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Mets morning briefing 5.1.11

5/1/2011

Seven-game losing streak. Six-game winning streak. Now, a three-game losing streak heading into a Cliff Lee versus Chris Young finale in Philly. The Mets finished the month with an 11-16 record (.407), their worst mark in March/April since 2004 (9-14, .391). David Wright hit a career-low .240 for March/April.

Ronny Paulino is scheduled to get his first Mets start, with the Mets facing the southpaw Lee. And Carlos Beltran indicated he plans to forget about getting a rest and play in a 16th straight game.

Sunday's news reports:

• Newsday's Steven Marcus writes the winning minority bidder should have the inside track to full ownership, even if Fred Wilpon isn't intent on selling the majority share now. Marcus quotes a Wall Street person familiar with the bidding saying: "If you believe the Wilpons, they are not intending to sell. They said this is a minority transaction and there is no path to control. The rumors in the marketplace are that the guys [bidders] who are doing this are the guys who are betting they will have a second bite at the apple for future ownership. It seems like a lot of money to put up for that second bite. I would think the [winning bidder] would insist, 'If you ever go to sell it,' they get the first shot at buying it. That isn't a given, it's something that's negotiated."

Richard Sandomir of the Times examines why Wilpon is being treated differently than Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Writes Sandomir:

Selig’s approaches to the Mets and the Dodgers reflect the breadth of his powers -- he can do what he deems necessary to enforce baseball’s “best interests” as he sees them -- and his ties to the owners. He and Wilpon have been friends for 30 years. McCourt arrived in baseball in 2004 but has never pierced the inner sanctum around Selig. McCourt said last week that Selig was ignoring him. Selig appears to regard Wilpon as a trustworthy, solid citizen, but McCourt as a problem child in need of adult supervision.

• The man who built Vitaminwater before selling it off to Coca-Cola is not a candidate for a minority share of ownership, but reiterates he would entertain buying the entire team some day if available. St. John's alum Mike Repole tells the Post: "If the Wilpons ever decided they wanted or they had to sell the Mets 100 percent, I would be interested in becoming a managing partner and possibly making a run to buy them. But as a minority owner, whether you buy one or 49 percent, there really isn’t a difference. For $200 million, it might be cheaper just to buy season tickets.”

Jon Niese took a scoreless effort into the seventh, but in the end could not keep up with Roy Halladay, as the Mets lost, 2-1. Ike Davis lost a career-high 11-game hitting streak. Read game stories in the Post, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Daily News and Record.

Dan Martin of the Post gets postgame reaction from Halladay. Writes Martin:

Despite not feeling sharp in the bullpen before the game, he threw 18 strikes before missing the strike zone. He didn’t walk a batter until the ninth inning. Of his 107 pitches, 80 of them were strikes. Halladay improved to 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA, one start after he threw a whopping 130 pitches in 8 2/3 innings in a win over the Padres. At this point, however, it seems almost pointless to discuss how many pitches he throws, because it seems to have no impact on his performance. “I never heard of a pitch count until I got into minor league baseball,” Halladay said. “I never heard about how many pitches Nolan [Ryan] had in the seventh inning.”

Record columnist Bob Klapisch also pays homage to Halladay, writing:

This wasn’t a day for scouting reports or computerized video or any other technology, not when Roy Halladay had already thrown his first 18 pitches for strikes. Fastballs, cutters, change-ups, sliders -- the menu was full, guaranteed to traumatize anyone unlucky enough to be standing 60 feet, six inches away from baseball’s Terminator. Halladay was so relentless, so unwavering, the Mets’ only hope was distinctively old school: crossing of the fingers and a fast, furious prayer that Jon Niese could somehow survive against a machine.

• Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff says the Mets don't have the horses to compete in the NL East. The good news, he notes, is that a solid front office is in place. Of course, he adds, "Moneyball with Money," as Paul DePodesta labeled it upon being hired, may just be Moneyball given the current ownership situation. Writes Davidoff:

There will be some nights when the Mets beat themselves and many more in which they simply can't keep up. Without a bona fide top-flight starting pitcher to keep pace with any of Philadelphia 's first four (Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels), and with an offense that looks decent but not elite, the Mets aren't equipped to stay with the National League 's elite team, particularly at the Phillies' ballpark. The good news is that, given time and resources, general manager Sandy Alderson and his lieutenants can put the Mets back among the league's best. ... The bad news is that, given the tenuous status of the Wilpons' and Saul Katz's finances, there's no guarantee Alderson will receive the time or the resources to finish the job.

• Beltran tells Newsday's David Lennon about playing every day without a breather to limit the wear and tear on his knees: "I told Terry [Collins] that if I feel good, why should I take a break? As long as I continue to feel like this, I will be out there." As for not playing center field in Angel Pagan's absence, Beltran added about Collins keeping him in right field: "Then that's the way it is."

The Record's Steve Popper said placing Beltran in right field turned out to be the correct move.

• Niese came to the majors with a solid 12-to-6 curveball. The development of a cutter to neutralize right-handed batters established him as a major leaguer. Now, Niese is using the cutter less frequently, and instead is showing a diving two-seam fastball, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger explains. Writes McCullough:

Niese’s regular four-seam fastball -- still his most-utilized pitch -- has a natural cutting movement, pitching coach Dan Warthen explained recently. That means his fastball, cutter and curveball break the same direction. Last season, Warthen challenged Niese to develop a change and a sinker that would move the opposite direction. In 2010, Niese (1-4, 4.71 ERA) threw his cutter 26.6 percent of the time and his two-seamer 11.3 percent, according to Pitch f/x data. That gap has narrowed this year. Heading into [Saturday's] game, he threw the cutter 16.3 percent and the two-seamer 14.2 percent. Niese threw 96 pitches [Saturday] . Thirty were two-seamers, 24 were four-seamers and just 13 were cutters. He still relies on his curveball, which he threw for strikes most of the day.

David Waldstein of the Times looks at R.A. Dickey's interesting quirk of naming his bats. Writes Waldstein:

In the Mets’ bat rack at Citi Field, almost every bat includes a sticker with the player’s number on the knob. Not Dickey’s. His bats have no stickers. He writes his number, 43, in black ink in the middle, with a name curled around it. One bat is called Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver and the other is Hrunting. Dickey, an avid reader, said that Orcrist came from “The Hobbit.” Hrunting -- the H is silent, Dickey said -- came from the epic poem “Beowulf”; it is the sword Beowulf uses to slay Grendel’s mother.

Anthony McCarron of the Daily News catches up with Felix Millan, who played for the 1973 NL champs.

BIRTHDAYS: Two players with intriguing Mets trivial connections were born today. Catcher Joe Hietpas, the Mets' equivalent of Moonlight Graham (one game, no at-bats), turns 32. Former Mets pitcher Ray Searage, who was a perfect 1-0 for the 1981 Mets AND hit 1.000 that season (1-for-1), turns 56. ... Less fondly remembered, pitcher Armando Reynoso, who got clobbered in the final game of the 1998 season, knocking the Mets out of the pennant race, turns 46. -Mark Simon