New York Mets: Make room in the basement

Neil Allen

Pitched four seasons with Mets and saved 69 games, winning 25 (and losing 40), but never helped them more than when he was traded to St. Louis in 1983 for Keith Hernandez. Started and relieved for Cardinals before moving on to Yankees, White Sox, Yankees again and Indians. Career was as up and down as his curveball, which tantalized hitters and employers alike. Never quite achieved what was hoped for him -- was 58-70 with 3.88 ERA and 75 saves in 11 seasons. Six of his seven complete games were shutouts. Never appeared in a postseason game: became a Cardinal after their World Series triumph, was traded away during 1985 return trip to Series and was a Yankee between their successes. Now a pitching coach in the Rays' minor-league system.

I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door: The Mets drafted Mike Pelfrey with the ninth pick of the 2005 draft; they drafted Matt Harvey with the seventh pick of the 2009 draft. Mets fans hope that’s where the similarities end, although their first pro seasons were remarkably similar. Pelfrey struck out better than a batter an inning in his first minor-league season and ended it at Class AAA. Harvey fanned 156 in 135.2 innings and ended the season in Class AA. In his second season, Pelfrey’s strikeout rate fell and has never risen, even as he did to the majors. As disappointing as Pelfrey has been, his career is a success story compared to Nathan Vineyard (done after 2008), Eddie Kunz (career 4.74 ERA in minors, pitched in four games for 2008 major-league Mets) and Bradley Holt (still scrapping in AA with a career 5.14 ERA), the three pitchers taken with first-round picks between Pelfrey and Harvey. But Pelfrey — 50-54 with a 4.40 ERA and just 493 strikeouts in 876.2 innings — has disappointed as a major-leaguer. It’s reasonable to think Harvey will be better. We should find out soon enough.

 What is this man doing here? Forty-one-year-old pitcher Miguel Batista pens poetry when not hurling, and it’s about time for him to author a farewell verse. I could not stop for retirement, so on to the waiver wire I was sent. Or something like that. Batista has been a useful major-league pitcher for 17 years and 10 teams, starting with the last pennant-winning Pirate team in 1992, for whom he pitched two innings. Batista is the last active player from that team, barely outlasting Tim Wakefield. But Batista couldn’t be salvaged by Dave Duncan and the Cardinals last year, who cut him, which led him to the Mets. He walked 33 and fanned 31 in 2011, and hasn’t been any better this spring, fanning four and giving up 14 hits in 9.2 innings. It’s time for Batista to take the ball out of his hand and put the pen, or the mouse, back in it.

What he said: Mets owner Fred Wilpon after the civil case involving Bernie Madoff  was settled: “The first order of business and the first priority will be getting down to Florida tomorrow, getting to the spring training camp, and trying to bring the New York Mets back to the prominence that our fans deserve and the city of New York deserves.”   What he meant: “I promise you we won’t blow a seven-game lead in September. Of course, we won’t have a seven-game lead in September or any other month.”

Outlook:  This is the 50th anniversary of the ’62 Mets, who gave Mets fans more humorous anecdotes than victories. It only seems as if the Mets are planning a season-long tribute to the original team by their ineptness of their play.

The Mets are bad — we’ll say it in as straight and slow a fashion as one of Mike Pelfrey’s fastballs. And they’ll finish last. But it’s not all their fault — they’re in one of the two toughest divisions in baseball (if the NL East isn’t, then the AL East is). 

What’s depressing to Mets’ fans isn’t  how bad they are, but how similar they are to last year’s team, with the glaring exception of Jose Reyes not being there (the Mets can replace him in-house with Ruben Tejada or from outside with Ronny Cedeno; if it’s the latter, we’re tuning in to WFAN by June and expecting loud voices).

Otherwise, the Mets traded centerfielders with the Giants (Angel Pagan for Andres Torres), signed free-agent reliever Frank Francisco and welcomed back Ike Davis, Johan Santana and Chris Young from injuries (make it quick with the latter since he’s made four starts each in 2010 and 2011; Young said his rehab has “gone smoothly,” and I know I believe him).

The Mets’ planning was limited by the Bernie Madoff-related lawsuit which was settled earlier this month, but their financial situation, despite their reassurances, is still as shaky as Chris Young’s shoulder.

It’s easy as a Mets’ fan to be depressed — in the same city the Yankees are 30 games better and in the same division even a team from Washington is better.

But if you want optimism, there’s this: their farm system is not barren (it’s ranked average to below average, but it’s been worse); general manager Sandy Alderson is not Omar Minaya; and their financial commitments are few. While the Nats are paying Jayson Werth $20-some million and the Phillies are paying Ryan Howard $25 million, the Mets will be paying Tejada half a million.

And the Mets won’t lose 120 games this year, as the ’62 Mets did. Probably not even 100. But no guarantees.

Team songFleetwood Mac: Second Hand News


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