There were quite a few comments in your story about how the Mets need help on defense and pitching. I want to know what happened to the development of Fernando Martinez. Is he done? Or will we see him soon in left field for the Mets?
-- Ken G., Port Republic, Md.

Martinez still is a baby; he hardly is done. He turned 21 five days after the big league season ended, and he doesn't have 200 Triple A at-bats yet. In fact, he has merely 1,184 at-bats in his professional career, and 91 came after he was brought -- read rushed -- to the big leagues last season. If not for injuries to the players on the Mets' roster, Martinez would have played the entire Triple-A season before a September callup.

Compare his experience to what Jose Reyes (1,262 at-bats in the Minor Leagues) and David Wright (1,419) had before they were promoted to the big leagues. All that said, there was no law prohibiting Martinez from performing better during his first big league tour. He didn't distinguish himself. But how many 20-year-olds do?

Reyes reached the big leagues the day before his 20th birthday. His speed and his arm allowed him to perform at higher levels than his bat did. Wright was 21 the day he became a big leaguer, and he was well-equipped to handle his situation. His agents were based in New York, and Joe McEwing, Todd Zeile and Cliff Floyd were there to big-brother him.

I didn't see the same level of support for Martinez when he arrived in May. Alex Cora was there for adult leadership, but Carlos Delgado already was gone for the year when Martinez was promoted, and Reyes was assigned to the disabled list the day Martinez was summoned. Martinez's second tour began the day Carlos Beltran was assigned to the DL.

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So understand that several factors worked again Martinez. His brief history is filled with injuries, so he has the look of another Alex Escobar. But he deserves the benefit of the doubt for a while. Give him at least another 300 Triple-A at-bats.

Is Ike Davis on the 40-man roster? If not, why wouldn't the Mets add him to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft?
-- Jim E., Lisle, N.Y.

Davis was selected in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Players with less than three seasons in the Minor Leagues are not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

I see the contract talks between the Marlins and Josh Johnson broke down. What do you think it would take to get him to the Mets? This kid is a very good pitcher and would help solidify the Mets' rotation.
-- Nick P., Basking Ridge, N.J.

I'm certain the Mets are quite aware of Johnson, if for no other reason than the 7-0 record and 2.30 ERA he has produced in nine career starts against them. I don't believe they have a chance to acquire him, regardless of his contract situation. Why would the Marlins trade a pitcher of that caliber to a team in their division?

Wally Backman is the new manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Why not the new manager of the Mets? He has managed a few Minor League teams, and his teams have done very well. He played on a World Series champion Mets team. I just don't see how Jerry Manuel is a better candidate then Backman. Do you think that Davis could play first base this season, or would it be too soon? And finally, what do you think the team can do with Oliver Perez?
-- William M., Norwalk. Conn.

Interesting e-mail. The reasons you cite for Backman to be named Mets manager are the reasons he has been hired in the first place. He did have some issues in the past, and New York has afforded him an opportunity that seemingly wasn't forthcoming elsewhere. Remember, Manual has incumbency on his side, too. The club believes none of these four men ought to be evaluated based on 2009 because the team was so undermanned -- general manager Omar Minaya, Manuel, pitching coach Dan Warthen and hitting coach Howard Johnson. So there's another ream.

No need to rush Davis. Chances of the Mets winning the division or the NL Wild Card in 2010 aren't so good, so let it be a development year for promising talent in the Minors. He has merely 629 professional at-bats (see my response to the first e-mail). No need to interrupt his development as Martinez's was last season.

You're preaching to the choir about Perez. I thought it was foolish to re-sign him last year, never thinking he would receive an offer for $12 million annually. I thought Randy Wolf made more sense for financial and baseball reasons. Now the Mets are in the second year of a bad contract, and they feel they must monitor Perez's conditioning as they did Luis Castillo's last winter.

I'm not sure that will make him a reliable pitcher. There's a reason a 28-year-old left-handed pitcher with the kind of stuff Perez has reaches his ninth season in the big leagues and has a 58-64 career record that includes one 15-10 year.

I enjoy your insights, but why are you so down on Omir Santos? As I see it, he was a bright spot in a dismal season. Sure, his September batting average was around .220, but that's only because he'd never played so many games in a season before this one. Granted, he's not Ivan Rodriguez, but his defense had to be good enough for the Mets to have traded Ramon Castro. It's certainly better than Brian Schneider's.
-- Shawn Y., Newport, Del.

I just did a search of my own laptop and saw three postseason mentions of Santos, and none was negative. I have no problem with him. He certainly had his moments in 2009. But I suspect his unproductive run in September and October -- a .167 average in 35 at-bats -- had to do with fatigue, lack of use and the rest of the NL realizing he isn't much of a breaking ball hitter. Santos is fine as a reserve catcher. He's not nearly the hitter Castro was, but he seems happier about playing -- no matter how much or how little -- than Castro was.

I enjoyed your rating of the center fielders you've seen play, and respect that you didn't try to rate players you never saw as some experts do. If I'm right about your time watching baseball, you've seen all the great closers. How do you rank the top 15?
-- Harry M. Menlo Park, N.J.

Wow! You want 15 just like that? Here goes. The first three are the easiest -- Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter. Then it gets more difficult. Rich Gossage, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, Rollie Fingers, Dan Quisenberry, John Smoltz and Sparky Lyle are next in some order, followed by Dick Radatz, John Franco, Tug McGraw, Joe Nathan and Lee Smith.

For one season, you have to say Brad Lidge. For one extended period in one season, it has to be McGraw in 1973. But I think Rivera and Eckersley might have been that good for entire seasons.