Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
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Game 46: Loss

Phillies 5 Mets 3

As expected, Jeremi Gonzalez was awful again, giving away the game in the first inning. Though he pitched “well” after the first inning, the damage had been done. Not even the heroics of “slugger” Jose Reyes, who hit another home run as well as a double and a single, could deter the loss to Brett Myers and the Phils, who held the Mets’ 3-4-5 batters to a combined oh-fer-eleven.

Thankfully, we won’t be seeing Gonzalez for a while, as he was DFA’d immediately after the game to make room for newly acquired Orlando Hernandez. Chances are, no one will be claiming him on waivers, and he’ll return to Norfolk in a week to join fellow incompetent Jose Lima.

In other news, the Mets picked up another arm for the bullpen, to eat up all the useless inning Jorge Julio used to handle. Dave Williams, a lefty who was traded for Sean Casey just a few months ago, was picked up in a DFA deal with the Reds. At only 27 years old, and capable of throwing a baseball with his left hand, Williams shows an inkling of potential. He’ll be assigned to Norfolk immediately, but may be up as early as next week, following Alay Soler’s next start. This is a no-loss gamble on the Mets part, not unlike their signing of Danny Graves last year. Who knows, he may help out a bit down the road.

Tomorrow it’s Pedro vs. Marlins. We better get two out of three this weekend.

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Game 45: Win

Mets 5 Phillies 4

The Mets have the best record in baseball in one-run games, but I really wouldn’t mind if they won by two or three once in a while.

Actually, the number of one-run games at this point is a little scary. It is reminiscent of a team from last year that was very similar to these Mets, the Washington Nationals. This time last year, the Nats were on top of the NL East, winning an extraordinary number of one-run games, and relying heavily on a deep, effective bullpen. We all know how that went: by the end of July, the Nats were effectively out of the race, their bullpen completely burned out and the one-run games taking their toll on the team.

However, the 2006 Mets seem to have a lot more depth, and a lot more hitting than last year’s Nats, so we shouldn’t see a similar dropoff in Flushing. Now that Cliff Floyd is heating up, the Mets lineup is a juggernaut.

Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Jose Reyes all stayed hot, as they were the offensive heroes. The big story of the game, however, was the MLB debut of Cuban-born Alay Soler. After a jittery first inning in which he gave up three runs, Soler settled down to pitch a very strong game. Despite his lack of experience in the US, Soler looks to have the stuff to compete at this level.

Though not overpowering, Soler does have the command of three pitches and mixes them well. He looks like a Leo Mazzone pupil: working the corners, spotting pitches all over strike zone, concentrating on the outside corner for outs, and attempting to make good pitches all the time. There’s a fine line between making good pitches and trying to be too perfect; tonight, Soler looked to be on the right side of that line. After the first inning, his performance seemed effortless, and full of confidence; there was no intimidating this guy.

Even more news today involving a Cuban pitcher: Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez was picked up from Arizona in exchange for Jorge Julio. If nothing else, this deal solidifies Aaron Heilman’s role in the bullpen, as his only chance of escaping was continued improvement from Julio.

I’m a little mixed on this deal. I was starting to really become attached to Julio, and was rooting for him to come all the way back from his frightening start to become a dominant force out of the ‘pen. I still believe he’ll one day become another Armando Benitez—meaning a guy who will save 30 games a year — but in my heart of hearts I knew he might never have the emotional makeup to handle the pressure of New York. So in the end, it is probably better for him to get away from the spotlight of the big city.

As for El Duque, he looks to be a good fit for this team. While his 2006 performance thus far has been miserable, he has traditionally been a slow starter, and particularly poor in May. Plus, he’s coming off a strong 7-inning start (no decision), so it’s apparent that he still has something left.

More importantly, El Duque’s role will be to pitch in October. Playoff series are won with great pitching, and most championship teams have at least three strong starters. Currently, the Mets have two strong starters and a bunch of question marks. With El Duque’s history as a big-game pitcher with four World Series rings, the Mets will be able to match up well when and if they reach the postseason.

That’s not to say that Hernandez will be the Met’s #3 starter; far from it. He’s at best a #4, but probably closer to a #5, as he’ll have a mix of starts where he dominates and gets shelled (not unlike Steve Trachsel). However, he is a tough competitor, and I think he and Pedro will really feed off each other, as they are very similar in their approach and their repertoire. And naturally, he would seem to be a good influence on Alay Soler, if the Mets decide to keep him up with the big club.

Good thing the Mets took the first two, as tomorrow’s game figures to be a loss (Jeremi Gonzalez is starting).

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Game 44: Win

Mets 9 Phillies 8

So much for shortening the game …

If nothing else, the Mets have chutzpah. Once again, they fought back in this game, never having the lead until Beltran mashed the ball into the right field stands. Their tenacious, never-say-die attitude is something that has become a characteristic of the club. Even if the Mets don’t finish first, they should continue to provide us with a truly exciting season. This team reminds me a lot of the ’85 and ’86 squads, which had a knack for applying that “Mets magic” to come from behind and win ballgames.

Though Beltran has been very hot in the last few weeks, this walk-off homerun is his second deposit (the homer off Randy Johnson on Sunday the first) in his personal Shea Hero Bank account. A few more deposits and he will have completely won over the fans who booed him in the first week of the season.

For the first time all year, Darren Oliver entered and exited a game without allowing a run, and he chose his longest, most wearing and difficult appearance to pull it off. I’ve been criticizing his existence all year, but tonight I must give him a kudos. Well done, Darren.

Duaner Sanchez is a fun pitcher to watch. Just when you think he’s nothing but a sinker-slider, changeup pitcher, he pulls a curveball out of his butt on a 2-2 pitch to Ryan Howard. That’s gumption. Then in the tenth, he blew away Chase Utley with three fastballs: at 91, 93, then 95 MPH (yes, Mr. Willie left him in to pitch the tenth!).

Where the heck did Jose Reyes come up with that power? From the left side no less! Watching his home run live was surprising, but then watching the slo-mo replay, it was even more impressive. The pitch was a curveball that nearly hit the ground, and Jose merely flicked the head of the bat down there like a pitching wedge and zoom it went over the fence. And then he very nearly hit another one to win it in the 12th. His mechanics look awful, he’s all off balance, but somehow he had the strength to knock it over the wall. Scary to think about how he will mature as he gets past his mid-twenties.

As expected, Steve Trachsel followed up his near-shutout with a crapola five-inning stint, giving up six runs. (Of course, to Mets officials, that’s a “solid” start!) I suppose his issue was getting the day off yesterday; it threw off his whole anal-retentive schedule.

Hey is Cliff Floyd out of his slump or what? Did you notice that he is slamming the ball the other way lately? I wonder if he or Rick Down is reading my blog

I really thought Kaz was going to win the game for us in the ninth, and he did hit the ball well up the middle. He is really stroking the ball over the last week and a half, but the ball is finding mitts. As long as he keeps the same patient approach, and continues to take good swings at good pitches, I think he will raise his average significantly and become a key cog in the offense. With his speed, he could be a deadly offensive weapon.

In the bottom of the tenth, I thought for sure Paulie was going to drive in Reyes after Jose stole second. He took a poke at what looked like ball four, but (a) he probably figured it was too close to take with two strikes; and (b) he knew if he could drop it into the outfield, Reyes would score. Even though he didn’t come through, that full-count at-bat was a microcosm of why LoDuca is a great clutch hitter.

Where the heck was Mr. Willie in the bottom of the 11th when Beltran was called out after oversliding second base? Though he was likely out, it was a close enough call that it could have been argued, and the umpire was clearly in a poor position to make the call. Randolph should have been out there for two reasons: (1) Beltran was jawing a bit, and he needed to be protected; and (2) it couldn’t hurt to run out there, argue a bit, and force Madson to stand around a few minutes and get a little chilled.

And now that I’ve begun to trash Mr. Willie in this post, his putting up Ramon Castro to pinch-hit in the 12th was extremely questionable. I realize he was the last bat, but he was also the last catcher. The Mets emergency catcher is Chris Woodward, who was long gone from the game. I think I might have considered Tom Glavine as a PH in that situation, especially since he is not only a decent hitter but also a fair baserunner. In fact, since he was pitching the next inning, I’d have had Darren Oliver pinch-hit, as he is a very capable hitter. If LoDuca gets injured, who goes behind the dish? Carlos Delgado?

In regard to Chase Utley getting hit to lead off the 16th, I completely disagree with the call and with the numnut Mets announcers Darling and Hernandez. Utley made no attempt to pull the bat back, nor did he make an attempt to get out of the way, and from what I saw, it looked like he kicked his leg out over the plate and purposely got in the way of the ball. As it was, Paul LoDuca threw him out stealing — thanks to a great pick and tag by Reyes. Utley may have beaten the tag, but the ball beat him, and Reyes made such a great play the ump called him out.

Was that really Sal Fasano behind the plate for the Phils, or was it really Pete Vukovich? Every time he came up to hit, I half-expected to hear “Wild Thing” blast from the stadium speakers, and see a bespectacled Charlie Sheen run out of the bullpen.

Alay Soler might make his MLB debut tomorr… er, tonight …

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Game 43: Win

Mets 4 Yankees 3

“Enter Sandman” is a fitting song for Billy Wagner. I change the words: “… watch with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight … ”

That was exactly what I was doing: covering my face, watching with one eye open, and yes I was gripping the sofa pillow tight as I watched, and sweat, and twitched …

Billy was pissed tonight, and focused. He was throwing near triple-digit strikes at the bottom of the knees, his signature pitch at his signature location. He had Bernie Williams struck out looking, but the ump gave him the pitch because the ump blew the pitch before it (a slider in). This was the first night I’ve seen him throwing 99, but I think the ESPN radar gun was at least 2-3 MPH faster than most other guns (for example, it clocked Heilman at 96 once and Sanchez at 97 once; I’m not sure those guys throw that hard).

The third run should never have happened. For the second time in a row, a Mets pitcher walked Miguel Cairo. You have to be kidding me; Cairo is not a good hitter, not even an adequate hitter. If he is leading off an inning, and you have a lead, you need to throw the ball over the middle of the plate, belt-high, and challenge him to hit it. It’s not like he’s going to hit a homerun, and if he does, so be it, because they’re still one run down. However, you can’t walk Cairo, especially because by doing that you’re getting closer to the dangerous part of the Yankee order (Jeter, Giambi, A-Rod). When you get an invalid such as Cairo at the plate, in a lineup full of HOFers, you must take advantage and throw perfect strikes.

Another move that made me nuts, but worked out OK: Mr. Willie leaving in Heilman after he walked the bases loaded. We were extremely lucky that Reyes was able to get to that ground ball to end the inning, because Heilman was completely out of gas. Yes, he was still throwing 95-96 MPH (according to ESPN’s fast gun), but he lost command of the changeup, which makes him very vulnerable. After his second walk, Mr. Willie needed to go to his LOOGY – ROOGY combo. It was crazy enough to assume that Heilman would be able to do anything after throwing three innings just two days before.

Speaking of, Duaner Sanchez was also looking pretty tired. The numnut ESPN announcers were blaming the wind on the lack of command, but Sanchez was missing down. I’m sorry, but the wind generally doesn’t blow the ball down, it blows it side to side. Sanchez, like Heilman, was tired tonight. As I mentioned in the last post, Sanchez should have finished the game on Saturday, when he was pitching well, and then Mr. Willie could have had a strong Billy Wagner to close out a two-inning save today. But what do I know? Mr. Willie is the manager, and it’s clear he will MANAGE to burn out all bullpen arms by the All-Star break. But hey, they’ll have four days to recover, right?

I hope Yankee fans realize how lucky they were; the Yankees could have very easily, and should have, been swept. Of course, if that happened, all we’d hear about is how they don’t have Sheffield, don’t have Matsui, don’t have Posada, don’t have Chacon, Randy is in a funk, blah blah blah. My retort is simple: with a $200M+ budget, there are no excuses.

Carlos Delgado is a monster. You could just feel that bomb coming. The David Wright bomb, at the time, just seemed like icing on the cake; it turned out to be the winning run.

Good to see Cliffy hitting the ball hard today; hopefully the shoulder injury is not serious.

Reyes and Matsui were sparkling in the field, and though neither will win a Gold Glove this year, they are really looking great, together and individually.

Delgado can pick it. I don’t know what he’s done differently this year, but all I remember is him having a glove made of stone. This year his glove is like a shovel, picking everything coming his way.

Heilman looked fantastic, again, until the near-meltdown. He has GREAT stuff, and I still say it’s a waste to have him relieving. He has to start, at some point, especially with the ridiculousness of the rotation currently.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t colter bean one of the legumes in the 19-bean soup bag?

Day off tomorrow, and Alay Soler will unoffcially be making his debut on Wednesday or Thursday. Mr. Willie has confirmed that the Mets will give away one game this week by starting BP specialist Jeremi Gonzalez, but has not yet announced whether it will be given to the Phillies or the Marlins. It is assumed it will be the Phillies, because Omar and Willie are obstinate in their decision to pitch Pedro on five days’ rest when given the opportunity instead of the usual four.

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Game 42: Loss

Yankees 5 Mets 4

What a disaster. Mere hours after an overwhelmingly dramatic win over the Yanks in the opening game, Wille Randolph goes ahead and gives one back to his former team.

That’s right, I said Willie Randolph, not Billy Wagner.

I’m not a “Monday morning quarterback”, and criticize people after the fact. I criticize them the moment they make a stupid decision. So when Mr. Willie pulled Pedro after pitching seven innings of four-hit, shutout ball, I nearly threw my beer through the TV.

I don’t want to hear any more crap about “saving” Pedro, or being cautious with him, or any other bull. Pedro had just barely gone over 100 pitches, was going through the mighty Yanks like a Ginsu knife through warm butter, showing no sign of wear or tire. And he had a comfy four-run lead.

So tell me again the logic behind taking him out?

Then, after Duaner Sanchez throws his typically perfect inning, Mr. Willie summons the Sandman to close a game in a non-save situation.

Once again I had to restrain myself from throwing an object at the TV. Would someone tell me WHY ??????????

What is it that Mr. Willie has against pitchers who are doing well in a game? Why must he find ways to lose? Why fix what ain’t broke?

This all comes back to the nonsensical reasoning behind Aaron Heilman being too valuable to come out of the bullpen. You put so much value on the bullpen, you think it has to be used every single game. It’s kind of like spending an exorbitant amount of money on a weekend beach share: because you spent all the money, you’ve cornered yourself into going to the beach every single weekend, even if the forecast calls for rain all weekend.

Omar and Mr. Willie have cornered themselves into believing that the bullpen must have the final say in every single game, regardless of the circumstances. After watching today’s game, it makes me think that the only way Pedro would ever be allowed to pitch past the seventh is if he was throwing a perfect game and had only thrown 70 pitches.

What compounds the situation is this: if you don’t let the starters go deep when they’re able, and if you don’t let them get up to 120 or 130 pitches once in a while, they’ll never build the endurance to go deep later in the season. You are thus forced to depend on the bullpen every game, for the entire season.

That’s great, if you have ten guys in the bullpen. With Sanchez, Julio, Bradford, Heilman, Wagner, and Feliciano, the Mets have six pretty good guys. However, all but Julio are on course to pitch in 70-80 games each this year. There’s no way you can get all six guys throwing effectively when they are all throwing every other game (at least, not without performance-enhancing drugs). At some point, there’s going to be a breakdown.

In fact, the breakdown is occurring already. That’s why I don’t blame Wagner for the meltdown, I blame Willie. Wagner should never have been in the situation to begin with; he was signed to close out games in save situations. Willie, however, has taken to use him in nearly every situation where there’s a win at stake. Why not let Sanchez at least start the ninth? If the logic is that you want to limit Sanchez to one inning because you might need him tomorrow, well that doesn’t make sense either, because if Sanchez throws two today then Wagner should be strong enough for two tomorrow.

Ah, but there’s the rub: that’s not part of The Plan. According to the no-fault, no-blame cheat sheet Mr. Willie follows, Billy Wagner only pitches in the ninth. ONLY the ninth. No two-inning saves; those aren’t allowed according to The Plan. The Plan states that the starter goes five innings, you use a LOOGY-ROOGY-LOOGY combo in the sixth, Heilman in the seventh, Sanchez in the eighth, and Wagner in the ninth. No ifs, ands, or buts, no regard to the game situation.

So when Pedro goes six, or seven, full innings with ease, Mr. Willie doesn’t know what to do, because The Plan doesn’t address a quality start. It doesn’t address any “other plan”, such as rearranging the relievers and the days they pitch. As a result, Mr. Willie short-circuits, and does dumb things, such as take pitchers out when they are pitching effectively.

There were a lot of positives in this game, before the meltdown. But I haven’t the heart to discuss them now.

Tomorrow night: Glavine vs. Small. Hopefully Glavine will be allowed to go past the fifth.

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Game 41: Win

Mets 7 Yankees 6

WOW !

A great game to watch, a fantastic outcome. So much for the Mets’ playing down the subway series, comments that this wasn’t such a big game, etc. It sure didn’t look like “just another game” after LoDuca scored the winning run, hands raised, egging the fans, and guys mobbing each other.

LoDuca, by the way, has turned into the perfect replacement for Mike Piazza. Of course, it would have been impossible to replace what Piazza once meant to this team. Instead, LoDuca has filled the position in so many ways Piazza never could. True, we’ll never see LoDuca bang 30 homers, bat .320, or drive in 120 runs. But, we also never saw Piazza take a leadership role on the team, work hard to get the most out of pitchers, frame pitches well, advance runners from first to third, drop perfectly placed bunts, and come through in the clutch in myriad small ways. True, Piazza was a frightening presence in tight ballgames, but LoDuca seems to use his lack of presence to his advantage by getting little base hits.

Carlos Beltran has quietly been on fire lately, and erupted again with a huge homerun to bring the Mets within striking distance in the first. He also made a nice catch on a Robinson Cano drive in the third. Xavier Nady popped a huge one as well, tying the game and is making the Cameron deal look better and better every day (and me look dumber and dumber).

How great is David Wright? Three for five against the mighty Yanks, with a game-winning blast to the centerfield wall on a 1-2 pitch against the greatest closer of all time. Add to it his aw shucks comments after the game and you just want to cry, he’s so damn genuine … it’s like he came out of a time machine from the 1950s.

And how good is Jose Reyes getting? He walked TWICE, including leading off the game, and made a couple crucial, impressive plays in the field that saved runs. Plus, in the fourth, he did something I’ve never seen before: he was picked off first, but made it back to first base without being tagged out. Usually, a pickoff is botched by a bad throw, but in this case Reyes simply outran Robinson Cano. In fact, he even hesitated for a moment on his way back to first, giving Cano an extra step, and still beat him. The Yankees were so concerned with the possibility of Reyes running, they walked Paul LoDuca … but not before Reyes stole second cleanly on the 2-0 pitch.

Kaz Matsui continues to shine, both in the field and at bat. He finally came through with runners on, in a big way, with the game-tying basehit in the fifth, the result of a great at-bat. Though he didn’t get hits in his other at-bats, he hit hard line drive outs to the outfield each time. Also, he made a great play in the first inning, diving to tag out Alex Rodriguez’s attempt to stretch a single into a double. Robinson Cano followed with a double, so the play saved at least one run, possibly more. (Note: both A-Rod and Torre argued the call, but on the replay it looked correct. Though A-Rod beat the tag by hitting the bag with his toe, he continued the slide with his leg up and off the bag, while Kaz was still tagging him; that’s an out, Alex.)

Kaz and Jose saved a minimum of three runs all by themselves, which was obviously vital in a one-run game.

Two quick questions, one that could have affected the outcome, one that definitely did: 1. why didn’t Mr. Willie pinch-run for lovable but lead-footed LoDuca in the ninth? Endy Chavez was available, and even with the horrible arms in the Yankee outfield, there was no guarantee Pauly would score on a single. 2. Where the hell was Johnny Damon playing David Wright? Damon was so shallow, you’d think there was a man on third and less than two out. Did he not get the scouting report on Wright’s power, or was he not aware there were two outs? Wright hit a bomb, but with the non-swift LoDuca on 2B and two outs, you’d think Damon would have been deeper. Thankfully he wasn’t.

What can you say about Billy Wagner? Three batters, three strikeouts. The Yanks didn’t have a prayer. And after the game, all Billy could talk about was the performance of Aaron Heilman, stating that Heilman was great enough to start, relieve, close, whatever. (Unusual side note: I listened to the game live on radio, and Howie Rose kept referring to Wagner throwing a changeup. It seemed odd, since I didn’t think he threw one, but Rose reported “changeup” at least five times. After watching a replay of the game, all I saw were 98-MPH heaters and filthy sliders … you’d think Rose would have a clue about one of the most highest-profile Mets.)

Indeed, Aaron Heilman was absolutely fabulous, retiring nine out of nine in three innings of relief. He faced the entire Yankee lineup and gave up nothing. So of course, Ron Darling’s comment after the game is, “Heilman today showed why he is so valuable in the pen, and why the Mets can’t break up their strength”. Jesus Friggin Christ … so if he gave up eight runs, Darling would be saying that he doesn’t have the stuff a starter needs to succeed. What more does Heilman have to do to prove to the world that he is an excellent pitcher, period? And you don’t waste away a talent like this by using him for two and three inning stints when you have two humongous holes in the starting rotation. If Mr. Willie thinks he can use Heilman for two or three innings every other game, he will, and Aaron’s arm will fall off by August. If the bullpen is so damn important, why not put Pedro there? OK, I’m done with my rant for the moment …

Well, I’m done with my daily Heilman rant, but it leads to the current bad news emanating from the game: Jeremi Gonzalez looked like he was throwing batting practice for the Yankees: lots of chest-high, straight, underwhelming fastballs. In fact, his outing could easily have been a lot uglier had it not been for an assortment of excellent defensive plays by Reyes, Matsui, and Beltran. Let’s face it, even Randy Johnson and Kelly Stinnett were getting good swings off of him. And, for a guy who allows so many baserunners, he doesn’t do a whole lot to help himself; he doesn’t field his position very well, he gives baserunners plenty of time to steal bases, and he doesn’t handle the bat well. All that adds up to a guy who’s not going to help much, even as a #5. To compound the situation, it was learned the Brian Bannister would be out for at least a few more weeks. Furthermore, it was announced that LimaTime is finally over, as he was DFA’d. So it appears that the Mets braintrust has at least acknowledged that the rotation cannot continue in its current state. What they’ll do next is anybody’s guess.

My guess is that they’ll give at least one spot to Darren Oliver, who once again gave up a run. (Remarkable he didn’t give up more; A-Rod looked at two hittable strikes and was robbed on a third-strike call that LoDuca eased beautifully onto the black, and Reyes saved a run by keeping an infield single from reaching the outfield.). Yes, yes, I know it wasn’t “his” run that he gave up, but I’ve been saying it all year: the guy gives up a run, inherited or not, every time he pitches. And sorry, I’m not terribly impressed with what he’s shown in his limited 2-inning stints. Every Mets announcer, writer, and official loves to talk about how effective Oliver has been, but I’m not buying it. And tell me, spin crew, if Oliver has been so damn effective, why might it be OK to pull HIM out of the precious bullpen but not you-know-who?

Next game: Pedro vs. Mussina. Should be another great game.

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Pitching Options

Two things are very clear: the Mets must do something with their starting pitching immediately if they wish to stay on top of the division, and they refuse to exercise the most logical option (put Heilman in there).

LimaTime is over. Jeremi Gonzalez is not the answer, either. This team is relying on Steve Trachsel to be a #3, something he’s never really been, and have huge holes at 4 and 5. Since Heilman is inexplicably out of the picture, following are the possibilities to consider.

Inside the organization:

1. Jeriome Robertson
Robertson went 15-9 for the Astros in 2003, then fell off the face of the planet. Before you get too excited about that 15-win season, consider that he did it with a 5.10 ERA, and his career ERA is 5.79, allowing 293 baserunners in 184 innings. There’s a reason he hasn’t pitched in a Big League game since 2004. However, he’s lefty, so the Mets may pull the Darren Oliver logic and bring him up.

2. Evan MacLane
MacLane is a 23-year-old lefty who has moved very quickly through the Mets organization, and so far this year is pitching lights out. After going 3-1 with a 1.09 WHIP for the B-Mets, he earned a callup to the Tides when Lima and Gonzalez moved to the big club. He’s 2-0 in two starts, and in 14 innings has given up seven hits, one walk, and struck out 16. You can’t do much better than that, but with the Mets holding back Soler and Pelfrey due to inexperience, they may hold the same caution with this youngster. Or perhaps they just want to get through the Yankee series, and give MacLane his ML debut in a situation where there is less media frenzy.

3. Jason Scobie
Scobie began his pro career with the Brooklyn Cyclones as a closer in 2001, but since was converted to a starter, a role he struggled with until blossoming last year with Norfolk, going 15-7 with a 3.34 ERA. He had a longshot at making the Mets out of spring training, as he was one of the nine people brought in to prevent … er, I mean compete with, Aaron Heilman, for the fifth starter’s spot. However, in his one spring appearance, he gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 8 runs without recording an out, and his second season with the Tides thus far has been awful: 1-5 record with an 8.09 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP. Either the spring training appearance severely bruised his confidence, or there’s something physically wrong. Whatever the case, it’s doubtful the Mets would promote him as long as his ERA is north of 8.

4. Alay Soler
He’s pitched 8 professional games so far, none above AA. However he was an up and coming professional in Cuba, and pitched effectively in international competition. He has a 91-92 MPH fastball and plus slider, but there aren’t any reports on a true off-speed pitch. Though he dominated younger hitters in the FSL, and has done well so far at the AA level, there are scouts that attribute his success to his advanced age and experience relative to those leagues. At least one scout was quoted as saying, “Maybe he’s a middle reliever. But for what they invested in him, you would think they would have gotten more. Right now, I think you can find a guy like him in Triple-A or Double-A anywhere.” Not exactly the kind of comment Mets fans want to hear.

5. Mike Pelfrey
There is no question that Pelfrey is the future face of the Mets’ pitching staff, as he has already been compared to a young Tom Seaver. Indeed, had it not been for his retaining Scott Boras as his agent, Pelfrey might have been the no. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft. But is he ready? Omar Minaya has been wishy-washy when asked about promoting Pelfrey to the big club in 2006, at first saying it wouldn’t happen and later saying he wouldn’t hold him back. There’s reason to believe he can make a quick jump, a la Mark Prior (who was in the bigs after only 9 minor league starts), considering his polished stuff and mature makeup. However, Prior’s case was a rare one. Even Tom Seaver needed 34 starts in AAA before making the bigs to stay in 1967.

6. Willie Collazo
While everyone is talking about rushing up Alay Soler or Mike Pelfrey, there is a nondescript lefty named Willie Collazo pitching lights out for the AA B-Mets. Originally drafted by the Braves out of Florida International U. in 2001, Collazo also spent three years in the Angels’ organization, struggling to survive as an extra part at the AA level. He’s now 27, five-foot-nine, and clearly a non-prospect. However, he’s currently 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP. He’s a longshot even to reach the AAA level, but with the Mets’ lack of depth he should at least receive a few minutes of consideration. Who knows, he could be the next Jeff Fassero.

Outside the organization:

1. Kyle Lohse
As a 24-year-old, Lohse looked to be a star in the making. He followed up a 13-win season in 2002 with a 14-win season in 2003, and though his ERA was over four both years, he had respectable strikeout numbers, a WHIP around 1.30, and never missed a start. With his competitiveness and talent, it looked like he was on the fast track and an up-and-coming, future 20-game winner. Fast-forward to 2006, and he has fallen so out of favor with the Twins that he was demoted to the minors, as much for his near-9 ERA as for his attitude. As of this writing, he had not reported to AAA Rochester, leading to speculation that he might become a free agent or be traded. If the Mets can get him for nothing, or next-to-nothing, he might be worth the gamble. After all, he’s only 27, seems to be OK physically, and has been successful in the past (this is different from signing a 35-year-old pitcher who has been successful in the past). Maybe all he needs is an attitude adjustment, or tweak in his mechanics, or a new environment, to get back on track. After taking a flyer on Jose Lima for reasons unknown, you’d have to think the Mets would jump on the opportunity to take this talent, considering the current disarray in the rotation.

2. Livan Hernandez
He makes so much sense for the Mets: he’s an Omar guy, he’s a tough competitor, and he routinely pitches into the eighth and ninth inning, a true innings eater if there ever was one. And with the Nats already 10 games out of first, and showing no signs of winning anything this year, it would make sense to dump the veteran Hernandez and his salary for some youth. A few problems, however. First, the Nats finally have an owner, as of only two weeks ago. The new ownership has barely gotten their furniture in, and no doubt has designs on restructuring the management team. It would be difficult for the acting GM, Jim Bowden, to pull the trigger on a deal that would send away the team’s #1 starter. Plus, outside of Victor Diaz, the Mets don’t have a whole lot of young talent available that would satisfy the Nats in such a deal. Add in the Mets’ current desperation, and you can smell overpay; I wouldn’t be surprised to see a package of Diaz and Evan MacLane needed to make this deal happen.

3. Dontrelle Willis
Forget it. It’s not going to happen. The Marlins have no reason to trade away D-Train. He is to the Marlins what Dwight Gooden was to the Mets in the mid-1980s: a great draw, a great pitcher, and cheap. The only people talking about him leaving are baseball writers and pundits trying to create news.

4. Jamie Moyer
With the Mariners in last place, and off the heels of a two-hour, closed-door meeting, there’s some thought that they’ll trash the season and trade away some high-paid veterans. However, although in last, they’re only five games out — hardly enough to call it a season. And again, the Mets would have to grossly overpay in talent to pry Moyer away from the M’s.

5. Barry Zito
Enough already … like the D-train rumors, this ain’t happening, at least not until mid-July. Even then, the A’s are reportedly demanding Lastings Milledge and other top prospects. Omar will wait for the free agent season.

6. Brad Radke or Carlos Silva
The Twins are fading fast, in a division that was ultra-competitive BEFORE the Tigers came out of nowhere to take over first place. Silva has already been demoted to the bullpen, and Radke has been pitching poorly since September of last year. They might look to dump Radke while he still has some value, as he’s not getting any younger. Either pitcher could be a good addition to the Mets, assuming that Rick Peterson has ten minutes or so to fix one of them. They both throw lots and lots of strikes, and would benefit both from pitcher-friendly Shea and the NL batters’ unfamiliarlity of them. Who knows what it might take to pry either away, however?

Conclusion

Unless the Mets change their stance on Heilman, or feel confident in rushing MacLane, it doesn’t look like the answer will come from within. That said, the most logical and possible option from the outside would be Lohse, though from his performance thus far this year, I don’t know that he’ll be more effective than Jeremi Gonzalez—at least right away. He could, however, turn out to be a solid #4 or #5 in the long run, and that’s not such a bad thing to have these days.

Personally, I’d love to see Livan Hernandez come in, but it just doesn’t seem plausible, considering the Nats’ pitching issues and the new ownership’s priority list.

If I were in charge, and Omar wouldn’t let me take Aaron out of the ‘pen, I’d sign Lohse, put him in the pen for a week or two, and make him Peterson’s number one project. Lima would be gone, and in his place in the rotation, I’d bring up a different guy each time the rotation spot came up, then send him back down the next day. Collazo first, then Soler, then MacLane. They’d all get one start and go right back. The theory is that no one has seen these guys, there’s little available in the scouting reports, and who knows, they might just get through five or six innings. It happens against the Mets so often, I’ve got to think it could work for them once in a while. By the time MacLane is sent down, either John Maine or Brian Bannister will be back, and/or Lohse will be ready to be a #5 guy.

This would be so much simpler if they’d just put Heilman in the rotation …

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Lima Time is Bull

This Jose Lima is a real matadorIn case you’re wondering, the picture to the right is of the great matador, Jose Lima Granada, a.k.a., “Lima de Estepona”. I show it here as a frame of reference and inspiration to Jose Lima, a.k.a., “Lima Tiempo”. Check it out, Jose. No, not the fancy threads and phat hat, though I’m sure those are the first two things you noticed. Check out the technique of this grand toredor. If you look closely, you’ll see that the matador is avoiding the bull. He draws the bull in with the capote (the big cape), teases him, toys with him, until the point we see here, where he drops the muleta (a smaller red cape), the notification to the crowd that the bull is about to meet his demise.

Lima de Estepona is very good at what he does; if he wasn’t he’d be dead. Our Lima is not so good. But despite his ineffectiveness, he still lives, and gets paid a substantial sum of money to boot. However, for the good of the Mets, I hope that LimaTime can learn something from his overseas cousin, and avoid the bulls, rather than attacking them directly and tormenting them, because it is clear that he does not have a muleta nor sword with which to kill these bulls. Though he throws a fastball, it is no estocada (more banderilla, actually).

Unfortunately, the Mets’ Jose Lima resembles more of a rodeo clown than a matador. And he looks more like a minor league freak show than a bonafide Major League pitcher. Lima Time is over, at least in New York. It’s time to let this sorry excuse for a pitcher to return to the independent leagues, where he will be valuable as a crowd-pleaser and entertainer for some attendance-hungry minor league team.

(Go ahead, Google the terms. If nothing else, Jose Lima will help you learn a little about bullfighting … which in many ways is remarkably similar to baseball.)

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