Feb 01

It’s Truck Day

The equipment truck left for Port St. Lucie this afternoon with the bats and balls, and of course, the hopes of Mets’ fans everywhere. Spring training is the best time of year because it is when dreams are born.

GM Sandy Alderson was there to say goodbye and address the smattering of fans, many of them who consider the truck a seasonal rite of passage.

“It’s been a slow offseason,’’ Alderson told the small group of fans. “But I want to put that in context because that has been true across all of baseball. In fact, the Mets have really been as active as anybody.’’

Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes are returning to a team that finished 22 games below .500, and along with them Anthony Swarzak and an over-the-hill Adrian Gonzalez.

Unless the Mets’ young and battered pitching staff return healthy and live up to expectations, it’s hard to fathom those four additions lifting Mickey Callaway’s team to contending status. That likely won’t happen even if they add Todd Frazier or Eduardo Nunez or even a reunion with Neil Walker.

The Mets’ payroll is currently $137 million with little wiggle room.

Even if the Mets were to sign Mike Moustakas – which Alderson dismissed – that’s not nearly enough to put them over the top.

A big-ticket free-agent would cost the Mets draft-choice compensation and the loss of international pool money, something Alderson said is essential in “improving what is now a less-than-robust farm system.’’

Building from within is the most reliable and cost-effective way of building a team. The Mets tried that with their young pitching but have been derailed because of injuries.

The other ways of building are through trades and free-agency and Alderson has already said the latter is out. Quite frankly, the Mets have very few tradable assets other than their young – and most injured – pitching.

Are they willing to go there?

Jan 29

Mets Need To Find Out About Smith And Not Gonzalez

Do you remember last season when the talk surrounding the Mets was why weren’t they bringing up Dominic Smith?

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

They didn’t because the Mets already had a first baseman; because they still thought they had a chance to compete; and, most importantly, they didn’t think he was ready for prime time.

Well, they traded Lucas Duda; the injuries mounted and their season spun out of control; they finally brought up Smith and GM Sandy Alderson was correct – or partially so.

Smith, supposedly a defensive wizard, was erratic in the field. He hit with more power than expected, but his average and on-base percentage were worse than expected, and his attitude and conditioning weren’t what the Mets hoped.

Based on Smith’s limited window the Mets don’t believe he’s ready. Hopefully, Smith learned from last summer and rededicated himself and this might be the year he finds his game.

But, barring a dramatic turn, it won’t be in Flushing as the Mets for the start of this season at least are committed to Adrian Gonzalez. I would have preferred the Mets opened the season with Smith and given him a shot to live up to the expectations. With the Mets not anticipated to contend this year, this would be the perfect opportunity to see what the Mets have in the prospect.

Seriously, would Gonzalez put the Mets over the top? Of course not, and neither would Smith regardless of how well he plays this year.

But, the most important thing regarding Smith is to get an idea of what the Mets have in him. And, playing Gonzalez would only set the Mets back at least a year.

Just a ridiculous decision by Alderson.

Jan 26

Small-Market Brewers Shame Mets

The Milwaukee Brewers have long been regarded as a small-market franchise while the Mets play in the country’s largest market. Yet, events over the past 24 hours paint the two franchises with different brushes: The Brewers as a team that wants to win while the Mets continue to take the cheap way out and give their fans no reason to come out this summer.

In a span of less than two hours last night the Brewers engineered a trade for outfielder Christian Yelich, a budding superstar, and then signed outfielder Lorenzo Cain to the largest free-agent contract of the winter.

Either of those moves separately would have improved the Mets, who yesterday signed Jose Reyes for $2 million to play a utility infield role if they sign either Todd Frazier or Neil Walker or Eduardo Nunez.  Any of those three combined with Reyes won’t substantially elevate the Mets to contending status.

As of now, the Mets can only be projected to finish ahead of Derek Jeter’s dumpster fire in Miami, who had scuttled their team to save money. In addition to the revenue the Marlins will make from the television networks, they will get another $50 million from the sale of MLB Advanced Media.

So, what Jeter is doing is what George Steinbrenner always hated – and something he always accused the Mets of doing – which is pocket the money derived from the networks and revenue sharing and not put it back into improving the team.

The Brewers ponied up four prospects for Yelich and $80 million over five years for Cain, prices that would force GM Sandy Alderson hang up the phone.



Jan 25

Have Mets Really Changed Their Medical Philosophy?

It was interesting to hear how GM Sandy Alderson overhauled the Mets’ medical staff, but then I remembered that was something both he and COO Jeff Wilpon vowed they would do when Alderson was hired in October of 2010.

However, that, like several other Mets’ promises when unfulfilled.

HARVEY: Personifies Mets' handling of injuries.(AP)

HARVEY: Personifies Mets’ handling of injuries.(AP)

How the Mets have handled injuries has long been a source of angst for fans and players of the franchise, and here’s hoping Jim Cavallini and Brian Chicklo have an uneventful tenure heading up the on-field medical staff.

However, in looking at some of the Mets’ most recent paralyzing injuries, a bulk of the responsibility falls with Alderson and the players themselves.

Among the most significant:

David Wright: In 2011, Wright played a month with a stress fracture in his lower back. Wright must assume some responsibility for trying to gut it out, but Alderson needs to share in this, too, for not insisting on an MRI earlier. We’ll never know how things might have been different for Wright had this been handled differently,

Jose Reyes: In 2010, Reyes sustained an injury to his right side in batting practice, June 30, and misses six games. As has been a tendency under Alderson, Reyes in rushed back and aggravates the injury, July 10 and is out for ten days. The Mets foolishly believe the All-Star break is enough time, and bring him back July 20. He is reinjured a month later and doesn’t return until Sept. 10.

Matt Harvey: The essence of the Mets’ bumbling of injuries began in 2013 with Harvey. Off to a fantastic start and facing the prospect of starting the All-Star Game at Citi Field, Harvey ignored tightness in his right forearm. Harvey – much to the delight of the Mets’ brass – started and starred in the All-Star Game, but was eventually shut down and went on the disabled list.

Harvey then got into a spitting match with Alderson about surgery and when to do his rehab. Then, after missing the entire 2014 season, Harvey and Alderson then clashed on an innings limit. Finally, last spring, Alderson ignored a warning from then-pitching coach Dan Warthen that Harvey wouldn’t be full strength until late May and rushed him back. We know what happened next.

Had Harvey not hid his sore forearm in 2013, and the Mets not shut him down at the All-Star break, there’s no telling how things might have unfolded differently.

Yoenis Cespedes: The Mets foolishly gave Cespedes a four-year, $110-million contract, then gave him carte blanche to become a bodybuilder. Despite a history of injuries, Cespedes strained his left hamstring last year. Then, as their offense went up in smoke, they rushed him back and he tore the hamstring and was limited to less than 90 games played.

Noah Syndergaard: As they did with Harvey, the Mets gave into Syndergaard. First, they let him become muscle bound in the offseason, then let him get away with not getting an MRI. Syndergaard subsequently tore his lat muscle in an early-season game at Washington and was lost for the year.

“I can’t tie him down and throw him in the tube,’’ is the quote that identifies Alderson’s regime. Alderson then said there was nothing the MRI would have shown that could have prevented the tear. Seriously, he said that.

The above five injuries were attributable to giving the players too much latitude and for Alderson not being the adult in the room. Unless those two variables change, it doesn’t matter who the new trainer is.

Jan 23

Mets Continue To Overplay Their Hand Since 2015 Series

Mets COO Jeff Wilpon can try to spin his payroll anyway he chooses but it comes down to one simple fact: Declaring you want to win and doing what it takes to do so are two different things.

“We certainly want to win,’’ Wilpon told reporters today at Citi Field. “There’s nobody going there trying not to win and not do their best to put us in the absolute best position to win.’’

The Mets’ payroll last year was $155 million and they finished 22 games under .500. It was $135 million in 2016 and $101 million in 2015 when they reached the World Series.

That last year, their Series rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz earned a combined $2.18 million, the odds of repeating which fall into the catch-lightning-in-a-bottle category. That is just plain lucky.

Wilpon said he’s not interested in the Mets being a top-five team in payroll, something we’ve known for years. Instead, he said the Mets are concerned with wins and losses.

The problem when looking at things that way is it reduces 2015 to a fluke season, something the Mets have been riding the past two years.

The following four things conspired to put the Mets into the Series that year:

  • Because of injuries and poor performances, the Nationals had a miserable season in 2015 which gave the Mets their opening.
  • The Mets caught lightning that summer with the Yoenis Cespedes trade. Cespedes had a historic six weeks that propelled them into the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, the Mets tried to parlay that trade with a $110-million, four-year contract that will set them back for years.
  • There was their sterling rotation mentioned earlier. Also, unfortunately for the Mets, that rotation hasn’t stayed healthy, and including the fifth member, Zack Wheeler, those five have yet to make a complete turn.
  • That postseason will always be remembered for Daniel Murphy’s blitz through the National League playoffs. Without it, maybe the Mets don’t get past the Dodgers in the Division Series. Unfortunately, the Mets played hardball with Murphy and let him escape to Washington as a free agent.

While it’s never a bad thing to reach the World Series, a case can be made the Mets overplayed their hand and overestimated just how good they were that season and have been paying for it since.

From signing Cespedes to letting Murphy go to overestimating their rotation it has been one bad decision after another.