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New York Mets: Can a "Fruit and Nuts" Franchise Still Compete in the NL East?

Earlier this week, during baseball’s Winter Meetings, super agent Scott Boras categorized the New York Mets as a team that is normally in the “steaks section,” but now find themselves in the “fruits and nuts category a lot.”

Any Mets fan will admit there are plenty of nuts running around the organization at the moment.

It’s far too late to claim that fans want a contender—they’re dying for one.

In the wake of Jose Reyes signing with the newly-christened Miami Marlins, the only thing the Mets can do is shop around in the bargain bin and find any way to keep butts in the seats while their better prospects develop.

General manager Sandy Alderson, completely unwilling (and rightfully so) to concede anything, including the upcoming 2012 season, hopes to build a long-term contender no later than 2014. And with prospects like Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Matt Harvey and Brandon Nimmo in the fold, that just might be possible.

Yes, they should trade David Wright, but that’s an article for another day.

But with the farm system still unable to bear Major League-ready fruit, can the Mets actually find a way to compete within the NL East—a division which is arguably the best in baseball?

After several days of inactivity, Alderson finally made a flurry of moves, trading Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez, and signing relievers Frank Francisco (two-years, $12 million) and Jon Rauch (one-year, $3.5 million).

Ramirez, Rauch and Francisco give manager Terry Collins plenty of arms to choose from in Spring Training.

Francisco, 32, went 1-4 with a 3.55 ERA and had 17 saves in 54 relief appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays last season. Rauch, 33, is a good match for the Mets, finishing 2011 5-4 with a 4.85 ERA in 53 relief appearances. He missed the remainder of the season after being sidelined September 4 with torn cartilage in his right knee. Ramirez, 30, went 3-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 66 relief appearances for the San Francisco Giants last season.

In adding Torres, Alderson took a page out of the Moneyball Handbook, hoping that the Torres of 2010 will reemerge. He hit just .221 with four home runs and a .312 OBP last season, but two seasons ago, Torres was a monster.

Although he produced a ho-hum slash line of .268/.343/.479, he was tied with the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista with a 6.8 WAR. Defensively, he posted a revised zone rating of 96 percent, first among centerfielders.

While Torres might be a slight upgrade, especially defensively, over Pagan, and the addition of three relievers gives Collins more flexibility to sort out the bullpen, Alderson didn’t add any actually wins to the Mets roster.

Once again, the Mets bullpen is going to be a trial-by-error system—everyone will have a chance to fill a role until they begin to show imperfections, at which time, hopefully, Collins will make a change.

Last season, the Mets bullpen ranked 15th in the NL in both BAA (.267) and ERA (4.33).

The Mets will enter 2012 with a team of retreads and returning players, like first baseman Ike Davis and starting pitcher Johan Santana. Unless Alderson puts the hammer down and trades a player like David Wright, the next few seasons will be highlighted by continual futility and failure.

Will the Philadelphia Phillies finally start to show their age? Will expectations become too much for the completely revamped Miami Marlins? The Atlanta Braves missed the playoffs only because of a nightmare September collapse; will they recover or enter a free fall not unlike the Mets’?

Heck, even the Washington Nationals, who are expected to break camp with stud Bryce Harper, have a brighter future than the Mets.

So what can Alderson, Collins and the Mets actually do?

For now…nothing.

If Alderson is unwilling to concede the season and start making serious trades, there isn’t much to be done. Yes, the Mets have reportedly been shopping young players like reliever Bobby Parnell and starting pitcher Jon Niese, but Alderson didn’t seem very willing to actually pull the trigger, and it’s unclear exactly what the market’s interest was.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Mets will make any aggressive moves between now and the start of Spring Training, but it seems that, once again, Mets fans will be looking at another season of disappointment.

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New York Mets: Success Puts GM Sandy Alderson in Awkward Position

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Mets were supposed to play the first half of the season, find themselves far out of contention, and start trading off players.

Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran were supposed to be traded because the Mets simply had no reason to hold onto them. After all, why resign players for big money when there are so many reasons to start a rebuilding process?

Contending teams pick apart the basement dwellers for spare parts. That’s how baseball works.

But now the Mets find themselves at the .500 mark (22-22) for the first time since they were 4-4 on April 9.

Even with Ike Davis, David Wright, Angel Pagan, and Johan Santana on the DL, and a roster comprised mostly of Buffalo Bisons, this Mets team finds ways to win baseball games.

This Mets team comes from behind, wins games in spite of poor pitching, and isn’t intimidated by seemingly superior teams.

Even Mets fans have to feel comfortable when guys like Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy come to the plate with runners in scoring position and the game on the line.

Last night, the Mets got a go-ahead solo home run from Murphy and a two-out RBI double from Turner as the Mets took the Subway Series opener against the Yankees, 2-1.

It’s not the high-priced talent making the difference; it’s the youngsters taking advantage of the opportunities provided to them by injuries.

If this inspiring play continues, Sandy Alderson may have to rethink his plans for this season.

With their farm system in need of an overhaul and an inability to spend big money, Alderson was faced with a difficult task: Trading off his popular players for an infusion of prospects, and hoping that an already disillusioned fanbase keeps showing up to games afterwards.

But will Alderson still trade Reyes or Beltran or Francisco Rodriguez if the Mets are actually contending?

Given the team’s performance over the last few weeks, it’s not unreasonable to think a Wild Card berth might be in their future. Heck, even the division isn’t out of reach.

The Phillies, despite their powerhouse rotation, isn’t without their flaws; the Florida Marlins are playing their best baseball in years, but always seem to fade down the stretch and they just placed Josh Johnson on the 15-day DL; and the Atlanta Braves have been up and down all season.

Can the Mets take advantage at this point in the season and make a quick push up the standings?

They’re only five games out of first place and three and a half in the Wild Card standings.

For now, the Mets are contenders.

If it’s the same (or even better) when the trade deadline rolls around, will Alderson still shop his players or will be convince the Wilpons that opening their wallets to resign Reyes or allow K-Rod’s $17.5 million option for 2012 to vest is a good idea?

Watching guys like Turner and Jason Pridie come up from the minors and have a positive impact on the team makes you think that perhaps the Mets would be successful if they gave more of their prospects a chance to play.

And they do have promising pitchers like Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia making their way towards the major leagues.

There are reasons for optimism within Mets Land.

But just like it would be a good idea to keep this team together if they’re contending, the opposite is true.

The Mets are winning games without their best players, meaning that it’s possible to put a winning product on the field even without their All-Stars.

Wright would fetch the highest haul of prospects in a trade since he’s under team control through 2012.

The Mets can win without Wright. They’re 3-1 since Wright landed on the DL.

Could it be Wright, and not Reyes, who gets traded this season?

No matter what the standings say, Alderson has some tough decisions to make.

He can ignore the Mets’ record and still trade off his most valuable pieces to build a winner for the future, not keep one for the short-term.

He can spend what little money the Mets have and keep this group together, letting the chips fall where they may, and Reyes and Beltran walk away at the end of the season.

Who would’ve guessed that the more the Mets win, the more likely the might lose in other ways?

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New York Yankees: "Killer B’s" and Other Replacements Waiting to Take Over

They say you can’t argue with results.

The New York Yankees are 20-16, two games behind the first place Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.

Could they be in first place? Sure. After all, it’s still only May 14, and there’s plenty of baseball to be played.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, the optimists will say.

But the Yankees are not without their flaws. No team in baseball is, but perfection is an obsession in the Bronx.

Just look at Derek Jeter. No player personifies the, “What have you done for me lately?” mentality better. Jeter has been the face of New York baseball for 16 years, helping the Yankees to five World Series titles, but you would never know it by reading the newspapers or the comments section of any Yankees forum.

He’s done. He can’t hit anymore. It’s time to bat him ninth.

We’ve heard it all.

What’s keeping Jeter atop the Yankee lineup?

It was a lack of options, but the Yankees can’t say that for much longer.

After struggling for most of the season, Brett Gardner is now red hot. He has 13 hits in his last 31 at-bats (.419) with a scorching .526 OBP in May.

Jeter has gotten off to a hot start in May as well, batting .300 and raising his season average to .268. But he has just four hits in his last 19 at-bats since going 4-for-6 in a 12-5 win over the Texas Rangers on May 8.

Who’s more likely to stay hot? The younger, faster Gardner or the quickly aging Jeter?

Jeter’s spot atop the lineup is more out of respect than anything else. But the chances to bury the Boston Red Sox and Rays in the standings are now gone. The Yankees are now on a three-game losing streak, their second of the season and are just 3-7 in their last 10 games.

If there was ever a time to finally make the change, it’s now.

But it’s unfair to single out Jeter.

Jorge Posada has also struggled mightily. Yes he has six home runs. Yes he has 15 RBI. But he’s batting a putrid .165 and hasn’t homered since April 23.

Unlike Jeter, Posada will certainly be gone after this season, so the sense of urgency to move him or replace him is weaker. But like Jeter, there are replacements waiting in the wings, and the longer the Yankees wait, the sooner the fans will start to notice.

After failing to win the backup catcher job in spring training, top prospect Jesus Montero is tearing up Triple-A pitching. Montero is batting .325 with two home runs and 11 RBI in 28 games for Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Montero has been more known for his bat than his glove, a stance which was only reaffirmed in the spring. The prevailing thought is that the Yankees would rather have Montero play in the minor leagues to keep his trade value up in case the Yankees pull the trigger on a trade during the season.

Montero would have already been gone had the Yankees been able to trade for Cliff Lee last August.

But as Posada struggles and Montero continues to hit, how long can the Yankees stick to their plan? Montero’s defense has most scouts projecting a DH or first base job in the youngster’s future. Mark Teixeira isn’t going anywhere of course, which leaves DH.

And while the Yankees would love to leave themselves with the flexibility to rest their aging veterans like Alex Rodriguez at DH, if Montero can come up and do a better job than Posada, the Yankees could live with his weak defense behind the plate should they chose to make him the backup.

Francisco Cervelli only has 14 at-bats since coming off the DL, so there’s no reason to move him out from behind the plate. And Russell Martin continues to be the best pick up of the offseason.

But as Posada struggles, the Yankees can’t feign ignorance much longer.

The biggest reason the Yankees can be comfortable with the status quo is the surprising production they’ve received from Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Two pick ups off the scrap heap this offseason, Colon and Garcia have far surpassed expectations.

Colon is 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA. Garcia is 2-2 with a 2.61 ERA.

It’s great to see, and imagining where the Yankees would be had their rotation not shaped up the way it has might make you sick. But despite the overachieving, the Yankees are still just 14th in the majors in stater’s ERA (3.88).

And what’s the over/under on how many starts the Yankees will get out of their reclamation projects?

Garcia was limited to just 12 starts from 2008-2009 but bounced back with 28 last season for the White Sox. Colon hasn’t made more than 20 starts since 2005 and was limited to just 19 over the last two seasons.

It’s safe to say both have been better than expected, and the best thing the Yankees can do is ride the both of them into the ground. Keep sending Colon and Garcia out there every fifth day and if, or when, they break down, cut them loose.

If that happens, would the Yankees hesitate to call up their top pitching prospects, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos?

Both are starting for Double-A Trenton right now and have been pitching very well. Betances is 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts. Banuelos is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in six starts.

The Yankees are very protective of their young prospects, perhaps to a fault. And after watching Phil Hughes land on the DL after an inexplicable drop in velocity, the Yankees might be fearful of adding onto the innings total of their young “B’s.”

But the fans know they’re pitching well. And the moment Colon and Garcia begin to show flaws, the screams for mid-season call-ups for Banuelos and Betances will echo throughout Yankee Stadium.

For now, the Yankees can keep sending out the same lineup and rotation every day, satisfied that they’re only two games out of first. But two can quickly become four or six if the Yankees continue to struggle, while the Red Sox and Rays surge.

It’s not in the Yankees’ nature to be quick on the trigger, but they have to at least keep their guns loaded.




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New York Mets: 5 Reasons for and Against Re-Signing Jose Reyes

The New York Mets had their six-game win steak snapped last night in a 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. They still showed the same fight and clutch pitching that had brought them to this point, but fell a bit short.

Now the Mets will look to start a new win steak when they head to Philadelphia for a three game set with the Phillies.

But no matter how well the Mets play, they have some tough decisions ahead.

Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran headline the list of players the Mets may look to trade if they fall out of contention. They’re not in contention now of course, and general manager Sandy Alderson has stated that he’s contacted several teams already to discuss their potential interests, but no one is willing to talk this early.

The Mets shouldn’t be either, but Alderson is just doing his due diligence, and rightfully so.

Beltran is most assuredly going to be traded at some point this season, it’s just a matter of to who and for what. He has shown an ability to play every day, something even the Mets weren’t expecting when the season began, and he’s been hitting well. For a contending team looking to add some pop, Beltran would be a valuable piece.

But Beltran’s value pales in comparison to that of Reyes.

The Mets have quite a quandary on their hands. The better Reyes plays, the more valuable he becomes in a trade, not to mention the more expensive he becomes to resign. But he has the most value to the Mets, who have enjoyed his lead off services since 2005.

It’s unknown whether Alderson and the Mets have both the desire and financial wherewithal to keep Reyes in Flushing.

But here are five reasons for and five reasons against resigning Reyes. The first five are pro-resigning, the last five are against.

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New York Yankees: Does Joe Girardi Have What It Takes to Manage This Team?

It’s hard to be a baseball manager. It’s even harder to manage in New York City. It’s even harder than that to manage the New York Yankees.

With pockets deep enough to absorb almost any contract and make any change at any time, the Yankees possess power no team can match.

That power has helped them create one of the best top-to-bottom lineups in baseball. And all of that power rests in the hands of manager Joe Girardi.

For the Yankees to be 10-6 and in first place in the AL East is quite a feat considering even general manager Brian Cashman declared the rival Boston Red Sox to be the team to beat this year.

The Yankees entered this season with serious issues in their starting rotation, and have already had to send Phil Hughes to the DL with a “dead arm,” replacing him with Bartolo Colon. Colon limited the Toronto Blue Jays to just two runs on five hits in 6.2 innings in his first start of the season Wednesday.

Throw in A.J. Burnett’s 3-0 start (4.37 ERA), and the Yankees rotation has played better than most expected.

The lineup has relied a bit too heavily on the home run (they lead the AL with 30), but you can’t argue with the results.

That said, this season is not without its problems for the Yankees, and Girardi seems unwilling, or unable, to take the necessary steps to fix some of them.

Case in point, the performances of Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter.

Coming off the worst statistical season of his career, many Yankees fans wanted to see Jeter dropped in the lineup. Jeter is batting just .219 this season with a .282 OBP, and Girardi has spent most of his time flip-flopping him between first and second in the lineup.

Gardner is off to an even worse start, batting a woeful .128 with a .196 OBP and three stolen bases in six attempts. The majority of Gardner’s at-bats have come in the leadoff spot, but he has just one hit in his last 26 at-bats.

Despite the obvious struggles of both Jeter and Gardner, Girardi is completely unwilling to make a change. It’s a small sample size and perhaps Girardi is taking his time, but no one would fault him if he dropped Jeter in the lineup.

Gardner, though, may need to take a seat on the bench. But Girardi has said he has no plans to bench Gardner in the near future. Part of Girardi’s decision, or lack thereof, comes from a shortage of options.

If Girardi were to move Jeter down in the lineup and put Gardner on the bench, it would leave the Yankees without a true leadoff hitter and a suitable No. 2 hitter.

Nick Swisher would be the first choice to bat second, but he’s only hitting .273 right now with no home runs, so there’s no significant upgrade there—at least not right now. But it was Swisher who batted second in the Yankees’ 6-2 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday in Toronto.

A leadoff hitter is much more difficult to find than a No. 2. Andruw Jones would seem poised to take over for Gardner in left field should Girardi make a change, but he certainly can’t lead off.

Curtis Granderson is the only Yankee player who might be able to lead off, but his career OBP of .341 says otherwise.

Gardner’s days of leading off are over for now, with Jeter back in that spot. For now, Girardi simply doesn’t have any options that are solid enough to make any significant changes. But once he does, as the season drags on and if Jeter or Gardner don’t show any signs up improvement, does Girardi have what it takes to make the “tough” decisions?

When the Yankees hired Girardi as manager, the biggest problem he’d have to deal with would be his relationship with Jeter. Girardi and Jeter were teammates from 1995 to 2003 and it’s difficult to tell someone you used to share a locker room with that he doesn’t have it anymore, especially with a player of Jeter’s caliber.

When the time comes, and it might not this season, will the decision to move Jeter in the lineup (or to another position) come from Girardi or from the front office? The Steinbrenner brain trust already went around Cashman to sign reliever Rafael Soriano this offseason.

What makes anyone think they wouldn’t go around Girardi when it comes to Jeter?

The decision surrounding Gardner shouldn’t be nearly as difficult.

Despite the lack of a suitable replacement, Gardner doesn’t exactly have the credit that Jeter does. If he continues to struggle and it starts to have more of a negative impact on the lineup, Girardi can’t hesitate to bench him.

He can’t say, “It’s still early,” for too much longer. The only thing saving Gardner from a bench spot is a lack of production from other potential replacements. If that changes, Girardi has to be ready to pull the trigger. The same goes for Jeter.

Whether Girardi can, or will, remains to be seen. 

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New York Mets: Brad Emaus Out, Justin Turner Called Up from Triple-A

Despite his status as a Rule-5 pick and J.P. Ricciardi’s voice trumpeting his name, Brad Emaus’ stay with the New York Mets was short and uneventful.

Today, the Mets designated Emaus for assignment and called up Justin Turner from Triple-A Buffalo.

Emaus hit just .162 with one RBI in 14 games this season. Initially, the Mets loved his power and his ability to get on base. But he showed none of those skills during his time in the majors.

He won his job as the Mets’ second baseman, along with Daniel Murphy, mainly because of that track record. If not for his status as a Rule-5 pick, it’s unlikely Emaus would have made the team out of spring training.

Emaus must now go through waivers before being offered back to the Toronto Blue Jays for $25,000—half the price the Mets paid for him in the draft.

Emaus was given plenty of chances to impress manager Terry Collins. At the very least, he received as much of a shot as Murphy, and was basically handed a spot on the 25-man roster.

Murphy and Emaus each have played in 14 games this season. In 31 at-bats, Murphy is batting .226 with four RBI.

Entering this season, the biggest issue the Mets had was second base. After the release of Luis Castillo, the Mets hoped the offense of Emaus, a righty, and Murphy, a lefty, would give them versatility from day to day.

Their success hinged on the offense, which Collins said was most important from the position, and would compensate for a flawed defense. Neither Emaus nor Murphy have shown to be particularly adept with the glove, but Emaus has been particularly bad, botching two potential double plays last week against the Colorado Rockies.

With Turner now called up, the Mets will have another right-handed bat to split time with Murphy. Mets fans might also get a glimpse of their future second baseman, as Turner is certainly in the mix to fill that role.

26-year-old Turner hit .300 (12-for-40) with two RBI in 10 games for Triple-A Buffalo this season. He is also decent defender, holding a .973 fielding percentage over six seasons at second base. But it’s his bat that will make or break him now that’s he’s made it to “The Show.”

Murphy has to be happy about this move. Not because Emaus is out, but because he has given the Mets enough for them to still consider him a second baseman.

Turner is in the lineup tonight, batting eighth against the Houston Astros. He could potentially start twice in this series against the two left-handed Astros starters.

Pedro Beato is now the only Rule-5 pick remaining. He’ll try to become the first pick to stay with the Mets for an entire season and become team property since Kelly Stinnett in 1994.

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New York Mets: It’s Time To Abandon the Citi Field Argument

You know what I did yesterday? I wasted seven hours and a day off watching Mets baseball at Citi Field. That’s right. I woke up early and took two trains just so I can sit and watch the Colorado Rockies pound the Mets into the ground in both games of a doubleheader.

Waste of money? Only $20.

Waste of time? Absolutely.

But I overheard a conversation between two of my fellow suckers, er, Mets fans, that caught my attention.

During the first game of the day, the Mets entered the ninth inning down 6-3. Scott Hairston finally showed some of the pop he had in spring training by hitting a two-run homer to left field to get the Mets within a run.

The Mets would then load the bases with two out for David Wright.

Citi Field was electric. I’d say there must have been dozens, literally DOZENS of fans screaming their heads off. Yeah, the place was packed.

Wright lifted a fly ball to right field that looked like it might have a chance to get out but fell onto the warning track, and the Mets had themselves a 6-5 loss.

I’ll ignore the obvious opportunity to point out Wright’s complete lack of clutch hits for a moment to continue with my point.

A Mets fan behind me says to another Mets fan, “Damn Citi Field. This place is killing us.”

Now, I am of the opinion that Citi Field is killing the Mets power, but I wanted to find out just how much damage it was doing. I came home and looked up some numbers and I’ve come to a conclusion:

The “Citi Field Argument” has to come to an end.

There can be no more talk about how the Mets would be a better team if they didn’t play in such a large park or how (insert Mets player here) would have better numbers in a different stadium.

The reason?

Well, we’ll start with just this season’s numbers. It’s a small sample size I know, but Mets pitching has allowed 10 home runs this season at Citi Field. The Mets themselves have hit five.

The Rockies came in and made Citi Field look like Great American Ballpark in four games. Troy Tulowitzki had a home run in each of the four games and none of them were cheap. He was crushing the ball on almost every pitch.

In all, the Rockies hit a total of seven home runs in the four-game series, including the four from Tulowitzki. Even Jonathan Herrera was able to collect just his second career home run with a line drive that found its way out via the right-field corner.

The Mets have of course hit home runs of their own at home this season. Carlos Beltran has two (both coming in the same game) and David Wright, Jose Reyes and Hairston each have one.

But the Mets have also surrendered home runs to the light-hitting duo of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals in a series in which the Mets dropped two of three.

So far this season, the Mets’ opponents haven’t had much of an issue with Citi Field. But what about the last two seasons?

In 2009, Citi Field’s inaugural season, ESPN’s Park Factor ranked it 12th in baseball for home runs, surrendering 1.057 per game. Anything over 1.000 favors the hitters. How could Citi Field ever favor a hitter you ask?

Well, the answer is both simple and ugly. Mets pitching allowed an unbelievable 81 home runs at home, while the Mets hit just 49.

Johan Santana was the biggest culprit that season. He allowed 12 home runs at home. Tim Redding was right behind him with 10. Additionally, the Mets had six different pitchers who allowed six or more home runs.

Now, it’s worth nothing that the Mets had a majority of their best players, including Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright, on the DL that season, but if the visiting teams didn’t have a problem getting the ball into souvenir city, the Mets should have been able to get a few of their own.

Only Daniel Murphy had more than five home runs at Citi Field that season.

In 2010, the Mets were a little bit healthier and managed to find their power stroke. A great bounce-back season from Wright (10 home runs in 2009, 29 in 2010) certainly helped.

The Mets hit 63 home runs at Citi Field that season and allowed just 47. If the Mets are out-homering their opponents the season after getting completely dominated in the same department, there can’t be any more Citi Field talk.

Does Citi Field cost hitters home runs? Of course it does. I like to think the Mets play in a major league ballpark, as opposed to some of the little league sized parks out there (I’m looking at you Citizens Bank Park).

In three years, the Mets have been out-homered by their opponents, 138-117, at Citi Field.

Jeff Francoeur called Citi Field “a damn joke” this past offseason. Good ‘ol Franks and Beans hit .223 with five home runs in 202 at-bats at Citi Field in 2010.

Additionally, both David Wright and Jason Bay have mentioned Citi Field’s dimensions as a negative. After crushing 36 home runs with the Boston Red Sox, Bay hit just three at Citi Field. But Bay’s struggles last season are as much about his own adjustments to Citi Field than the stadium itself.

If you try to hit line drives, you’re going to hit line drives. Bay also collected four of his six triples (tied for a career high) at Citi Field.

In yesterday’s game, maybe Wright’s fly ball goes for a home run with an extra foot or two of distance. Reyes banked one off the Pepsi Porch in the second game yesterday, and I think that’s where Wright’s would have gone as well.

But it wasn’t to be. That’s not because of Citi Field. It’s just because baseball is a game of inches, and the Mets came a few inches short.

It’s time to abandon the Citi Field Argument. The Mets have been out-homered by their opponents, and they’ve done the damage themselves in the two-plus seasons of Citi Field’s existence. Just win the games and stop worrying about what could have been.

Citi Field might be a “damn joke,” but it’s our damn joke.

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Would David Wright and Jose Reyes be Included in a New York Mets "Fire Sale?"

If there’s one thing you can say about the New York Mets, it’s that they’re consistent.

Consistently bad that is.

After a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies last night at Citi Field, the Mets fell to 4-7 and have just one win in their last seven games. Their 3-1 start to the season seems like a distant memory right now.

And there’s no shortage of problems.

Their starting rotation, without Johan Santana, has produced just four wins in 11 starts this season. R.A. Dickey and Chris Young are both tied for the team lead with one win apiece. Mike Pelfrey, the team’s No. 1 starter by default, sports an ugly 10.80 ERA in three starts.

Jon Niese has pitched well at times, but is this year’s version of Oliver Perez. He’s been able to shut down opposing teams with an excellent curveball, but just cannot avoid the big inning. In last night’s start, Niese served up a three-run homer to Troy Tulowitzki to put the Rockies ahead 4-3.

Throw in Chris Capuano and his 6.75 ERA and the Mets are 13th in the NL in starter’s ERA (5.59).

A shaky bullpen doesn’t help either. Despite averaging more than five runs per game, the Mets have been unable to get ahead and stay ahead in games. Their bullpen is 15th in the NL in ERA (4.83), 14th in BAA (.309), 15th in runs allowed (24) and leads the league with 21 walks. Closer Francisco Rodriguez already has three blown saves this season.

At this rate, the Mets won’t have to worry about K-Rod’s option vesting (he gets $17.5 million if he finishes 55 games this season) because he’s not going to get any chances to pitch with a lead.

Things are getting out of hand, if they haven’t already.

And as the team inches closer and closer to irrelevance, and the trade deadline, just how many players could become available?

It’s no secret that the Mets have some serious financial problems. The lawsuit stemming from their involvement with convicted swindler Bernie Madoff isn’t anywhere near finished and the Mets are on the hook for more than $1 billion.

Team owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, as well as team president Saul Katz, are trying to sell a minority stake in the team but many insiders believer they’ll have to sell the whole team to get out of this mess.

General manager Sandy Alderson has come out and stated publicly that the team’s payroll is “significantly” higher then he’d like. He claims it’s because he wants “flexibility”, but the issue of having to pay players is also a big reason. The Mets have already received a $25 million loan from MLB commissioner Bud Selig, and were denied a second (though Selig denies they asked a second time).

So if they’re not winning on the field, and they can’t take on big contracts, or write them, the Mets have some serious issues to face.

Two players, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, are both entering the final years of their contracts. Beltran has moved from centerfield to right field in order to spare his surgically repaired knee and manager Terry Collins has held him out of the lineup in day games after night games.

Reyes is trying to show that he’s 100 percent healthy for the first time in two seasons. Watching him so far, Reyes definitely seems like he’s ready to have a big season. The only question is how much of that season will be with the Mets.

Reyes is batting .327, with a team-high 17 hits. He’s not getting on base enough though, with just one walk in 52 at-bats this season and a .340 OBP. But his legs are finally healthy and he’s been able to leg out two triples this season.

But therein lies the problem for the Mets. The healthier Reyes is, the more he’s going to cost. If Reyes has a big season, he’s easily a $100 million player and teams will be lining up this offseason to sign him unless the Mets can get a deal done mid-season.

Reyes has said he’s willing to negotiate, but wont do so until mid-season. Unfortunately, he might have to give the Mets a big discount to stay in New York.

Mid-season trades for Beltran and Reyes are not only possible, they’re likely.

But who else could become available?

Pelfrey has had success with the Mets, but this season has been a disaster for him. Last season, Pelfrey set career highs in innings (204) and wins (15), as well as a carreer-best 3.66 ERA.

The Mets signed Pelfrey to a one-year, $4 million contract this offseason, avoiding arbitration. But Pelfrey is not a No.1 pitcher. Normally a contact pitcher, Pelfrey has been unable to keep the ball on the ground and doesn’t have the stuff to get strikeouts.

Next year’s free agent class is severely lacking in the starting pitching department. Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson are the best two pitchers available, but the White Sox are widely expected to re-sign Buehrle this season.

If the Mets were to make Pelfrey available, teams would be lining up around the block. It’s difficult to trade young starting pitchers, but the Mets don’t have much reason to hold onto him either. Not to mention his agent is Scott Boras, so who knows how much Pelfrey will cost to resign even if they want to.

Packaging Pelfrey with an aging Beltran wouldn’t be a bad idea, considering Beltran alone might not fetch much from interested teams.

K-Rod is also a player to pay attention to at the trade deadline. If it doesn’t seem K-Rod will reach the 55 games finished mark at mid-season, a team in need of a closer (like the White Sox) could decide to take on his contract, as long as there’s no risk that his option will vest.

Despite his struggles with the Mets, K-Rod is still an effective closer, just maybe not with the Mets. Bobby Parnell would appear the heir-apparent, but he hasn’t shown the ability to handle his eighth inning duties, never mind the ninth.

Alderson has said that the Mets don’t have any untouchable players, though they most likely wouldn’t be trading David Wright or Ike Davis.

But there’s a few things to consider here. First of all, the Mets haven’t won anything with Wright. Despite having a solid core of players on paper, the Mets have collected just one division title and fell just one win short of the World Series, in the time Wright has played the hot corner.

Is it possible that the Mets just can’t win with him? It’s unfair to single Wright out, since he’s easily the Mets best offensive player almost every season, but he’s struggled in clutch situations and his strikeout rates have been steadily increasing.

Over the last three seasons, Wright is batting just .269 with runners in scoring position and just .228 with runners in scoring position and two out. His strikeout rate increased from 18.8 percent in 2008 to 26.2 percent in 2009. Last season, that rate jumped up again to 27.4 percent.

Despite those struggles, Wright has driven in 100 runs or more in five of the last six seasons. He’ll hit 25 home runs and he’ll steal 20 bases, but how many more reasons can the Mets think of to hold onto him?

The players the Mets would most logically trade would bring in solid prospects, but no one would bring in more than Wright. He’s under contract through the 2012 season and the Mets hold a $16 million option for 2013.

A five-time All-Star with power, speed and Gold Glove-caliber defense would have teams offering up their best prospects. Yes, it’s hard to trade your best player which would send fans everywhere running for the hills.

But does it seem like the Mets will be able to surround Wright with enough support to win anything significant (a division title) within the next two years? None of their prospects have looked good in limited time in the majors, and unless the Mets reverse their policy of not spending over slot on draft picks, there isn’t anything better coming down the pipe.

As Alderson said, it’s unlikely the Mets would trade Wright. But should they listen to offers? Absolutely.

The Mets play a double-header today to finish their series with the Rockies before heading to Atlanta for three with the Braves. Who knows? By the end of the day the Mets could be 6-7 and things might not be so bad.

But if they continue to struggle and find themselves in the basement at the trade deadline, there shouldn’t be any untouchable player or a name left off the “available” list. The Mets are a franchise in transition. An uncertain present and an even more uncertain future will make life tough.

And drastic times call for drastic measures.

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New York Yankees: There’s No Reason to Drop Derek Jeter in the Lineup

With every ground ball, with every out, the yells for Yankees manager Joe Girardi to drop Derek Jeter in the lineup grow louder. Not a day goes by without somebody saying Jeter needs to move out of the two hole and stop being selfish or stubborn or whatever adjective you want to use.

But quite frankly, there’s no reason for Girardi to move Jeter at this point in the season.

Simplest of all, the backlash within the clubhouse would be huge. Let’s not forget, Girardi is already in a difficult situation having to manage players who were once his teammates. When the Yankees first hired Girardi as manager, we knew this was going to be the issue.

Girardi was going to have to deal with two players, Jeter and Jorge Posada, whose skills are diminishing. Girardi made the decision to move Posada out from behind home plate soon after the 2010 season ended. Posada made it clear he didn’t like the decision, but he accepted it.

It’s different with Jeter. At the time Posada moved to DH, the Yankees had their eyes on other options. Aside from in-house candidate Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees also had several top catching prospects, including Jesus Montero and Austin Romine coming to spring training, hoping one of them could win a backup job.

They also added former All-Star catcher Russell Martin and immediately anointed him the starting catcher. Even if Martin’s offense didn’t return, his defense was a huge upgrade over Posada’s. It just so happens that Martin’s offense has returned, making the decision look all the better.

But where’s the replacement for Jeter? So far this season, Girardi has batted Jeter both second and leadoff in the lineup. In seven at-bats leading off, Jeter is hitting .429 this season, as opposed to .148 in 27 at-bats in the second spot.

But for the season, Jeter is only batting .206 with a sad .300 OBP. His ground ball issues have also returned (3.83 GB/FB rate).

When Jeter has been out of the leadoff spot, outfielder Brett Gardner has taken his place. But Gardner isn’t playing much better than Jeter this season. After posting a .383 OBP in 2010 (43 points higher than Jeter’s .340), Gardner is batting just .167 this season and his OBP stands at .265.

Where’s the upgrade over Jeter? Does Gardner have more speed at this point? Absolutely. But speed doesn’t mean anything when you’re not getting on base. On the season, Jeter’s OBP is 35 points higher at .300.

So really, Jeter leading off isn’t hurting the Yankees when their only other option, Gardner, isn’t getting the job done either. And even with Jeter’s down season last year, the worst of his career, he still managed to score more runs (111) than he did in 2009 (109) when the Yankees won the World Series.

The Yankee offense is more than capable of driving in a struggling Jeter when he gets on base.

But what about taking Jeter out of the two hole and dropping him even further in the lineup, to ninth perhaps?

The first thought among Yankee fans is to bat Nick Swisher second behind Gardner.

Well, what is Swisher doing this season? He’s only batting .219 with no home runs and six RBI. Like Gardner, his OBP (.289) is lower than Jeter’s and his GB/FB rate isn’t so slanted towards putting the ball in the air that it can’t tip the other way (16 fly balls, 12 ground balls).

For his career, Swisher has been predominately a fly ball hitter (career 0.59 GB/FB rate), but right now, Swisher isn’t doing enough offensively to really make any big change. Having Mark Teixeira behind him in the lineup might help his numbers, but having Posada batting behind him now isn’t a weakness either.

Teixeira does lead the team with four home runs and 10 RBI, but he’s only batting .182 so far and has just two hits in his last 21 at-bats.

Moving Gardner and Swisher into the first two spots in the lineup and dropping Jeter down isn’t going to make any difference right now. The numbers just don’t support the move.

If Jeter continues to struggle and hit the ball on the ground, while Gardner and Swisher begin to pick it up, Girardi can make the move more easily because he has actual reason. But right now, Girardi isn’t getting enough production to justify the move.

And quite frankly, Jeter deserves the time he’s getting to turn it around.

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New York Mets: Will the Real Mike Pelfrey Please Stand Up?

Last season, the Mets were supposed to be strong offensively and weak in the starting pitching department.

It was the opposite.

This season, the Mets are firing on all cylinders and sit at 3-2 without playing a home game. For a team that went 32-49 on the road last season, they’re off to a good start.

Jose Reyes is 100 percent for the first time in two seasons, batting .280 with two stolen bases in as many tries. They getting excellent production out of David Wright (.364/.417/.545, one HR and five RBI), Ike Davis (.368/.455/.684, one home run and six RBI) and even Willie Harris (.357/.438/.714, one home run and four RBI).

Even Jon Niese, in his second full season in the majors, and R.A. Dickey, looking to prove 2010 wasn’t a fluke, were fantastic in each of their first starts of the season against the Florida Marlins.

Chris Young made his Mets debut on Tuesday night, giving up just one earned run over 5.1 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies (he also went 3-for-3 with an RBI at the plate), giving Mets fans hope that the “high reward” might be even better than they dared to dream.

And after watching the Mets come back from seven runs down against the Phillies last night to tie the game, which they eventually lost 10-7, it’s safe to say the 2011 Mets are different than the 2010 version.

But it’s still only five games and there’s a lot of baseball to play. And so far, Mike Pelfrey, the Mets’ de facto “ace” isn’t showing signs he’s capable of handling the job of a No. 1 starter.

Last night against the Phillies, Pelfrey couldn’t throw strikes, couldn’t keep the ball on the ground and couldn’t keep the Phillies off the board, allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits over just two innings of work.

Through two starts this season, Pelfrey has a 15.63 ERA and a ridiculous 2.68 WHIP. He’s given up 12 hits in just 6.1 innings this season.

With Johan Santana on the DL until at least early July, Pelfrey has a big load to shoulder. He has to show the Mets he can be a No. 1 starter without having No. 1 stuff.

For the last few seasons, Pelfrey’s numbers have been all over the place. A sinkerball pitcher by trade, his ground-ball rates have been steadily declining, from 51.3 percent in 2009 to 47.8 percent last season. This season it’s all the way down to 46.4 percent.

With guys like Reyes, Wright and Davis on the infield, and Harris, Angel Pagan and Carlos Beltran in the outfield, the Mets defense is just too good for Pelfrey to sustain a .370 BABIP all season. But he’s not throwing strikes (43.2 percent of pitches for strikes, 67.6 percent on the first pitch) and hitters aren’t being fooled by his stuff out of the zone.

Basically, Pelfrey is a ground-ball pitcher who can’t get ground balls and doesn’t have the stuff to get strikeouts (career 5.10 K/9 rate).

So what are the Mets going to do with Pelfrey?

They know he can pitch. Last season, Pelfrey was 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA over his first 16 starts. And though his ERA in July was an ugly 10.02, he still finished the season with a career-high 15 wins and a 3.66 ERA.

But Pelfrey hasn’t had anything in his first two starts and certainly doesn’t look like a front-of-the-rotation starter. And though it’s only been two starts each, Dickey and Niese are looking like better pitchers.

Quite frankly, they are.

For now though, Mets manager Terry Collins has to go forward with Pelfrey. Hopefully, Pelfrey is getting his midseason struggles out in April instead of July this season, and he’ll straighten himself out. But his early struggles might just be the culmination of a career that’s been on the downturn for two seasons now.

It will be interesting to see if Collins plays with his starting rotation if Pelfrey keeps this up.

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