New York Mets: Doug Ellin

Mets morning briefing 4.1.11

April, 1, 2011
4/01/11
9:12
AM ET
Opening Day for the Mets. Mike Pelfrey versus Josh Johnson.

Friday's news reports:

Andy Martino in the Daily News reports Pelfrey strained the rotator cuff and posterior capsule in his pitching shoulder, likely getting the save in the 20-inning game in St.Louis early in the season. He took pain-killing injections before every start for the remainder of the season, and doctors told him he could do no further damage. "They told me it wasn't going to get worse," Pelfrey tells Martino. "It was just a matter of managing the pain, and I wanted to be out there. That's the thing that I take the most pride in, that I'll take the ball. So I took the ball for [33] starts. There were times when it would get a little better in between, and then you'd go out and throw and it would come right back."

• The Times' George Vecsey catches up with Omar Minaya, who plans to be watching on TV when the Mets play the Marlins on Friday night. Writes Vecsey:

"I’m a glass-half-full guy,” Minaya said. “I’m attached to those guys. I may be wrong, but I think they’re capable of contending. On opening day they might have seven home-grown players in the starting lineup.” He mentioned Mike Pelfrey, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Angel Pagan and Lucas Duda, although Duda, it turns out, will be on the bench. He is a scout at heart, and thinks the Mets can compete with the Braves (“a good club, but there’s the Bobby Cox factor”) and the Marlins (“they are still a young club”) and the Phillies (he acknowledged their starters, but also their injuries).

Regarding Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, Minaya says: “Look, obviously, Luis Castillo and Ollie Perez didn’t work out. But I can’t tell you in retrospect I wouldn’t have done it.”

Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal looks at Sandy Alderson's reluctance to define a goal for the season. “I don’t try to define that,” Alderson said Thursday, as the Mets began a workout at Sun Life Stadium. “I can say winning the World Series, and anything less would be unsuccessful. But somewhere between where we were last year and winning the World Series.” Writes Costa:

Sometimes, you can learn about a team by the way it markets itself. Four years ago, when the Mets were coming off a playoff run in 2006, their expectations for the 2007 season were reflected by the slogan, "Mets fans, your season has come." Now, as the Mets try to reverse a plunge in ticket sales, their ads are a little more humble. They read, "We play hard for the die-hards." The 2011 Mets: Look, we'll try, okay?

Costa goes on to note that if Alderson and the Mets can demonstrate they're a competently run organization, that may go a long way toward defining success, because fans will believe there are better days to come, despite the owners' financial issues. Terry Collins again recalls an offseason event at Citi Field when a 7-year-old boy asked him how he can get the Mets to play hard. "I know his father put him up to it," Collins tells Costa. "No 7-year-old is going to say that. But obviously the perception is they're not playing hard, and perception in our game is reality."

• When the Mets buses rolled out of Port St. Lucie on Thursday at 11 a.m., Jason Bay was left behind with a left rib-cage strain. The belief is that Bay will be activated on April 9, when he is eligible to come off the DL. But those type of injuries can last a while because of the torque required on those muscles while swinging.

Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger gets to the root of why this may be Jose Reyes' final Opening Day as a Met. Writes McCullough:

Ignore the beauty of his play, the skills that awe his teammates, the buzz he creates in a stadium. Strip away his speed, the dreadlocks bouncing as he dives into second base, grinning as he brushes off red dirt. Strip away that arm, double-pumping after he scoops a grounder deep in the hole, his throw zooming flat on a low plane and picking up speed as it bursts into first baseman Ike Davis’ mitt. Ignore that high-beam smile and sparkling stud earrings, the rat-tat-tat patter, those Latin farmhands crowding his locker before games and lounging at his spring-training house after workouts to soak up his advice. Ignore the way he connects with teammates, bestowing the nickname “Quien” upon Taiwanese newcomer Chin-lung Hu, shouting to Davis almost every week: “ ‘I like Ike.’ That’s going to be my next tattoo.” Try to forget all that. Find the number that gives Alderson pause, the statistic that he considers the bedrock of the game. For his career, Reyes carries a .335 on-base percentage. And Alderson needs more.

McCullough's profile goes over Reyes' career, including recycling one of my favorite stories. When Reyes was a teenager with limited English skills playing Class A ball in Kingsport, Tenn., he would give the same order at restaurants daily. After a teammate ordered, Reyes would tell the waiter: "Same thing."

• Reyes tells the Post's Mark Hale he's not thinking about this potentially being his last opener as a Met. "No, right now I don't think that way," Reyes tells Hale. "Right now, I'm still here."

• McCullough talks with Francisco Rodriguez about his winter of reflection after a tumultuous, self-induced ugly ending to the 2010 season:

He had time to face his own reflection during this offseason, banished from his teammates, alone on his boat in the Caribbean Sea, searching for swordfish and tuna and red snapper -- and the reasons for “the errors that I committed in the past.” Arrested for assault, injured in the process and forced to surrender $3 million as a penalty, he vowed to change. “I just tried to refresh my mind,” he said, “and, obviously, not be vulnerable to the problems.”

K-Rod tossed 10 2/3 scoreless innings in the Grapefruit League. “I’ve seen a lot of closers pitch in spring training,” Collins tells McCullough. “And I don’t think any of them have walked out there every single time with as electrifying stuff as he’s had.”

• Here's the Star-Ledger's season-preview piece outlining strengths and weaknesses of the Mets, and the Opening Day roster.

• Pelfrey gets the Opening Day start, which is a stark contrast to the faith shown by Jerry Manuel a year ago. Pelfrey was in line to pitch against the Marlins the first series, but Manuel adjusted the rotation late in spring training to have Pelfrey avoid facing Florida because of his career struggles against the club. Pelfrey is 1-6 with a 5.32 ERA in his career against the Marlins, but tells the Post's Mike Puma: "That was earlier in my career. Two of my last [four] starts against them were really good. The bad one was in San Juan, and it was miserable. I didn't want to be there and I don't think anybody else did either." Sure enough, Pelfrey did limit the Marlins to two runs (one earned) in seven innings on Sept. 21 in Miami.

• Post columnist Joel Sherman says for a day you can ignore the woes and allow yourself to dream the possibilities with the Mets:

Ike Davis graduates from 19 to 30 homers, which definitely is within his reach since every fence is within his power. Brad Emaus is no long-term answer at second, but in the short term he is not a disaster on defense while providing a .350-plus on-base percentage on offense with a touch of extra-base heft. The carrot of free agency motivates Jose Reyes to 2006-08 performance, which makes him one of the most entertaining players in the sport and a run-scoring force. David Wright hits 30 homers, drives in 100 and does not again morph into the spokesman for the inexplicable late in another heartrending season. Bay distances himself from the shackles of post-concussion syndrome, a ribcage injury and the mind-warping impact of the far fences at Citi Field to join Davis and Wright in the first-ever Mets three-man class of 30-homer hitters. Angel Pagan makes an All-Star team. Carlos Beltran plays 120 games, enough to remind that there still are skills in his crumbling body.

• The Post's Kevin Kernan chats with David Wright. “We’re not playing fantasy baseball in here,” Wright tells Kernan. “Some teams look better than others, but at the end of the day you have to play the game. ... We go out there and we take care of the Marlins on Opening Day. We can kind of pat ourselves on the back and then worry about Game 2. We don’t have to compare position-for-position against other teams for 162 games. We go position-for-position against the Marlins for Game 1 and then get ready for Game 2. You only have to be better than the team you are playing that night. You play together. You play winning baseball. We have guys in here who are willing to do the dirty work to get the job done.”

• The Daily News finds an expert to tout the Mets still being extremely valuable to potential buyers. Writes the newspaper:

"I personally know seven billionaires who love the Mets and would love to own the Mets," said Andrew W. Kline, founder and managing director of Park Lane, a sports-investment bank based in Los Angeles that has advised on a number of professional sports acquisitions, including the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Miami Heat. Kline said the Mets' recent operating losses -- reported by the New York Times to be in the neighborhood of $50 million a year -- and the $1 billion Bernie Madoff lawsuit hanging over the franchise might not have a profound impact on the value of the team or the selling price for a stake in it. "If we were talking about someone buying, say, a chemical manufacturing firm that had a similar set of factors -- a possible Madoff liability and operating losses -- it might impact the valuation and the potential buyer would have more leverage," said Kline, who is advising a client who is exploring the possibility of getting in on the Mets bidding. "But it's different with sports franchises."

• The Daily News catches up with the potential ownership group that includes "Entourage" executive producer Doug Ellin, who would use the show's star power to drum up support for the Mets."I'm a giant sports fan and to be involved in a professional sports franchise would be a dream come true," actor Kevin Connolly, who plays Eric (E) Murphy on the show, tells the newspaper. "Growing up on Long Island, I was a giant Mets fan, so that makes it even more of a dream come true."

• Daily News media critic Bob Raissman explores how the SNY broadcast team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez will handle the Bernard Madoff-related issues during the season. Writes Raissman:

Cohen outlined the Madoff situation early in the first spring training broadcast on SNY. The situation was also discussed during subsequent spring training telecasts. "We have no muzzles on us," Cohen tells Raissman. "All three of us feel free to express opinions on what we feel strongly about. The problem here is you're talking about a subject we don't have any expertise in. We know a lot about baseball. Keith knows a lot about movies. I know a lot about cartoons. This [Mets' finances] is not an area where any of us have a degree [in finance] or great expertise. So I don't know if the time is going to come where we are going to be comfortable expressing opinions as opposed to talking about the facts."

BIRTHDAYS: Rusty Staub turns 67. ... Daniel Murphy turns 26. ... '62-64 Met Rod Kanehl was born on this day in 1934, and passed away on Dec. 14, 2004. ... First baseman Willie Montanez was born in 1948. Montanez came to the Mets as part of a four-team trade during the 1977-78 offseason that also involved Tom Grieve, Bert Blyleven, Al Oliver and Jon Matlack.

Mets morning briefing 3.31.11

March, 31, 2011
3/31/11
6:55
AM ET
The Mets completed their Grapefruit League schedule with a 17-15-2 mark Wednesday. This morning, they depart Port St. Lucie for Miami, with a 4 p.m. workout scheduled at Sun Life Stadium, home of the Marlins. Read the full series preview here.

On to Thursday's news reports:

• The New York Times elaborates on previous reports that Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz are not looking specifically to sell 20 to 25 percent of the team. Rather, they seek $200 million for a minority share, to be determined based on the overall valuation of the club. That's a total that could place the ownership stake at 40 percent, according to the report, but would not include a path to majority ownership. Furthermore, the newspaper states the Mets ownership family might sell a portion of SportsNet New York, but that would be a separate transaction.

Via the Associated Press, the Times lists these Mets minority ownership candidates:

- Jason Reese, the chairman of Imperial Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment bank.

- David Heller, a Goldman Sachs executive, along with Marc Spilker, the president of Apollo Global Management, a private equity fund.

- Steven Starker, a co-founder of BTIG, a global trading firm, with Kenny Dichter, a co-founder of Marquis Jets; Doug Ellin, creator of HBO's "Entourage"; and Randy Frankel, a minority owner of the Tampa Bay Rays.

- James McCann, the founder of 1-800-Flowers.com, with Anthony Scaramucci, who runs the hedge firm SkyBridge Capital.

- Marc A. Utay, managing partner of Clarion Capital, a private equity firm, and Leo Hindery, the first chief executive of the YES Network and a veteran media investor.

• SNY, meanwhile, could be dropped from the Dish Network at midnight. Writes Phil Mushnick in the Post:

Apparently, rights fee money is not an issue as much as whether Colorado-based Dish wishes to remain a deliverer of New York’s regional sports networks. It has carried SNY since its birth five years ago, but several months ago dropped MSG’s networks, and it never has provided YES.

Jason Bay will be placed on the disabled list before the 11 a.m. deadline to set Opening Day rosters. He has a strained intercostal muscle in his left rib cage. Bay, of course, ended last season on the disabled list with a concussion, so he has not appeared in a major league game since July 25. He is eligible to return April 9, for the eighth game of the season, because of the DL backdating rule.

A source tells Newsday's David Lennon the strain is "not serious." Of course, rib-cage muscles can be tricky injuries because of the torque while swinging, so the absence could be weeks longer. Jose Reyes' oblique injury lingered for much of the summer last season because he was not shut down for a proper period of time.

Carlos Beltran tells The Times' David Waldstein about the type of injury Bay has: “That is something you have to be very careful with. It can be the type of thing that can stay with you and bother you for a long time.” Waldstein goes on to note that Beltran and Bay have only played nine games together, because Beltran missed the first half of last season following knee surgery and Bay went down at Dodger Stadium during the opening road trip after the Mets reassembled following the All-Star break.

Lucas Duda should get the bulk of the starts in left field in Bay's absence, although Terry Collins reportedly prefers using Willie Harris on Opening Day.

Read more about Bay and Duda in the Star-Ledger, Daily News, Journal and Post.

Luis Castillo was released by the Phillies. Fellow ex-Met Wilson Valdez will start at second base, with Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez also getting time at the position. Write David Murphy and Marcus Hayes in the Philadelphia Daily News regarding Castillo:

During his six games with the Phillies, he displayed the plate discipline and ability to reach base that have been his calling card throughout his career. But when the Phillies signed him to a minor league deal last weekend, there were serious questions about his defensive ability. Manager Charlie Manuel has routinely stressed defense this spring, something the team believes it has in utility man Wilson Valdez. When asked what Castillo could have done to make the team, [GM Ruben] Amaro responded, "I'm not going to get into that."

Jason Isringhausen has elected to remain in Port St. Lucie in extended spring training for up to two weeks. If another team has a major league opportunity in the interim, the Mets must promote Izzy or let him walk. Collins predicts a spot will open up in the Mets bullpen somehow. The decision allowed the Mets to hold onto two of three relievers battling for the final spot, at least temporarily. Blaine Boyer, who had a Thursday out in his minor league contract, claimed the final spot. Manny Acosta was designated for assignment. He will have to go through waivers if he is not traded beforehand. Read more in Newsday and the Star-Ledger.

Johan Santana never had been left behind in camp, either with the Twins or Mets. Santana will work out at the Mets' Florida complex with an eye toward a late June or early July return. He is currently throwing on flat ground at 75 feet four times a week. More on Santana in Newsday.

• Newsday's Neil Best looks at the secondary market for Mets tickets. Writes Best:

Asking prices on the secondary market are up nearly 10 percent compared to this time last season. So says data compiled by TiqIQ, a ticket search engine, which shows the average for 2011 is $91.97, up from $84.13 at this time last year. Why? One factor presumably is a diminished supply because of a shrinking season ticket base. On average, 3,383 tickets per Mets game are on the market compared to 10,203 for the Yankees. ... The average price for the Mets home opener April 8 was $155.66 as of early this week, down 21 percent from last year. ... The most costly Mets game was the average of $235.09 for the July 3 game against the Yankees; the least expensive was the $38 for April 20 against the Astros.

Sandy Alderson tells the Daily News' Andy Martino the Bernard Madoff mess had no impact on last offseason. "The only external reality that had had an impact this offseason is the pre-existing payroll," Alderson tells Martino. "The fact that we had about $135 million this year when I came on board, realistically that didn't leave us much to spend."

• Martino also has a position-by-position review of the Mets.

BIRTHDAYS: Tom Hausman, who went 12-17 with a 3.66 ERA in 125 appearances (24 starts) for the Mets between 1978 and '82, was born on this day in 1953. ... Right-hander Bill Denehy, a Middletown, Conn., native who went 1-7 for the '67 Mets, was born in 1946.

Editor's Note: Mets morning briefing will move slightly later during the regular season, since the author needs to be noctural from April-September.

Mets morning briefing 3.3.11

March, 3, 2011
3/03/11
6:06
AM ET
On-the-ropes Oliver Perez starts for the Mets on Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals in Port St. Lucie. Francisco Rodriguez is scheduled to make his first Grapefruit League appearance during the game, after being scratched earlier in the week because a court appearance limited his throwing.

There's also an appeals court hearing on Judge Burton Lifland's "clawback" standard being money withdrawn over money invested, if that excites you.

On to Thursday's news stories:

Andy Martino in the Daily News says the Mets are close to releasing Perez, and may do so if he flunks Thursday's outing. Perez isn't making it to Opening Day, so it's just a question of when. Terry Collins has been consistent in saying that Perez would start one of the split-squad games on March 8. The manager added Wednesday that he was "quite sure" Perez would appear again in a Mets uniform beyond today's appearance. Bottom line: If you predict the imminent demise of Perez, and a likely parting with Luis Castillo, you're likely to be right within the next four weeks.

• Well, it looks like trustee Irving Picard continues to play hardball with Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz. The court has given Picard until March 18 to file an amended lawsuit against the Mets' ownership family. The Wall Street Journal reports Picard is threatening to add new charges regarding the money invested with Bernard Madoff. Authors Matthew Futterman and Michael Rothfeld quote former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who has been appointed mediator, as saying about a settlement possibility: "The job of the mediator is to either find the road or make the road."

• K-Rod's agent, Paul Kinzer, tells Newsday's David Lennon he will be closely watching this season to ensure there's no funny business and that Rodriguez is used in a way to allow his contract to vest for 2012 at $17.5 million if he finishes 55 games. "It's going to be a point of interest," Kinzer says. "I would hope that their desire to win would override anything like that. We'll be following it very closely." Until he was injured and suspended last year, K-Rod had exceeded 55 games finished five straight seasons. The last time he didn't? When Rodriguez was still Troy Percival's understudy with the Angels, in 2004. From 2005 through 2009, his games finished totals were: 58, 58, 56, 69 and 66.

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal looks at the budding relationship between Jason Bay and new hitting coach Dave Hudgens. While managing Caracas in the Venezuelan winter league, Hudgens spent his mornings at a Best Western watching every one of Bay's 2010 plate appearances with the Mets. Bay indicated he made too many adjustments last year in-season and too often lunged at the ball. Costa writes: He swung at a career-high 27.1 percent of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010, according to FanGraphs.com, a 7 percent increase from 2009. Bay, by the way, went 2-for-3 against the Cardinals on Wednesday in Jupiter and drew praise from Collins for his early spring look at the plate.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger gets more into the nitty gritty of Bay's change in the batter's box. The gist: Working during the offseason in Seatte with Don Long, his former hitting coach with the Pirates, Bay simplified his swing by cutting down on extra movements. Long, by the way, was one of the candidates interviewed for the position that went to Hudgens.

• Even with financial woes, the Mets and St. Lucie County split the $15,000 cost of trucking in dirt from Pennsylvania to replicate the Citi Field infield at the Mets' spring-training home, writes David Waldstein of The New York Times. Third base/infield coach Chip Hale recommended the upgrade, since Florida dirt can be sandy. "It’s basically identical to Citi Field now,” David Wright tells Waldstein. “It’s like night and day to the way it used to be. It just makes it a lot easier when you go up north and it’s the same surface you’ve been practicing on for six weeks.”

• The Times reiterates the three groups identified by the Post as being interested in buying into the Mets, although it disputes Bobby Valentine being a part of the group led by Anthony Scaramucci, a managing partner at the asset management company SkyBridge. The groups have paid a $25,000 fee to Major League Baseball to undergo the vetting process, which would pave the way to examining the Mets' books.

The group including Steve Starker of BTIG, a global trading company, has ties to the Tampa Bay Rays. Authors Peter Lattman and Richard Sandomir write:

Starker’s consortium includes Kenny Dichter, a co-founder of Marquis Jet, a company that pioneered the fractional private jet card concept; and Doug Ellin, the creator of “Entourage,” the HBO series; and Randy Frankel, a minority owner of the Rays.

Later in the Times report:

Another group includes David Heller, a Goldman Sachs senior executive; and Marc Spilker, a former Goldman Sachs executive who recently became president of Apollo Global Management, a large New York private equity firm.

Heller declined comment to ESPNNewYork.com. Scaramucci did as well, through an intermediary.

Mark Cuban did not submit paperwork to MLB, by himself or as part of a group, the Dallas Mavericks owner tells Newsday's Jim Baumbach.

• Newsday's Steven Marcus says MLB isn't necessarily entirely cutting off the Mets from additional funding. "There may be a 30-day period before a deal [in which a minority share] is closed where funds [from MLB] could be advanced,'' a source tells Marcus. "That would then be repaid with funding from the [new] partnership."

• Newsday notes Carlos Beltran is supposed to appear in a Grapefruit League game for the first time Sunday, when he serves as DH against the Boston Red Sox in Port St. Lucie. Collins has said Beltran should be in a game in right field seven to 10 days after that, although Beltran is less specific. "Right now, we're going to start with DH," Beltran tells David Lennon. Beltran won't write off returning to center field in 2012, although it's highly unlikely he's back with the Mets. "I feel like I can still play center field," Beltran said. "This was just the right move for now."

Mike Puma in the Post notes how R.A. Dickey did not pitch with any "sense of entitlement" Wednesday, in his first outing since signing that two-year, $7.8 million deal. ... Steve Popper in the Record also reviews Dickey's performance.

• Record columnist Bob Klapisch speaks with Jose Reyes. “Jose has done more to make me a better player than anyone I’ve played with,” Wright tells Klapisch. “I can’t think of what it would be like if he were gone.” Klapisch goes on to note that Ruben Tejada is being placed at Triple-A as a shortstop to be Reyes' heir apparent. A scout tells Klapisch: “[Tejada] is OK, but nothing special, definitely not someone who will remind you of Reyes. He’ll make the routine plays, occasionally make a great one, but not an impact player. No way.” I think that's too harsh on Tejada's fielding ability -- he'll make a lot of above-average plays. But even slightly bulkier this year, he still may struggle to get extra-base hits and may be best suited as a backup middle infielder during his career.

BIRTHDAY: Jorge Julio turns 32. He was famously referred to as Julio Jorge by Anna Benson, as in: "They got a ---- bag of balls for Kris. They didn't get ----. Julio Jorge [sic] and John Maine. They traded a No. 1, stud pitcher who was 30 at the time, and they blame the red dress."

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
15 4.09 151 202
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .289
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187