To help preview our upcoming series with the New York Mets, I talked with Michael Baron from MetsBlog, one of the top blogs on the net, to talk about the teams recent moves and what to expect for the future.
TNB: There has been a lot of talk about Bob Melvin or Wally Backman inheriting Jerry Manuel’s position. But what about third base coach Chip Hale? He has some managerial experience in the Diamondbacks system and knows the current set of Mets players.
MetsBlog: Yes he does know the current crop of Mets players, and he has recently been praised for his work with the Mets pitchers on their approach to hitting and bunting. I don’t know much about him as a manager, but what I like about guys like Backman and even Bobby Valentine is they are no-nonsense guys and over the last few years in particular, the Mets have had some attitude and quality of play problems, and I think a personality like Backman or Valentine would go a long way towards unifying whatever clubhouse arrives in Port St. Lucie in February.
TNB: Like all owners in baseball, the main objective for the Wilpons is to put a product on the field that wins, but that has not been the case in recent years. Do you think they have too much power and influence over figures like Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel?
MetsBlog: It’s hard for me to answer that question, because ultimately, I don’t know how the Wilpons are conducting themselves in the team’s baseball operations. At the end, the Mets belong to the Wilpons, and right or wrong, they have the right to conduct themselves however they want. As far as their influence is concerned, I think they have more of a direct influence on Omar Minaya, but I can’t think of any other GM in baseball who isn’t influenced and directed by ownership.
TNB: Jeff Francoeur is now a Texas Ranger after a up and down tenure with the Mets. What do you think Francoeur can bring to the Rangers as they prepare for October and where do you think his baseball career goes from here?
MetsBlog: At this point, Jeff Francoeur has demonstrated to me that he is nothing more than a defensive replacement. Now, he is a premier right fielder in baseball, with an intimidating arm with a lot of range in right field, and if you’ve noticed, the Rangers have emphasized pitching and defense this season with their acquisitions, although I think some of those moves haven’t worked out for them as much as they would have liked to or expected.
I’d hate to say this, because I think Francoeur is a great baseball presence, but he is in trouble. He will likely be non-tendered by the Rangers in December unless he comes up big for them down the stretch and/or in October, and I can’t think of a Major League team he can start on, given his problems at the plate.
I think Francoeur would be a great coach someday, as he is a positive influence and a great baseball mind.
TNB: The Mets rotation looks set for 2011 with Santana, Pelfrey, Niese, and Dickey. With Jenrry Mejia auditioning for the fifth spot, wouldn’t it make more sense to try him out as a closer assuming K-Rod doesn’t return?
MetsBlog: First off, I don’t think there is one thing that can be set in stone for the Mets going into 2011. The Mets are a franchise that has deep organizational questions and flaws, and no stone should be left unturned when it comes to making changes this winter. The only “sure things” for me to return are David Wright, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, Jon Niese, and Mike Pelfrey. We can blame Omar, Manuel, and the Wilpons all we want, but they have spent a ton of money over the last five years in particular, and for the most part, their investments have not performed and accountability must be placed with the players in that dugout at some point.
Regarding moving Mejia to the closer role, I think that limits his ceiling. He has been brought up as a starting pitcher, but the Mets had a need in their bullpen for Opening Day, and I feel it was a big mistake to promote him at that time, rather than send him back to Double-A, build his arm strength, and become a starting pitcher sooner. If the Mets can get K-Rod off their books, they should either pursue a closer on the open market or groom another in-house candidate and continue to develop Mejia, who is their prized pitching prospect, as a starter.
TNB: Met fans have been hearing about Fernando Martinez for years. Unfortunately, injuries and unimpressive stints in the majors have made him a forgotten man. Have the Mets given up on the 21-year old?
MetsBlog: It’s hard to look at F-Mart’s tools and give up, especially at the age of 21. He is SO talented, but like you said, injuries have hampered his development. I don’t think the Mets have anything to lose by keeping him around and hoping he stays healthy because if he can do that, he has the potential to be a very good Major League player. Remember, this was the guy Omar wouldn’t trade for Johan Santana in 2008.
TNB: Who is Lucas Duda and what should the fans expect from him?
MetsBlog: Lucas Duda has emerged this year as a lefty power bat. While his defense has been good so far, he isn’t known for his glove. He had a big year in the minors with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo, but I think it’s fair to say the jury is still out on him, considering he was very much an unknown coming into the season.
TNB: When will second baseman Wilmer Flores get his shot with the team?
MetsBlog: Wilmer Flores is still a few of years away in my mind. There is absolutely no reason to rush him right now, as he’s just 17, and his body still needs to fill out, but this is a kid who has the potential to be a very dynamic hitter down the line in the big leagues. He is finishing up his season with Single-A St. Lucie this year, and I expect he will be at Double-A Binghamton when the season starts in 2011.