Jul 23

The Mystery Is Over For Colon

If you’re Bartolo Colon pitching against Clayton Kershaw tonight, considering the Mets’ anemic offense you can’t like your chances if you give up a couple of runs.

Then again, if you’re the Mets’ hitters, you can’t like your chances with Colon on the mound. The Mets aren’t scoring and Colon isn’t preventing anybody from scoring and that’s a losing combination.

COLON: Hanging on. (AP)

COLON: Hanging on. (AP)

At one time Colon was 9-4 with a reasonable chance to make the All-Star team. He was one of the good stories early this year.

He goes into tonight’s game against the Dodgers at 9-8, going 3-6 with a 5.74 ERA over his last ten starts. The Mets have lost six of Colon’s last seven starts, scoring just a combined ten runs. The opposition has scored 33 runs.

Colon now finds himself hanging onto his career, one spanning 18 years and eight teams.

When you’re 42 and primarily throw a not-so-fast fastball, you will get crushed if your control is off. Colon simply doesn’t have the stuff to overcome mistakes.

“It’s all command with him,’’ manager Terry Collins said after Colon’s last start. “Bartolo does not change the way he pitches. Primarily fastball, with a mix of some change-ups and some sliders, but when he commands the fastball, the other stuff is just an accent. And when he doesn’t command the fastball, he’s not the kind of a guy who’s going to go strictly off-speed, he just doesn’t pitch like that.’’

The Mets signed Colon two years ago to a $20-million contract with the intent of logging innings when Matt Harvey was out. He surprised us with 202.1 innings and 15 victories in 2014, and with nine wins so far this season. They got their money’s worth.

In fairness, he exceeded early expectations, but unfortunately is now living up to them.

And, it isn’t pretty.

Jul 22

What Was Collins’ Real Responsibility?

It was a nice gesture on the part of manager Terry Collins to accept blame for the Mets’ 4-3 loss at Washington. But, to what degree was Collins at fault?

PARNELL: Doesn't have it. (AP)

PARNELL: Doesn’t have it. (AP)

Collins volunteered it should have been on him because he didn’t stall long enough for Jeurys Familia to warm up while Bobby Parnell struggled in the eighth inning. Now, that’s getting a little too precise.

“That’s all on me. It’s not on Bobby. He’s been throwing the ball great,” Collins told reporters. “I could have let Jeurys get looser. I could have delayed the game a little bit and let him get loose.”

The need to stall would have been alleviated if Collins followed a set plan to get his closer ready. The Mets have three relievers with closer experience. The mistake wasn’t in not stalling, but in not getting Familia up sooner and for not pulling Parnell when he clearly didn’t have it.

Parnell was stand-up about it, saying he did’t pitch well, which was spot on.

Parnell was handed a two-run lead in the eighth, but after one out he walked Ian Desmond – always a critical mistake – and gave up a two-run single to Matt den Dekker. After Tyler Moore lined out, Parnell threw a wild pitch that put two runners in scoring position, where they scored on a game-tying two-run single by Michael Taylor.

Danny Espinosa followed with a RBI double for the game-winner, which put the Mets at 2-4 since the break.

The need to stall came about because Collins, pitching coach Dan Warthen and bullpen coach Ricky Bones – pick any of the three – didn’t get Familia up until after den Dekker reached base. Familia has to know he needs to start loosening up after the first runner got on base.

It’s simple bullpen management. It has to be automatic, which makes stalling a moot issue. Stalling is playing around; what the Mets needed was a concrete strategy, which they didn’t have.

Hey, you’re the Mets. You don’t fool around by stalling. You have an idea of what you need to do and just do it.

 

Jul 22

Tejada Shining At Most Important Time

In 2012, the Mets’ first year without Jose Reyes as their shortstop, they gambled on Ruben Tejada. Nobody thought Tejada could duplicate Reyes’ dynamic style of play, but if he would give them something offensively, with his defense they could live with him.

TEJADA: Coming through. (AP)

TEJADA: Coming through. (AP)

Tejada was superb that season hitting .289 with a .333 on-base percentage. In fact, the Mets thought so highly of Tejada, at that time manager Terry Collins believed he could be the leadoff hitter the team so desperately needed.

Sure, the window is small, but since reshuffling their infield by putting Tejada to short, Wilmer Flores to second and Daniel Murphy to third, Tejada has produced. Maybe he has produced to the point where Collins might revisit the leadoff hitter idea, which could move Curtis Granderson‘s bat to the middle of the order.

Tejada worked his at-bat in the ninth the way he played in 2012. Tejada had a superb eight-pitch at-bat against Tanner Roark by fouling off five pitches before a RBI single to right that extended his hitting streak to nine games.

Can this last? Tejada is hitting .333 since July 3 to raise his average from .236 to .254.

Again, Tejada’s window has been small, but for now at least shortstop doesn’t have the same sense of urgency, and last night he and the Mets were fun to watch.

 

Jul 21

Memo To Alderson: It Might Already Be Too Late For A Trade

Roughly a week prior to the All-Star break, in reference to the Mets’ dismal offense I wrote Michael Cuddyer should be placed on the disabled list and GM Sandy Alderson consider promoting outfielder Michael Conforto.

ALDERSON: Time is ticking away. (AP)

ALDERSON: Time is ticking away. (AP)

As the Mets prepared for their fifth game in what they said is a critical point to their season, Cuddyer was out of the lineup against Washington and Conforto remains in the minor leagues. However, Cuddyer appeared in Tuesday’s game as a pinch runner, which is a gamble because if he is disabled, the Mets would have to back-date it to tonight.

The players most linked to the Mets are San Diego’s Justin Upton and Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez – whom the Mets traded in the Johan Santana deal – and Gerardo Parra.

Of course, there’s a difference between mulling and doing something.

Upton could be a rental, with Gomez more costly because he’s not a free agent after this season. Getting Gomez might mean losing Juan Lagares, which shouldn’t be a problem. Several days ago I wrote Lagares wasn’t panning out, so losing him is no big deal to me. He’s certainly not a deal breaker. After all, in five or six years they could trade for him back.

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager, according to his biography – should be coming to the realization the asking price for a hitter is escalating, simply because teams know the Mets are desperate. The Mets have no leverage in trade talks because they have too many rigid parameters. Alderson has a long list of untouchables; is not willing to give up any top prospects; and has budget restraints.

Basically, he wants something for nothing.

Alderson made it clear he won’t deal from the group of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Jon Niese stepped it up in the wake of the Matz injury, Harvey’s slump and Bartolo Colon‘s collapse.

Teams have no interest in Colon or Dillon Gee, and frankly because Niese is pitching well I would be reluctant to give him away for a rental. I wouldn’t mind Upton, but would want to discuss an extension first. If that could be worked out, I would include Niese.

But, would I give up NIese for a two-month rental? I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, the Mets’ offense remains dismal. They are 2-3 coming out of the break and tonight was the first time they scored as many as five runs in that span. Of the 16 games they’ve played this month, they scored as many as five runs only three times.

On June 16, Harvey beat the Blue Jays and the Mets’ record rose to 36-30. After that game, the Mets lost their next seven and only once scored as many as five runs over the next 12 games.

That’s when I started souring on their chances because they lost all their goodwill from their 11-game winning streak in April and did nothing to improve their offense. Getting back Kirk Nieuwenhuis doesn’t count.

Travis  d’Arnaud started swinging a bat, but is he really the answer? He wasn’t exactly carrying the team when he was injured. Alderson has also done nothing to address David Wright‘s absence, and we all know he’s not coming back soon, if at all this year. By the time we see Wright it might be too late.

Hell, it’s probably too late now to do anything of substance. Whatever leverage the Mets might have had in the trade market is gone, so Alderson will simply do nothing and say the price if too high. And, not bringing in salary will make the Wilpons happy. And, of course, if the Mets go into a free-fall, manager Terry Collins will pay the price.

See how that works? Yet another season is about to go into the archives. That’s shameful because as bad as the Mets have played, they are still over .500 and in the hunt.

If I was a lifelong Mets fan as many of you are – remember, I grew up in Ohio, where I didn’t root for the Yankees – I would be angry.

Too many times the Mets asked for, and were given patience, by their fan base. They asked you to wait while Harvey was on the DL last year and pointed to 2015. Well, 2015 has come and is close to being gone. Tonight was fun to watch, but there remains the possibility the interlocking NY on their caps could again stand for “next year.”

Jul 20

Maybe Harvey Found Something With Strong Finish

There it was, the seventh incredible inning and Matt Harvey was still out there for the Mets. Who would have thought it possible when Harvey fell behind 5-0 after three innings? As the Nationals added to their lead, I briefly thought this could have been one of those games the Mets might have yanked him early to reduce his workload.

HARVEY: Finishes strong. (Getty)

HARVEY: Finishes strong. (Getty)

The only problem was after Sunday’s 18-inning victory in St. Louis that taxed the bullpen, the pitcher whose innings the Mets are trying to preserve, may ironically have saved the pen for the remainder of this important series.

Harvey, who hadn’t pitched in nine days because of the All-Star break, came out throwing exceptionally hard in the high 90s, but again lacking in command evidenced by four walks. Harvey bought himself a chance to stay in the game with a two-run single in the fourth. We probably shouldn’t have been surprised that was the extent of the Mets’ offense.

Then, Harvey did more than just hang on, he dominated retiring the final 14 hitters he faced. He actually gave the Mets a chance to win the game if not for their dismal offense. The Mets stranded 25 runners Sunday and ten more Monday night.

The Mets stacked their rotation to go with Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the Washington series. Harvey lost tonight, falling to a lackluster 8-7 record. However, the bullpen was preserved for deGrom and Syndergaard in the next two games, and possibly Harvey found something that could turn his season around.