford money’? As owner Fred Wilpon has notoriously said, he’s not worth it, and he isn’t going to get that type of money.

And continuing to play devil’s advocate, wouldn’t it also be prudent to deal Beltran and K-Rod (granted he would waive his vesting 2012 vesting option in a trade) when their value is as high as it can get.

After returning from my recent trip to Las Vegas, I am reminded of the old poker adage. You got to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them. With just a few weeks until the trade deadline, the clock is ticking.

The pot is building and the stakes are getting higher, and Alderson has to make the ‘call’ of his life, or make the safe ‘fold’ and rebuild for the future.

The thing is, a ‘call’ (retaining at least Reyes til the end of 2011) might appease the fan base, but a ‘fold’ might be the economical, and as painful as it is to say,  most sensible thing to do.

Alderson and Mets Fans Will Face Off

It is no secret just how passionate fans of the New York Mets are. They live and die with their team. That is unless the team dies first. The fans have always been thirsty to have homegrown players brought to their field rather than consistently offering up their prospects for players that are “ready now” to bring a championship. Take a look at the players on the 2011 team and you will see at least five infielders in David Wright, Jose Reyes, , Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis and Josh Thole, and two pitchers, Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey, who are homegrown.

This talent that was culminated within the farm system of the New York Mets, not the New York Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies or any other team, is being threatened by the decision of one man who was brought in to help save a dying franchise: Sandy Alderson.

The power of this man is great. He has the power to tell the fans just how important they are in his decision regarding Reyes. Will he trade him? Will he let him walk at the end of the season? If Alderson chooses either one of these options, will the fans finally form a revolt? They have made it well known they want Reyes back at all costs. It is documented that there is no other player like him in baseball. Nobody with his speed, passion, and excitement. He is an all-around player. So we think.

Alderson believes in a lead-off hitter being the one guy who works the pitcher. You help your teammates by forcing the pitcher to throw everything he has so they can know what to expect from him. Reyes lacks this one, and only one, ability. One item that has always been associated with Reyes is his lack of patience at the plate. Once a pitch is thrown, he loves to swing. He seldom draws walks. His highest walk total was in 2007 with 77. Alderson will not be pleased with that.

Yet should this one stat really give Alderson a reason to trade a player who can do everything else? Is drawing a walk so important that you trade away a player who seems to be more of a fan favorite than the face of the franchise, David Wright? If a player can hit, get on base, steal bases and be such a nuisance on the base paths that a pitcher will balk, one stat can be ignored.

Alderson stated during Spring Training this year the fans did play a role, no matter the size of it, in releasing Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. Can the fans make a difference once more and force their GM into keeping the one player who is the true face of this team? The fans have spoken out. They have threatened to walk away from this team. Yet, if Alderson truly knows this fan base, he could read it as an empty threat. They’ve threatened to walk away before. They always come back.

This will be a true test of wills. Who will win? We might only have to wait as early as the July 31st trade deadline.

Revisiting the decision to sign Chris Young

News hit Monday that Chris Young “essentially” has the same shoulder injury that Johan Santana suffered. This means his 2011 season is likely over. Everyone knew that Young was a huge injury risk but we certainly hoped he would throw more than 24 IP before he was shut down for the season.

The Mets’ financial situation forced them to shop in the bargain basement rack of free agent pitchers. Their best bet was to sign a risk-reward guy. Young certainly fit the high-risk part of the equation. He had combined for just 96 IP the past two years and had never thrown more than 179.1 IP in any season in his career.

At the time of the signing, I wondered just how much of a high-reward guy Young actually was. I did not think that the reward he was likely to give was worth the risk that he carried. Young’s results in Spring Training and in his four games with the Mets showed that the reward was greater than I had anticipated. Perhaps better than any other similarly-priced free agent available. But likely the risk was even greater, too.

I’ll let others talk about how the Mets replace Young going forward. I want to look back at the decision to sign Young and look at the alternatives that may have been available to Sandy Alderson and the Mets.

It appears there were a dozen free agent pitchers in the bargain basement section this offseason that the Mets might have picked instead of Young. Here are the pitchers, what they signed for and their IP and ERA both last year and this year to date. Most of these pitchers also had bonuses in their contracts. So did Young. All dollar figures are in millions

Name Contract 2010 IP 2010 ERA 2011 IP 2011 ERA
Dave Bush 1 year/$1 174.1 4.54 16.1 2.20
Bruce Chen 1 year/$2 140.1 4.17 42.2 3.59
Kevin Correia 2 years/$8 145.0 5.40 46.1 2.91
Jeff Francis 1 year/$2 104.1 5.00 46.0 5.09
Freddy Garcia 1 year/$1.5 157.0 4.64 25.0 2.88
Jon Garland 1 year/$5 200.0 3.47 32.0 3.66
Vicente Padilla 1 year /$2 95.0 4.07 7.0 2.57
Brad Penny 1 year/$3 55.2 3.23 49.0 4.78
Jeremy Bonderman Unsigned 171.0 5.53
Doug Davis Minor League 38.1 7.51 6.2 0.00
Kevin Millwood Unsigned 190.2 5.10
Jeff Suppan Minor League 70.1 3.84 32.1 5.29

So, how should we rate Sandy Alderson on his decision to sign Young? I think the Mets needed a pitcher to get through the All-Star break, or the expected return for Santana. Young did not profile as an especially good choice to last. Nine pitchers on the above list threw 100 or more innings last year and another threw 95.

As mentioned earlier, Young threw 96 IP the past two years combined, with only 20 of those coming last year. All 12 of the pitches listed above threw more innings last year than Young and all 12 had topped Young’s career-best in innings, too.

But while we established the risk involved in signing Young, we have not talked much about the reward side of the equation. Surely Young jumps ahead of some of the names listed above simply due to his greater upside. But how much reward did the Mets need? Would they have been better off with a player likely to be a bit below league average but likely to give them innings?

Considering that the Mets were taking on another pitcher rebounding from injury in Chris Capuano, I believe Alderson should have gone for a safer pick here. In the preseason I mentioned Bonderman and Francis as guys that would fit this bill. Bush would have been a reasonable choice, too. If those pitchers did not offer enough upside for your tastes, Penny had more of that and had less risk than Young.

No one should be surprised that Young failed to deliver needed innings for the Mets. Alderson swung for the fences with this move and came up predictably empty. The Mets’ new general manager has made a bunch of positive moves for the club but we cannot pretend that this was not an avoidable mistake. When evaluating this move, we simply cannot be swayed by the three strong outings he gave the club and wonder what might have been had he stayed healthy.

Simply, there was little evidence to suggest that he would stay on the field.

Could this be Jose Reyes’ swan song?

Some cringe at the thought, while others seem content moving in a different direction, but the universal thought of Jose Reyes not being the Mets everyday shortstop beyond this year would be anything but weird.

We’re not talking about Derek Jeter leaving the Yankees weird, but Jose Reyes and the Mets together have been synonymous ever since he was signed as a 16-year-old wunderkind from the Dominican Republic.

With contract negotiations between Reyes and the Mets likely being postponed until after the 2011 season, this very well could be the last we see of Reyes in a Mets uniform.

It’s a strange concept to wrap your head around. Reyes along with David Wright were set to be the franchise cornerstones. They were supposed to lead the Mets out of the dark and win championships.

That never happened, and may never will.

Reports this week have suggested that Reyes and the Mets will postpone extension talks until after the season is done, much the same way talks have broken down between Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals.

When Sandy Alderson was hired as the team’s general manager, one of the major issues he faced was how he would handle the core group of players (Reyes, Wright, Carlos Beltran, etc.). Well, nearly three months into the job Alderson has established that he has the same sentimental attachment to the core players as he does as a day old sock.

Alderson wants to mold the team in his image. He wants things to change. Most of all Alderson wants to win.

Despite calls from Mets fans to hire Wally Backman, Alderson hired a no-nonsense coach in Terry Collins to change the country club type atmosphere. Alderson has demonstrated that he will not be swayed by public sentiment.

Alderson has a vision. And with each passing day, that vision may not include Reyes in the future.

I’m getting a little far ahead of myself. I don’t know exactly what Alderson is thinking and it all depends on what Reyes does this year. If Reyes can churn out a career year, stay healthy and make the Mets a playoff contender then all bets are off.

Who knows, maybe this laissez faire attitude by Alderson is a motivational tactic set to light a fire under Reyes. However, the message is clear: shape up or ship out. No one is expendable.

From a personal side, I want Reyes to play motivated, get his money and make the Mets relevant again. It’s natural to have a sentimental attachment to Reyes. He is fiery, feisty, exuberant and above all else exciting. Plain and simple, he is a fan favorite.

But, sometimes we have to look at the bigger picture and check our sentimental hearts at the door. Mets fans who adore Reyes must brace for the possibility that this could be the last we see of him.

With the contracts for Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran and perhaps Francisco Rodriguez coming off the books, a new era is dawning.

Alderson will have a say if Reyes will be part of the new era. But mostly, it is Reyes who is in charge of writing the last chapter.