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November 2009

Mets Holiday Shopping - Part 1 - Catcher

Hello Met fans,

So what are the Mets gonna get? What is on their Holiday Shopping List? Today in Part 1 of a 5 Part Series we look at the Catcher position and I suggest a veteran catcher might be just what the Mets need

Today Who will be Mets Catcher Next year?
If you take a look at the most successful seasons in the history of the Met franchise, a couple of common threads rise to the surface immediately: strong starting pitching and a marquee player behind the plate. That player could be Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, or Jerry Grote and when you add in names like Todd Hundley and John Stearns you realize that the Mets have always had a strong presence behind the dish. And Paul LoDuca despite all of his temper tantrums, proved to be an important cog for the last Met team that played post-season games in 2006.

Last year, the team struggled mightily and despite the fact that injuries and poor starting pitching were big reasons for the slide of 2009, the lack of leadership behind the dish was painfully obvious all year long. Brian Schneider, who was supposed to provide solid defense and occasional hitting, did neither as he struggled below the Mendoza line and at times looked lost defensively. Omir Santos showed flashes but in reality he is solid back up receiver but looked tired late in the season. He, is however, a solid #2 catcher who is well liked by the entire pitching staff and can provide some relief for the #1.

Who can be the that #1? Josh Thole showed late in the season he can hit but needs a lot of work behind the plate and can not be considered an option before 2011. Clearly, the answer needs to come from outside of the organization for 2010 and with so many holes to fill, many feel the Mets will go cheap on that decision.

I would not be penny-wise and pound-foolish here because a strong catcher will be very important for a pitching staff that needs to throw more strikes and serve up less home runs than they did a year ago. You would also like to get a little offense from the position but a strong armed and heady catcher is what I would put on the heading of this job description.

Only one free agent fits the bill and he is Bengie Molina who will make the infield defense better by serving as a "secretary of defense". We all know how brutally bad the Mets were last year in the most rudimentary baseball skills. Part of that was nobody took charge out there and Molina would not be reticent to do just that. He is a tireless worker and an added benefit will be reuniting him with Frankie Rodriquez who seemed to be a bit perplexed with Schneider at times last year.

Molina is also an accomplished 2 strike, 2 out hitter that has thrived in San Francisco the last 3 years crushing 20 homers and driving in 80 runs in a ballpark that is not exactly a launching pad and whose dimensions are strikingly similar to CitiField. He was asked to bat 4th or 5th in the Giant batting order but Jerry Manuel would likely move him down to 6th or 7th lengthening a Met lineup that needs sock in the bottom third of the order.

More than all of this, the Mets would be getting a winner both on the field and in the clubhouse and they desperately need help with both. They may have to sacrifice dollars in another area but to me you do not pinch pennies here because Molina would have an impact on so many other players.

In a painful twist of irony, maybe this Molina could help the Mets as much as Yadier Molina destroyed the dreams of Met fans in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Tomorrow I will look at the bullpen...
And if you are beginning to think about Christmas gifts, why not something from your favorite team? For Mets fans out there, check out these New York Mets Holiday Gift Ideas

Can Wally Backman Be The Mets Next Manager?

Wally backman
He has always been a crowd favorite and Met fans remember that he scored the winning run in the pivotal Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS. So, If Jerry Manuel missteps, could Wally Backman be the Mets manager in waiting?

Jeff Wilpon made it abundantly clear that both Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel need to "step up their game" and for the most part, Omar's report card will not be written until his off-season moves could be fully evaluated. But Jerry Manuel could be a different story--if the Mets get off to a rocky start, he could be replaced and unless the Mets want to ante up for the high-priced Bobby Valentine, Backman could be the guy that would provide the type of fiery field manager many feel the team needs--and at a fraction of the price that Bobby V would cost.

The hiring of Wally Backman could put added pressure on the Met skipper to perform or else and if that is the case, expect Manuel to manage the team with a larger sense of urgency than he did in 2009. In addition, the health of players like Reyes and Beltran will be very important to the Mets embattled manager.

This much is crystal clear--April 2010 could be the most important month of the season for Jerry Manuel in terms of communicating to his players, and getting the most out of his team. And if the early 2010 Mets look similar to the 2009 team, the new manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones could be heading for the Van Wyck Expressway where he will enter stage left at the CitiField exit.

Great holiday gift idea - an autographed Wally Backman photograph: