Jan 04

Wondering How Mets Will Use Flores

One Met I am curious to see how manager Terry Collins uses this year is Wilmer Flores. Collins has always run hot-and-cold with his usage of Flores, which probably stems from GM Sandy Alderson’s public knocks of the player he unsuccessfully tried to trade in 2015.

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

Frankly, Flores has never gotten an opportunity to play full time, and it won’t come this year. However, there is a way to get at least 500 at-bats and not greatly infringe on the playing time of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright/Jose Reyes.

The solution is simple and stems from Flores’ best attribute – other than hitting against left-handed pitching – and that’s his versatility.

He would play first one day, second the next, shortstop the third game and third base the fourth.

Doing this requires discipline on Collins’ part, a trait he has not exhibited. If Collins were to pull this off it will accomplish the following: 1) give Flores more and consistent at-bats, and 2) provide rest for the Mets’ older and injury-prone infield.

It will be well worth it to give Walker and Wright regimented rest, and it wouldn’t hurt for Cabrera and Duda, either.

The bottom line is the projected 2017 Mets’ infield could be gone after this season and they must find out what Flores can do.

Jan 03

My Hall Of Fame Ballot

The New York Times recently published a story claiming baseball writers softened their stance against voting for players connected with PEDs. Well, they didn’t contact me about my ballot that does not include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa or Ivan Rodriguez, all of whom have been connected to steroids.

MUSSINA: Got my vote.(Getty)

MUSSINA: Got my vote.(Getty)

I always considered it a privilege to be a Hall of Fame voter; one I take very seriously. I always believed taking steroids was cheating.

The fundamental misconception of steroids is it enables a hitter to crush a ball 500 feet or adding a couple of feet to a fastball. That’s not it. Steroids enable a player continuing to work out when exhausted. The issue isn’t added strength but increased bat speed that generates to power. For pitchers, it heightens stamina allowing him to work longer into games.

And, for all users, there’s an increase in the confidence of better production.

There have been some reporters whose litmus test to detect cheaters was the back-acne test. Every voter has their own criteria, and I have three: 1) the player had to have failed a drug test and subsequently failed in the appeal process; 2) he had to have been mentioned in the Mitchell Report or any other MLB sanctioned investigation or report; and 3) he had to have been outed, on the record, by a player, coach or baseball official.

If the Hall of Fame changes its protocols and puts on the plaque a player used PEDs – after an admission by the athlete – then I will reconsider and vote for a user.

The following were on my ballot:

Mike Mussina:  Won 20 games for the only time in his 18-year career in his final season. Of course, he could have hung on to win 300. Won at least 15 games in 11 seasons. Won 270 games, falling 30 short of what traditionally has been automatic entry. His .638 winning percentage is sixth best among those who won 250 games. Received Cy Young Award votes nine times.

Jeff Bagwell: There have been rumors, but nothing substantiated. He garnered 71.6 percent of the vote last year – missing out by 15 votes – and every player who received at least 65 percent of the vote got in. Bagwell hit over 30 homers in nine of his 15-year career with Houston. He averaged over 100 runs scored and 100 RBI per season during his career.

Tim Raines: Is on the ballot for the final time before going to the veteran’s committee. He’s arguably one of history’s greatest leadoff hitters, joining Pete Rose, Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson. He was a lifetime .294 hitter with a .385 on-base percentage and stole 808 bases in 954 attempts (the best percentage in history at 84.7 percent).

Trevor Hoffman: A seven-time All-Star finished with 601 saves in his 18-year career. His career hits-per-innings ratio of 6.9 leads all relievers. Recorded at least 30 saves in 14 of 15 seasons and had over 40 nine times.

Lee Smith:  What is wrong with being a compiler? You have to pretty good to hang around for 18 seasons and have 13 straight years of 20-plus saves, 10 of 30-plus saves and three of 40 or more. He ranks 12th all-time in games pitched with 1,022. He ranks third all-time with 478 saves.

Edgar Martinez: Designated hitter is an official position, so why should he be penalized for playing the majority of his games there? MLB named its award for best DH in his honor. Martinez hit at least .300 in ten seasons and is one of nine players to hit 300 homers, 500 doubles, a career average over .300, a career on-base percentage over .400 and a slugging percentage over .500.

Fred McGriff: This one I call a testament for hitting clean. It used to be 500 homers was automatic entry into the Hall of Fame; McGriff hit 493 in 19 seasons. He hit over 30 homers ten times and drove in at least 100 runs eight times. No whispers about him doing it the right way.

Jan 02

No Reason For Syndergaard To Call Out Harper

Who is the Mets’ No. 1 obstacle in winning the NL East? Sure, it’s the Washington Nationals. And, who is the best player on the Nationals? You wouldn’t be wrong if you answered Bryce Harper.

So, I ask you, what purpose does it serve for Noah Syndergaard to call out Harper on social media by calling him a douche?

Why poke the bear?

SYNDERGAARD: Why challenge Harper? (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Why challenge Harper? (AP)

It’s like when Rex Ryan called out Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. How did that work out for the Jets? Do you remember when Carmelo Anthony challenged Kevin Garnett outside the Celtics bus after a game? How has that turned out for the Knicks?

Did Sandy Koufax ever call Willie Mays a douche? Did Tom Seaver ever call Hank Aaron a douche? Of course, plenty of Mets had something to call Pete Rose in 1973.

It’s a new world, I know, but there are plenty of time-honored theories that still apply. For example, let sleeping dogs lie, especially if they are prone to bite.

Harper is a force. Why wake him up? Look what the Mets did to Daniel Murphy. It might feel good at the time, but it’s not worth it.

I realize there’s a generational difference between Syndergaard and me. It’s not as if I’m telling Syndergaard to cut his hair. Just think before you hit “send.’’

Syndergaard should know better, and somebody in the Mets’ front office should have enough sense to tell him to tone it down.

 

Dec 31

Wrapping Up Mets’ Season That Wasn’t

Time to take a moment to look back on “The Season That Didn’t Happen,’’ before moving on to panning the Mets of 2017 and wishing you all a Happy New Year.

After being ousted in the World Series in five games, with Game 5 decided by Terry Collins’ decision to let Matt Harvey go out for the ninth, it was easy to project the summer of 2016 for the Mets.

SYNDERGAARD: Sums up disappointing season. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Sums up disappointing season. (FOX)

Harvey, who gave it up and Jeurys Familia, who blew the save, would come back with fiery determination. Hell, I even wrote Harvey would win 20 games.

They brought back Yoenis Cespedes and added Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. The future was bright for Michael Conforto.

Yes, there was a lot of optimism entering the season as there should have been. But, the World Series was never meant to be.

Writing on Twitter, Noah Syndergaard summed up 2016 in 140 characters:

2016 Mets Recap:

Wright hurt
Duda hurt
Walker hurt
Harvey hurt
DeGrom hurt
Matz hurt
Wheeler delayed
lost Wild Card
Bart leaves

It really wasn’t much more than that.

KEY STORYLINE: Harvey didn’t win 20 and didn’t come close. For the second time in three years, Harvey’s season was cut short by arm surgery. He wasn’t the only one. The knife also fell on Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler never recovered from his surgery.

KEY ADDITION: The Mets got off to a fast start in large part by Walker’s power surge, predominantly from the right side. Alderson plugged holes, adding James Loney when Lucas Duda went down and Jose Reyes to replace David Wright. The high-profile addition was Jay Bruce at the deadline, but the most important pick-us were Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman when Harvey and deGrom went down. Without them, the Mets don’t see the Wild Card game against the Giants.

MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENTS: The injuries to the pitchers and Wright were the biggest. … It can’t be underestimated how vital Conforto’s inability to build on 2015’s first impression. … Once again, the Mets’ inability to hit with runners in scoring

HIGH DRAMA: The puzzlement of what was bothering Harvey hung in the forefront until his shoulder injury was diagnosed. However, most of July was overshadowed by the high maintenance Cespedes, who couldn’t play because of a strained quad, but was able to golf instead of taking treatment. Neither Alderson nor Collins had the backbone to call out the outfielder, but Cespedes’ availability prompted the trade for Bruce. That could have been avoided had Alderson sent Cespedes to the disabled list three weeks before they finally pulled the trigger.

CONTINUING ISSUES: It shouldn’t have been all that hard to project Wright going down again. It shouldn’t be difficult for it happening again in 2017. … Also lingering is not hitting with runners in scoring position. They’ve done nothing to address that situation. … The middle innings in the bullpen also remained a problem, and that’s still in question with the pending suspension of Jeurys Familia.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR: There were a lot of electric moments, many of them of the walk-off variety, but is there any doubt about it being Bartolo Colon’s homer?

GAME OF THE YEAR: The Mets were reeling on Aug. 20, in third place, 12.5 games behind Washington when Colon went to the mound in San Francisco. Colon gave up two runs in 6.1 innings and was picked up by the Mets’ suddenly revived offense, which knocked out 13 hits, including two homers from Cespedes and one from Alejandro De Aza, to beat the Giants, 9-5. That was the first victory in a stretch where the Mets won nine of 11 games to go back over .500 and generate the push into the Wild Card.

 MVP: Cespedes was brought back to provide the spark he did in 2015. Despite playing in 132 games, Cespedes hit 31 homers, but was limited to 86 RBI. There really wasn’t a serious challenger to him.

PITCHER OF YEAR: Working most of the year with a bone spur, Syndergaard started 30 games and compiled 183.2 innings, going 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA. Does Syndergaard have Cy Young potential? You bet.