Mets morning briefing 9.18.11

Longtime nemesis Chipper Jones delivered a two-out RBI single in the eighth against R.A. Dickey and the Mets lost to the Braves, 1-0, on Saturday at Turner Field. With Philadelphia's subsequent 9-2 win against St. Louis, the Phillies clinched their fifth straight NL East title and the Cardinals fell 4½ games behind wild-card-leading Atlanta. The Braves' magic number is seven to clinch.

Sunday's news reports:

Terry Collins says it would be difficult to envision the Mets without Jose Reyes and David Wright. "No, I cannot imagine it," Collins said. "I mean, not just with their skill, but the kind of people they are. You've got to have those guys."

The manager went on to wonder what the season might have been like with more health, which might have led to retaining Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez at the trading deadline.

"There's a lot of things that happened that we would have had to really play through," Collins said. "No doubt about it. But you know, I allow myself the freedom once in a while to be disappointed that we didn't get to put this team on the field the way it came out of spring training. Had we been able to do that, I think you have looked at a while different package -- completely different package. And I know every team says that that has injuries. But we have not put our team on the field one time, and this was a team that could have made some noise, no doubt."

Read more in the Star-Ledger, Record and Newsday.

Steve Popper in the Record notes there really was no quibbling by players publicly or privately with Collins' assessment of the team after the manager's candid and critcial assessment of the team Thursday. Writes Popper:

It has nearly been a year since Terry Collins was introduced as the Mets manager and declared, "I’m not the evil devil that a lot of people have made me out to be." And his words have rung true as he has been a non-stop whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm, cherishing the days on the field after an 11-year absence from a spot on the bench. He has shed the reputation as a too-intense explosion waiting to happen. At least he had until Thursday when he blew up publicly, ripping his team for appearing to have folded up. But when he finally erupted, his team didn’t turn on him. There was no anonymous sniping and really little disagreement with his words. Even Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen took to Twitter to back up Collins. But there was really nothing to defend him from.

"I don’t think there is any question," Collins said of his players. "That’s a fact. I’ve got their back and they’ve got mine. I know that."

• Wright, discussing his string of eight errors in 10 games with Andy Martino in the Daily News, says: "You can kind of beat yourself up too much, and I think I'm in that category. I guess it's just in my nature to focus on the negatives, and what I could have done, instead of the positive. Having a short-term memory and being able to forget about it -- it would probably be the ideal situation, but I just don't know if that's in my DNA. I wish I could."

• Behind a 3-for-5 game, Ryan Braun (.333) now leads Reyes (.332) in the race for the National League batting title. Cincinnati's Joey Votto ranks third at .320.

• Savannah, which had been one strike from winning the South Atlantic League championship on Friday night, lost a winner-take-all Game 5 on Saturday, 7-3 to Greensboro. Angel Cuan, who had been at Citi Field on Wednesday to be honored as the Gnats' top player, allowed five runs (three earned) in 3 2/3 innings. Shortstop Wilfredo Tovar had two errors.

• Read more on the Mets' Saturday loss in the Times, Newsday and Record.

Johan Santana is due to throw a simulated game on Sunday in his Fort Myers, Fla., hometown. The Mets' instructional league is now beginning in that city because there are few teams within proximity of the organization's Florida complex in Port St. Lucie.

Jason Isringhausen, despite an epidural, still has modest numbness in his right leg, preventing him from returning to the mound. The issue stems from a herniated disc in his lower back.

Josh Thole pledges an offseason dedicated to improvement behind the plate. Writes Mike Puma in the Post:

Thole says his priorities were not in the right place last winter. "Last year I spent way too much time in the gym," Thole said. "At this point in my career it's not all about coming into camp all shredded and jacked up, strong, it's about being ready to play baseball the right way. I've always caught bullpen (sessions) in the offseason starting in January, but it's not about the repetition of catching the ball. It's beneficial for me to block balls. That is stuff I can do on my own, but it's something I really have to take focus on more than my weight training this year."

BIRTHDAY: Scott Holman, who pitched 43 games for the Mets in the early '80s, was born on this date in 1958.