New York Mets: Randy Frankel

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

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.289 9 57 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187