Dispatches From Mets Holiday Party

I’m back from covering the Mets holiday party where the club invited about a 100 kids from P.S. 43 and The Scholars Academy both in Far Rockaway to meet Santa (John Franco) Claus and his Elf’s R.A. Dickey and Ike Davis. Also on hand was Mets GM Sandy Alderson.

After spending time with the children and giving out gifts the players and the GM were available for some Q & A time.  After spending some time with all three I have some observations:

R.A. Dickey looked and sounded puzzled, hurt and a bit defiant when he spoke of his situation now with the club. From the way I see it, the Mets first priority with Dickey is to trade him and they are waiting out teams that are interested in trade to offer more in return to the Mets than has been offered now. How long this plays out is anyone’s guess right now but make no mistake for the Mets this is a stone cold baseball business decision and honestly I hate it and from listening to Dickey this morning he understands it’s business but he’s not happy with the way it’s played out so far either.

Dickey also declared that once the season starts he will not negotiate a contract extension, nor should he.  I don’t know which end of the organization is playing by these hardball rules whether its Sandy Alderson looking to fill the massive gaps in personnel this team has or if it’s The Skill Sets looking to nickel and dime the 2012 Cy Young Award winner. If it’s the baseball ops guys being hard ass’s I can understand it, that doesn’t mean I like but if it’s  Jeffey trying to win at a negotiation, then I’ll be totally outraged.

What Dickey is asking is not just more than fair; I believe he’s selling himself short. Dickey’s agent has proposed a 2 year extension for $28 mil, how in the hell is that excessive? Dickey should have proposed a deal well north of $30 mil for 2 years. As much as I want to believe it’s the Skills Sets acting like hard ass’s here I feel it’s more Alderson and his baseball ops who are dragging this out to see if they can get a trading partner who will send back quality and quantity in a trade.  The worst part of this situation is it’s starting to get ugly and could breakout in a lot of nasty if not rectified soon.

It was Ike Davis’ turn to meet with us and as down and dourer as Dickey was Davis was very upbeat and effervescent.  It could be that Davis is 100 % healthy as he said he just had his lungs x-rayed and they are clear so he has no more effects from Valley Fever and his ankle is a good as ever. He was very happy that Wright received his contract extension and he hoped that something can work out with R.A. Dickey staying with the Mets.  You can check out the conversation with Ike by clicking here

Sandy Alderson made his way into the press area and I don’t hide the fact that I’m an Alderson fan. I think he has a plan to rebuild this organization (even though he’s not allowed to utter the dreaded “R” word because it gives any Mets fans a case of the vapors) but I think the reason I admire him is every time I talk to him he comes off very cool and collected. You can’t make him flinch. There is no emotion in how he is running the baseball operation of this organization in that way he’s the anti-Omar.

Alderson was bombarded as expected with question on R.A. Dickey and his status with the Mets. Alderson gave a name, rank and serial number answer saying that he is still speaking to clubs about dealing R.A. and at the same time looking to negotiate contract extention as he said the situation is the same as it was last week. The contrast in Alderson talking about this situation and Dickey talking about it are quite a contrast. Dickey’s answers were of an emotional nature whereas Alderson was from the business end. Alderson has no problem trading R.A. Dickey but he wants a solid return back, he’s not going to give him away.  If he can’t find the right trade for Dickey I think he’ll sweeten the extension offer and get Dickey under contract for an additional two years.

Alderson claims there is money to spend but he’s not going to spend just to spend, he doesn’t seem to care about winning the back pages of the tabloids in December. The impression I was left with is Alderson will not be the first to blink. He’s not tipping his hand on who he’s looking at to sign or trade for.

I’m as confused and frustrated as any Mets fan, in fact coming back for Citi Field today with Ed Marcus we were both in such deep discussion about what we just heard from the Mets GM we kind of forgot what a pain in the ass traffic jam we were stuck in trying to get back to Staten Island.  No matter if you like or dislike Alderson you have to admit he’s one shrewd dude. Now if nothing changes personnel wise between now and spring training I may have to alter my view but I’m trying to stay patient which is very hard for me to do but I’m trying my best.

To hear my chat with Sandy Alderson click here.

To hear the total media Q & A click here.

 

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POSITIVELY METS

From spending time at the Mets  Citi Kids event at Citi Field, a few things stood out:

When you bring up Manager Terry Collins name, especially to the younger Mets players, you get a big smile. Dillon Gee, Josh Thole and Bobby Parnell are all familiar with Collins from his days as the Mets Minor League Coordinator. When asked about the new manager the description they all use is “high energy”. They also laud Collins preparation and the detail he puts in to his workouts.

One of the questions to R.A. Dickey was about him coming into spring training knowing he has a job and how does that affect his routine in camp. Dickey said that working on getting right handed hitters out more consistently, especially switch hitters who bat from the right side against him as “it’s a more comfortable at bat for them”, he can now work on finding ways to take away that comfort level.  One of Dickey’s concerns he said was “that last year was not an anomaly, and it’s my hope it’s the natural evolution of the journey that I’ve started with the knuckle ball”  

Dickey was asked about meeting and talking to Terry Collins and he said he enjoyed the conversations they’ve had but there will be a feeling out process between the manager and the players, “a learining curve “ was how he put it.  R.A. said  “He  respect his (Collin’s)  baseball knowledge”  and he loves Collins’ intensity something Dickey said “that has not been seen around here in the last few years”.  I asked Dickey about the team being a contender and he told me “Gosh I hope so, but there are some boys down the road who may not agree with me but we have the pieces in place, how competitive will play out over the season.  Dickey went on to say that “clubhouse culture” is a big factor “getting people to realize their maximum potential is a big part of it (contending) “   Dickey also feels a “new sense of energy” from last season to now with the new regime taking over he used the term “a high tide raises all ships” stating that the high energy of the manager and the more positive outlook from the front office is a breath of fresh air from the defeatist attitude the Mets organization had had over the past few years.  Dickey told me it’s about getting a “network of guys” to buy in to the positive attitude that it will spread through the team.

Dickey pulls no punches when asked about the second half malaise of last year, “We were ill prepared, in the sense that we weren’t ready there was no sense of urgency” Dickey included himself in that category as well.  He also spoke vaguely of the “hypothesis” of Beltran coming back from injury and the shifting of roles that wasn’t done too smoothly. Dickey claims with all the guys (save for Johan Santana) coming into camp healthy and “rip-roarin’” it will make a world of difference.

Dickey then talked of Josh Thole and how “blessed” he is to have him catch him. He called Thole “Selfless and that’s not something you can say about a player in most clubhouses” He also went to rave about the time and hard work that Thole puts into his craft. It was a theme amongst the pitchers when asked about Thole, they all started with praise of his work ethic and his communication skills. I asked Thole what it’s like to work with the veteran pitchers like Santana, Frankie Rodriguez and Pedro Feliciano when he was here. He said those guys were great to him and he implored them to let him know anything he was doing wrong and from talking to Dickey and Mike Pelfrey that straightforwardness of Thole has gone a long way in his gaining the respect of the pitching staff.

Of course no conversation with R.A. Dickey is complete with some literary recommendation. He told us he just about done reading My Name Is Asher Lev, and he highly recommends it.

Jose Reyes was more than accommodating with his time for us but one thing he didn’t to talk about was injuries. As far as Jose is concerned injuries are a negative and in keeping with the positive energy of the Mets, Reyes pronounced himself fit and healthy and ready to get to St. Lonesome to workout.   When I asked him about the managers proclamation that he is the leadoff hitter with no stupid games as to maybe he’ll bat third Reyes was Reyes, he had a wide smile and said he spoke to Collins who told him “he wants him more involved in the offense” and you can tell that was just what Jose wanted to here.  Reyes said he likes the energy and passion Collins begins as manager. There wasn’t much on the prospects of a new contract from but Reyes reiterated how he wants to stay a Met especially when it was brought up to him that he is longest tenured Met.

During the event we found out that Terry Collins had told Mike Pelfrey that he will be given the opening day assignment and when we got to talk to Big Pelf, you could see how happy he was getting that news.  Pelf told us during his lunch with Collins that he could tell the manager was ready to get to camp as he was going over cutoffs and how to back up bases on throws from the outfield.  Pelf was asked about last year’s trading deadline and the inability of the team to make a deal; he said it was frustrating that the club didn’t try to bring in a player or two to spark the club. Pelf also said he was very happy (as did Bobby Parnell) that Dan Warthen was retained as pitching coach. Both Pelf and Parnell spoke of Warthen’s strong communication skills and how he works with the pitchers.  The biggest thing Pelfrey is looking for from himself in2011 is consistency, the ability to go out and give the team seven-eight quality innings every start.  Pelfrey agrees with most that the Chris Capuano signing was great “under the radar” as he said, same with Chris Young and as we all feel with the pitching reclamation projects brought in by the front office, everything is prefaced with “if healthy”

Pelfrey talked about his use of his secondary pitches and his slump of August. He said learned a lot form that slump but knows that everything he does works off his fastball. It seems that when Pelf has his fastball working it raises his confidence to use his two-seam knowing that he get out trouble with the fastball.

Confidence, Energy, Positivity that just about sums of the Mets off season.

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