Nov 20

Mets Release Partial Spring Training Schedule

The Mets released a partial spring training schedule this afternoon with 12 dates still to be filled in. This spring the Mets at a home-and-home with the Yankees, and so far four games against the champion Astros. The schedule also features games against the Braves, Cardinals and Nationals.

Feb. 23 Braves at PSL

Feb. 24 Cardinals at PSL

Feb. 25 Marlins at PSL

Feb. 26 Astros at West Palm Beach

Feb. 27 TBA

Feb. 28 Braves at Disney

Mar. 1  TBA

Mar. 2  Nationals at PSL

Mar. 2  Astros at West Palm Beach

Mar. 3  Marlins at Jupiter

Mar. 4  TBA

Mar. 5  TBA

Mar. 6 TBA

Mar. 7  Yankees at PSL

Mar. 8  Nationals at West Palm Beach

Mar. 9   Tigers at Lakeland

Mar. 10 Yankees at Tampa

Mar. 11 Astros at PSL

Mar. 12 TBA

Mar. 13 Nationals at West Palm Beach

Mar. 14  Marlins at Jupiter

Mar. 15 Marlins at PSL

Mar. 16 TBA

Mar. 17 Nationals at West Palm Beach

Mar. 18 Orioles at Sarasota

Mar. 19 Astros at West Palm Beach

Mar. 20 Cardinals at Jupiter

Mar. 21 TBA

Mar. 22 Nationals at PSL

Mar. 23 Cardinals at PSL

Mar. 24 Cardinals at Jupiter

Mar. 25 TBA

Mar. 26 TBA

Mar. 27 TBA

Mar. 28 TBA

Mar. 29 REGULAR SEASON STARTS

Nov 20

Mets Trying To Light A Fire Under Smith

Dominic Smith is done with the Mets if they are able to sign – and each one of these guys will get at least three years – Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Logan Morrison or Adam Lind, then where does that leave Smith?

Certainly not on the fast track to Flushing.

SMITH: Mets trying to motivate Smith. (Getty)

SMITH: Mets trying to motivate Smith. (Getty)

Smith did not distinguish himself last summer – but did hit nine homers in 183 plate appearances – and GM Sandy Alderson indicated as much, saying he “didn’t win [the job] in September.’’

Smith was the Mets’ second-ranked prospect at the time of his promotion, but despite the surprise in his power, he was a disappointment in his plate discipline and on-base percentage, and defense, which was supposed to be his strong suit. In addition, Alderson was upset, and rightfully so, about Smith’s conditioning.

“Dominic’s going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years, if not throughout his career,’’ Alderson said at the GM Meetings last week. “He was in excellent shape coming into Spring Training. … As happens with any long season, fitness dissipates and he’s put on some weight.’’

If the Mets surprise us all and sign a free-agent, Smith will undoubtedly open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. That’s fine for 2018, but what about the following two years?

Barring an injury, that would leave Smith stuck in the minor or a reserve, because for the money the Mets would pay a free-agent, he’d have to be above Smith. And considering his play last season, Smith would have to tear it up in the minor leagues in 2018 to build up his trade value.

Smith hit .198 with a .262 on-base percentage and struck out 49 times [with only 14 walks] in 49 games. Those are lousy numbers that don’t merit coming into spring training with a job waiting for him.

So, what are the Mets’ first base options?

There’s signing a free-agent, of course, which seems a long shot because the Mets don’t want to spend the money. They could go into next season with a platoon of Smith and Wilmer Flores, which probably is how they’ll go, or they could stick with Smith.

I think the free-agent talk, coupled with the criticism about his weight, is designed to light a fire under Smith.

Nov 17

Is It A Coincidence Mets Tix Go On Sale After A Week Of Positive Storylines?

There were at least a half-a-dozen storylines that came out of the General Managers Meetings this week that if played out in the positive would change the perception of the Mets heading into the player acquisition phase of the offseason.

Among the storylines GM Sandy Alderson admitted:

ALDERSON: How positive is he really?  (AP)

ALDERSON: How positive is he really? (AP)

* Interest in relievers Joe Smith and Bryan Shaw, which would substantially increase the depth and quality of the bullpen. Alderson, however, wouldn’t disclose his budget.

* A willingness to discuss an extension for Jacob deGrom, which would fall under the classification of progressive thinking. Also falling in that category were promises to overhaul the medical staff.

* Not discounting partial interest in Japanese slugger Shohei Ohtnai. In fairness, Alderson said the Mets were open but did not say they were hot of the outfielder who also wants to pitch. Nobody expects the Mets will jump into the deep end of the Asian pool, but at least Alderson didn’t shoot it down entirely.

* Being open to trading some of their pitching depth, mentioning Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero. In the small print under the headlines is the limited trade value of the above starters, who will be needed if injury problems with Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler continue.

* Positive news in Michael Conforto’s recovery from shoulder surgery to repair a torn posterior capsule. Also found in the small print was that possibly being able to swing the bat in late January doesn’t guarantee to be ready by Opening Day.

If all these storylines played out in the positive for the Mets, there would be a lot more to look forward to in 2018. It was a busy week in Orlando, and I mention these potentially positive storylines because today the Mets put single-game tickets on sale. Coincidence? You decide.

 

Nov 16

Backman Gets Minor League Managing Gig

It isn’t what Wally Backman totally wanted, but for now, it is what he needs. Claiming Mets general manager Sandy Alderson blackballed out of baseball following his messy firing as Las Vegas’ manager in 2016, Backman was hired today as manager of New Britain (Conn.) of the Atlantic League.

Since the league is independent, with no affiliation to Major League Baseball, Backman’s charge could be true. We can presume Alderson didn’t give Backman a recommendation.

After leaving the 51s, Backman went to Mexico and managed Acereros de Monclova last year as was fired after 42 games. Instead of leaving, Backman became bench coach of Pericos de Puebla.

It is clear Backman is doing whatever it takes to get a chance to manage in the majors. If Yankees GM Brian Cashman really wants to think outside the box – and stick it to the Mets in the process – I’m sure the Bees would let Backman out of his contract.

BACKMAN: Managing again. (AP)

BACKMAN: Managing again. (AP)

“I’m excited to get going in New Britain,’’ Backman said. “Atlantic League teams care about winning and helping players careers grow. Those are two things I am very passionate about. I look forward to working with everyone there. Our team will play the game with passion and give their best effort every day. We are going to put a great product on the field that fans will be proud of.’’

A firebrand as a player for the 1986 champion Mets, Backman has proven to be a teacher as a minor league manager. He’s helped numerous Mets who were sent down to regain their hitting strokes and learn the nuances of playing in the majors.

Although Alderson wouldn’t give Backman props, he admitted as much late this season when he said Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario weren’t as prepared as he hoped they would be when they were brought up.

“Wally Backman is a proven winner,’’ Bees GM Brad Smith said in a statement. “His ability to instill a winning atmosphere and put an entertaining club on the field are two significant factors in bringing him aboard. We look forward to a successful 2018 season working with Wally and hope everyone joins us in welcoming him to the Central Connecticut community.’’

Nov 15

Mets’ Pitching Plan Has Questions

On the surface, the plan the Mets are currently mulling about preventing their starters from going through the order a third time makes a lot of sense. All the numbers point to a starter losing effectiveness the longer he stays in the game. They all can’t be Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber or Jacob deGrom.

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

It is common practice during the postseason, but at that time a manager has more off days in which to rest relievers and can replace the fifth starter with a long reliever in which to plug in.

“We will not allow our guys to struggle the third time through the lineup if we can avoid it,’’ Mets manager Mikey Callaway said at the General Managers Meetings. “We want them to be the best versions of themselves and have success. There are so many factors that will come into play you just can’t simply say that you are going to leave guys in until a certain point or take them out in a certain point.’’

For that plan to work during the regular season a team needs a solid rotation, a flexible bridge to work the middle innings, and a strong back end of the bullpen.

Of the three, the Mets only have the last one.

It begins with a strong starting rotation, one which means all five starters have to consistently go at least five innings, but preferably six. The Mets have deGrom and lots of issues from two through five:

Noah Syndergaard is coming off a partially torn lat muscle and only got in a couple of innings in late summer. While he is optimistic, we simply don’t know what to expect from him. Sure, it would be nice to pencil in 30 starts and 200 innings, but …

Matt Harvey did not respond well to thoracic surgery. He was rushed back and sustained a stress injury. The best thing the Mets can hope for is a strong first half to draw trade interest at the deadline. There’s no more talk about winning 20 games, winning the Cy Young or being signed to a long-term contract.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are both coming off surgery and nobody knows what to expect, let alone them averaging five innings over 30 starts.

Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero and Chris Flexen all made starts, but none have defined roles entering spring training. If the projected rotation performs, then any of them can be slotted in to work multiple innings several times a week, but we don’t know if they can do it in back-to-back games.

These four can also be inserted into the rotation if any of the projected five starters struggle, but if not they could work out of the pen. The questions in the middle of the game and possibility of the anticipated starters breaking down is why GM Sandy Alderson traded for relievers last July.

Granted Alderson added quantity and is open to reacquiring Joe Smith and signing Bryan Shaw. But, how much is he willing to spend? Mets’ history dictates he won’t do it; four relievers making $7 million or more is just not in their DNA.

For this plan to work the Mets need all three facets of their pitching staff to perform, but there are too many questions and issues working against them.