Jul 24

Today’s Question: Will Cespedes Ever Hit Another Homer?

It has been a month, 80 at-bats since Yoenis Cespedes hit his last home run. Of course, inquiring minds want to know if he will ever hit another homer. More importantly, Cespedes is probably wondering the same.

CESPEDES: Feeling the pressure. (AP)

CESPEDES: Feeling the pressure. (AP)

Hitters are like that, especially hitters who take pride in being “the man.” Cespedes will be paid $110 million over four years to be “the man,” and believe me, this stretch is killing him. If he’s anything like any other player I’ve covered over the past 20 years, this is eating him up.

But, he’s too good for this to continue much longer.

If Bartolo Colon can hit a home run, so can Cespedes, even if it is by accident. He hit several long fly balls during the home stand, just missed a few. And, he hit several balls hard, so it isn’t like he forgot how to hit.

In watching him, and talking to several scouts I still keep in touch with, the problem seems to be with his legs. The stride, the torque, just isn’t there, caused by his hamstring and quad problems. He’s swinging too much with his arms and lunging at pitches trying to pull too much.

Eventually, Cespedes will run into a pitch and crush it, and when that happens the homers will come in bunches and the feelings of frustration will disappear. He said the other day that he’s working hard. Perhaps, he’s working too hard. Getting away from home, where the pressures are obvious could clear his mind.

Cespedes understands much is expected of him and with the Mets in sell mode he has to be thinking “if I were hitting we would be winning and they wouldn’t trade anybody.”

He’s only human, after all.

Jul 23

Mets Wrap: Back In Sell Mode?

Had the Mets won six out of every ten games all year, this might have turned out to be an enjoyable, if not a memorable season. It remains to be seen – although it is unlikely – if going 6-4 on this homestand will be enough to change GM Sandy Alderson’s definition of “exceedingly well.’’

MONTERO: Coming together for him? (AP)

MONTERO: Coming together for him? (AP)

That’s the rate Alderson said the Mets had to play at in their homestand coming out of the All-Star break to shift out of sell mode.

Manager Terry Collins believes Alderson has already made up his mind.

“I can tell you that’s the belief in the clubhouse, but I don’t know if that’s the feeling from the outside,’’ Collins said, while not naming Alderson. “Going 6-4 might not be good enough. Eight and two would be good enough.’’

Once again, the Mets failed to complete a sweep on a home Sunday, losing 3-2 today, as Oakland won on the strength of three solo homers. The Mets remain the major’s only team not to win a three-game home series. They begin a 10-game trip tomorrow to San Diego, Seattle and Colorado that will take them through the non-waiver trade deadline.

The Mets regrouped in each of the last two seasons to reach the playoffs. Their odds are longer this year.

“Next week will be hard,’’ Collins said. “Again, I will do the best I can to keep their mind on the game. …

“I’ve pushed and pushed and pushed to let them know, you gotta go play. If you’re building up your hopes that maybe you’re gonna get traded to a first-place club or something, they’ve got to realize that stuff’s completely out of their control, and a lot of things can change at the last minute.’’

Jay Bruce knows what Collins is talking about. He lived through it last year before Cincinnati traded him to the Mets.

“Obviously, the fact that this could be the last home game for a lot of us here is something that’s a bit odd, but nothing happens until it happens and we don’t know for sure and we’ll just see how it goes,’’ Bruce said. “We don’t need to be reminded [about what Alderson said]. We know what situation we are in.’’

Bruce is one of several Mets whose next trip to Citi Field will be that as a visitor. Asdrubal Cabrera, Addison Reed, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes are some of the others.

MONTERO PITCHES WELL: The Mets would take three runs in seven innings every time from Rafael Montero.

“He did a nice job again today,’’ Collins said. “We didn’t have many opportunities, but he gave us every chance to get back and win the game.’’

The only trouble is Montero gave up three of his five homers this year today. Two came on hanging sliders.

“I think I need to keep the ball a little bit lower,’’ Montero said. “That’s really where I got into some trouble and there was damage done against me. Those home runs, when they occurred, that’s because I kept the ball too high.’’

Montero has worked into the sixth inning or later in his last four starts. The Mets might not reach the playoffs this year, but they might have found another starter.

CESPEDES’ WOES CONTINUE: Yoenis Cespedes, who went 0-for-5 Saturday, did not start, but flied out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.

Since June 24, Cespedes has two doubles, no homers and just three RBI.

He hasn’t homered in 80 at-bats.

UP NEXT: Jacob deGrom (11-3, 3.37) has won seven straight starts. He has a 1.51 ERA in that span with 50 strikeouts and ten walks. LHP Clayton Richard (5-10, 5.35) will start for San Diego.

Jul 22

Mets Wrap: Cespedes Lets Down Mets

For somebody who professes his love for Mets fans and New York City, Yoenis Cespedes sure has a funny way of showing it.

CESPEDES: What was he thinking?  (AP)

CESPEDES: What was he thinking? (AP)

What else can you conclude after Cespedes’ comments to The San Francisco Chronicle that pledged his loyalty to the Oakland Athletics and their manager Bob Melvin, at the expense of the team that will pay him $110 million over four years and Terry Collins, the manager who has consistently had his back?

Whether it be apologizing for Cespedes not hustling or playing golf when he was injured and should have been rehabbing, Collins always supported his left fielder.

Cespedes said he wanted to end his career with Oakland, the team he started for in 2012.

“I don’t know how many years I’m going to play, but I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland,’’ Cespedes said. “I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but that’s my goal. I still love the A’s. They were the first team to give me an opportunity to play in the big leagues. I love Oakland all the time.’’

Cespedes said his comments were a “misrepresentation,’’ and blamed the reporter.

Cespedes can claim innocence all he wants, but he’s been around long enough to know what’s going on and how to handle such questioning.

And, as much as he respects Melvin, he has to be smart enough to know that if he calls “the best manager for me so far … I don’t think there’s a better manager than Melvin.’’

Is Cespedes that naïve to think that wasn’t going to get back to Collins?

Cespedes has been all about damage control since, saying, “this is my home, this is my team, nothing has changed.’’

And, regarding Collins, Cespedes said: “With respect to the comments I made about their manager, he’s a great manager, that does not take away from my relationship with Terry.”

Whatever Cespedes’ relationship is with Collins these days, it would be a lot better if he had more than 22 RBI.

FLORES DOES IT AGAIN: Wilmer Flores was waiting on a fastball, and when he got it he completely erased a five-run deficit with a home run in ninth inning to give the Mets a 6-5 victory tonight over the Athletics.

“I was looking for a fastball. I have to be ready for that,’’ Flores said of his approach facing reliever Simon Castro.

The Mets fell behind 5-0 but clawed back into the game with a four-run sixth that began with a double by Flores.

WHEELER TORCHED: Zack Wheeler continued his troubles, giving up five runs on seven hits and four walks with six strikeouts in five innings.

Wheeler gave up two homers, including to Matt Joyce on the game’s second pitch. He has now given up 17 homers.

Wheeler hasn’t won a game since May 20, nine starts ago.

TRADE CHIPS: Asdrubal Cabrera started at third base for the first time this season and had two hits. The Mets want to showcase Cabrera at third. … Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer, his 25th of the season. … Lucas Duda tied the game with a pinch-hit single in the eighth. … Addison Reed has drawn interest from the Dodgers and Yankees.

 

Jul 21

Here’s Hoping Flores Gets Traded

It was two years ago next week when Wilmer Flores carved out a niche in Mets lore when he openly wept on the field after hearing a report he had been traded. Flores endeared himself to Mets fans everywhere that night because he showed the fans he was a player who genuinely wanted to play here.

How could you not cheer for a guy like that? How can you not cheer for a guy who showed such human emotions?

FLORES: The night he became a Mets' icon.  (AP)

FLORES: The night he became a Mets’ icon. (AP)

The trade to Milwaukee fell through and he remained in Queens, but his situation only briefly changed for the better regarding playing time. Off the field, there was still a shameful lack of respect from GM Sandy Alderson, who made him a butt of jokes on his stand up tour, and manager Terry Collins, who never trusted him enough to give him a position full-time.

However, in those moments when he did play – when Lucas Duda and David Wright were injured – Flores showed streaky power. He did so again yesterday with a pinch-hit homer in the win over St. Louis.

I always liked Flores, even before the tears, and openly advocated the Mets work him into a regular playing rotation. Now, I want the Mets to trade him. To Boston. To Houston. To Milwaukee, again. To any team where he’ll get a chance to play.

The Mets will soon move out Asdrubal Cabrera to make room for, and keep him away from, Amed Rosario. And, maybe they’ll trade Duda to make room for Dominic Smith. Neil Walker will soon be coming off the disabled list, and a midseason slump cost Flores his at-bats in favor of T.J. Rivera.

And, Flores? He’ll get moved to the bench where we won’t see him for ten more days. Collins never gave Flores a chance to work his way out of his slump; he wouldn’t work Flores into a rotation when all the infielders were coming off some kind of injury; he’ll bury him again.

Ken Davidoff, the talented baseball columnist for The New York Post, quoted a baseball scout on Flores and Rivera: “I like them more as fringe everyday players. Maybe guys you plug in for two weeks, or maybe even two months. But I wouldn’t be comfortable with them in a six-month situation for the full season.’’

That’s understandable because Flores has never been given more than a month to play. He tore things up earlier this season, then, like all players eventually do, tailed off. Hey, even Aaron Judge has cooled.

That’s the essence of a full baseball season. There will be stretches where everything falls in and others where even scorched balls are caught. His defense has never been good, but couldn’t that because he’s never been given a fulltime position? That’s the same way it was with Daniel Murphy.

Nobody knows what Flores can do for a full season because he’s never gotten the chance. Collins and Alderson put him in position where he’s always looking over his shoulder.

Flores can play adequately anywhere in the infield and has shown he can hit right-handed pitching. He can tear up lefties.

Flores was a valuable piece in the playoff runs of 2015 and 2016, and surely, can help a contender. Boston is in desperate need of a third baseman and the Yankees can still use a first baseman.

Flores can help either, but the hope here is he is traded by the deadline to a team that appreciates his value and will let him play.

Give him 550 at-bats before you tell me he can’t play.

 

Jul 20

Looking At Trade Assets Duda And Cabrera

The Yankees’ acquisition of Todd Frazier hasn’t completely torpedoed their chances of trading for Mets’ first baseman Lucas Duda.

It’s not a great chance, but still possible.

DUDA: Has trade value. (AP)

DUDA: Has trade value. (AP)

Duda homered in this afternoon’s 3-2 victory over St. Louis. He has three homers and three doubles with six RBI in the seven games since the All-Star break. He has value.

The Yankees would have been a perfect fit for Duda, who would have formed a powerful platoon with Greg Bird when the latter comes off the disabled list. Duda heard all the rumors.

“It’s basically just noise,’’ Duda told reporters. “Nothing happened yet. I’m still a Met. You can’t concern yourself with rumors or speculations. Come here ready to play every day, and have fun.’’

Duda has 17 homers and 36 RBI despite spending three weeks on the disabled list with a hyperextended left elbow. Although Duda is currently ranked seventh on the Mets’ all-time list with 124 homers, because of injuries he never developed into the player the Mets envisioned.

Currently, the Mets envision another first baseman of their future in Dominic Smith. Although Smith is unproven, don’t expect the Mets to bring back Duda – who will make $7.25 million this year – as insurance.

Insurance will be something any team landing Asdrubal Cabrera will get. The Mets will have Cabrera taking grounders at third base not with the idea of playing him there, but the intent of enhancing his trade value.

With Neil Walker due off the disabled list next week and Amed Rosario expected to be promoted after the trade deadline, where will Cabrera play? Assuming he is not traded.

“We’ve got to start to use a little bit of the versatility that those guys bring,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “And they’re all on board with it. Like Cabby said, ‘I’ll play wherever you need me to play.’ ’’

Cabrera has played well since he was moved to second last month. At the time, Cabrera said he wanted to be traded. He also said he’d move if the Mets picked up his $8.5-million option. It wasn’t the first time he made such a demand. He chirped the same thing when the Mets contemplated moving him to third so Jose Reyes could play shortstop.

However, with the Mets fading out of playoff contention, and Cabrera reading the tea leaves about his future, he realized versatility would enhance his value in the free-agent market.

“I know he said what he said in San Francisco,’’ Collins said. “One thing we try to get him to understand is that right now, there’s probably a larger market for a third baseman than there is for a second baseman at this particular point.

“So it would behoove him to have that option. Even though he hasn’t played over there, this guy’s hands are good enough that he can play anywhere.’’