Mar 29

Alderson Facing A Lot Of Questions This Week

The Mets are entering the final week of their eventful spring training. Unless the Mets make a surprise trade – and what are the odds of that? – there shouldn’t be any notable additions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t decisions to be made.

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

And, if you’ve followed closely, you know GM Sandy Alderson will make the final call on those decisions with only a minimal input from manager Terry Collins. The most successful teams have collaboration between the GM and the manager, usually based on respect, but that’s not the basis of this relationship. When the GM tells an author of his eroding confidence in his manager, what does that tell you?

So, operating under the theory this is Alderson’s team, here is what he must decide:

LEFTY RELIEVER: With Scott Rice optioned out, the thinking in Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin will get the nod over Dario Alvarez. There’s been talk about going outside, but that’s been going on all spring.

DISABLED LIST: There have been reports of Daniel Murphy and Vic Black being ready for Opening Day, but it’s a long season so why push it?

SECOND BASE: If not Murphy, then who? Alderson discusses Danny Muno or Matt Reynolds, but ignores Ruben Tejada, who is supposed to be the backup.

LEADOFF HITTER: They really don’t have one in the traditional sense, but based on their options it should be Juan Lagares. Quite simply, Curtis Granderson has more value as a run producer in the middle of the order.

BATTING ORDER: Primarily because of the juggling at the leadoff spot, there’s been little consistency in the order. We’ve seen the Mets have over 100 different batting order combinations in recent seasons. Unfortunately, it could be that way again.

ROTATION ORDER: Most teams who already know their rotation would have an order. Not the Mets.

So, Alderson has a lot to think about this week.

Mar 28

Murphy, Black Should Open Season On DL

It’s getting to be time for the Mets where they must start seriously thinking about their Opening Day roster and whom might be on the disabled list. While there’s nothing official, the Mets are holding out hope for Daniel Murphy (right hamstring) and reliever Vic Black (right shoulder) to be ready.

Seems like wishful thinking.

MURPHY: Should open on DL.  (AP)

MURPHY: Should open on DL. (AP)

The Mets backed off a little Friday on Murphy when they said he would only play in minor league games next week. The Mets can backdate the injury that way and the most he would miss are the season’s first six days. However, if they played him in a major league exhibition game and was injured, the clock would start at the time of the injury.

There’s no point in pushing Murphy, especially considering the nature of his injury. It will be cold in April and hamstrings don’t respond well when it’s frigid.

It’s a no-brainer, actually.

The same could be said of Black, who has been sidelined for two weeks with weakness in his shoulder. Currently, Black is being treated with anti-inflammatory medicine and is only throwing on flat ground.

It is incomprehensible considering where Black is, how pitching coach Dan Warthen would actually claim Black is “right on the cusp,’’ of being ready for Opening Day. If Black pitches again this spring, the Mets are crazy if they didn’t use him the same way they plan to use Murphy.

When you factor in the Mets’ history in handling injuries, why is there any debate to this? Let’s cut the nonsense and have them both open the season on the disabled list.

Why is this so hard to figure out?

Mar 27

What’s Collins Really Thinking With His Lineup?

Here’s why I have trouble taking the Mets seriously at times. In today’s game against St. Louis, manager Terry Collins plans to bat Matt Harvey eighth.

Theoretically, it would enable him to bat Juan Lagares ninth followed by Curtis Granderson and David Wright.

COLLINS: What's he really thinking?

COLLINS: What’s he really thinking?

“I know in our market it’s a big issue. It’ll be a headline, back-page story,’’ Collins told reporters the other day. “But I’ll just do it to see what it looks like. Nothing more than that.’’

So, why do it then? That question becomes more pertinent when you consider the rest of the lineup.

First of all, if this is done to bunch your speed at the top of the order, you can do it the traditional way. The problem is Lagares isn’t even in the lineup, so the initial point is automatically defeated. Traditionally – and why is it tradition is such a taboo word in baseball these days? – a team’s best hitter, which is the combination of average and power, bats third. And, with the Mets that is Wright.

Today, it is Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who admittedly has had a good spring, but will open the season on the bench. Collins also has Michael Cuddyer clean-up and Wilmer Flores fifth – where neither will be during the season – Eric Campbell at first and Danny Muno at second. Campbell is a role player and Muno likely won’t make the team.

Spring training is in part used to experiment. Fine, but it you’re going to experiment then at least do it in such a way that you’ll get somewhat of an idea of how things will be in the season.

Here’s today’s Mets’ lineup:

Curtis Granderson, rf: Will bat leadoff only if Lagares can’t do the job, which means that’s another issue.

David Wright, 3b: Is having a good spring and should bat third until he proves he can’t.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf: Will make the team in part because he’s had a good spring, but also because he’s out of options.

Michael Cuddyer, lf: Won’t hit clean-up as that’s reserved for Lucas Duda. We’ll see how long he lasts in left field.

Wilmer Flores, ss: Is playing with a bruised foot. Let’s hope he doesn’t get re-injured. Even so, I can’t see him hitting this high in the order.

Travis d’Arnaud, c: He hasn’t had a great spring hitting, but I can see him in the sixth slot at times.

Eric Campbell, 1b: Valuable role player.

Matt Harvey, rhp: Yes, the DH is used to spread out at-bats, but they hit in the National League. How many games did the Mets lose because their pitcher was an automatic out or couldn’t advance a runner? Bottom line: The batters should hit more during spring training.

Danny Muno, 2b: Is making a push to make the team, however if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready then Ruben Tejada should be playing more at the end of spring training.

So, there you have it, the Mets’ order one-through-nine. Of the nine spots, only d’Arnaud at sixth seems like something they’ll do during the season.

Collins has wasted today’s batting order and made today a joke. Is that what he really wanted to do, or is he sending a message to GM Sandy Alderson? And, what could that message be? Perhaps that he doesn’t have a legitimate leadoff hitter? Or that Granderson really isn’t a good fit for this team?

I’m sure there are others, and you don’t have to look that hard.

 

Mar 26

With Urgent Questions Simmering, Why Still The Mystery With Gee?

Why do the Mets insist on going the mystery route when it comes to announcing roles in its pitching staff?

When Zack Wheeler was lost for the season it was announced Dillon Gee would assume his spot in the rotation. Manager Terry Collins said as such, but at the same time pitching coach Dan Warthen said it was an open competition between Gee and Rafael Montero.

GEE: C'mon, make it official.

GEE: C’mon, make it official.

So much for being on the same page.

It should be a slam dunk because Gee has limited experience pitching out of the bullpen while Montero has worked both as a starter and reliever. Then yesterday Collins flipped it so Montero would pitch against the Yankees. After the game, Collins told reporters in Tampa: “I’ve seen Dillon Gee pitch big games. I don’t need to see him pitch against the New York Yankees.’’

If anything, that sounded like an endorsement for Gee.

However, after Montero’s strong performance, Collins said he earned a spot on the staff, but wouldn’t say in what capacity.

Again, why is this so difficult?

Montero has pitched out of the pen, something Gee hasn’t for years. If anything, with little less than two weeks before the start of the season, I would figure Collins knows he has a starting five, but should realize the holes in the back end of the bullpen is a greater priority.

Revealing the rotation order and role for Montero should be among the easiest of things for Collins to decide as there seem to be more pressing questions:

Will Daniel Murphy and/or Wilmer Flores open the season on the disabled list?

Will reliever Vic Black be ready for Opening Day?

Will Niese get his mechanics ironed out?

Who will be the leadoff hitter?

Is there a left-handed reliever out there, anywhere?

So, with at least five significant questions that must be answered immediately, the Mets are spinning their wheels – at least that’s the public perception – on Gee and Montero, which should be givens.

 

Mar 25

Yankees In Better Position Than Mets To Make Playoffs Sooner

The Mets beat the Yankees again Wednesday, which undoubtedly will lead to a myriad of columns in tomorrow’s papers stating New York City is up for grabs and the Mets are in better position to win sooner.

Easy does it folks.

METS: Wishing and hoping.

METS: Wishing and hoping.

The Mets’ two victories this spring over their crosstown rivals – in light of many bookmakers having the teams ranked even heading into the season – have people thinking the Yankees are ripe for the taking. While each team has issues – starting with pitching as is always the case – which team is better equipped to overcome their flaws?

Operating under the assumption the Mets are potentially deeper with prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, plus the potential of Rafael Montero, the edge would seem to be in Flushing. This is even with the Mets losing Zack Wheeler for the season. As of now, the Mets have their rotation set, while the Yankees are piecing together their back end.

Closer Bobby Parnell will open the season on the disabled list for the Mets, who have Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Conversely, Yankees manager Joe Girardi isn’t ready to name his closer. The Mets have a closing edge, but their bridge to the end isn’t good, especially lacking a lefty specialist.

The Mets have the greater potential to overcome their pitching issues, but the Yankees have the edge at catcher, the outfield and infield.

I give the Yankees the edge in the outfield because the Mets are weaker in the corners. The Yankees have the greater offensive potential in the outfield, especially if Carlos Beltran is healthy. As good a glove as Juan Lagares is, offensively he’s no match for Jacoby Ellsbury.

I’d give David Wright the edge over Chase Headley at third, but first baseman Lucas Duda needs to do it again to consider putting him on a par with Mark Teixeira, even if he is coming off an injury. At second, Daniel Murphy has a better bat than the Yankees’ Stephen Drew, but the latter is better defensively. However, Didi Gregorius is better on both ends than shortstop Wilmer Flores.

However, despite the Mets’ supposed pitching edge, the Yankees are in overall better position to reach the playoffs sooner based on their division and pedigree.

There’s no power in the AL East comparable to what the Mets face in their division with the Nationals. However, how the Yankees are dealing with the Alex Rodriguez scenario shows the different mentality of the two franchises.

With a salary of $21 million earmarked for Rodriguez in 2015, most teams would not sink another $52 million in a package for Headley, including $13 million this season. However, coming off a one-year suspension for PED usage and multiple hip surgeries, the Yankees weren’t willing to take a “wait-and-see’’ stance with Rodriguez.

Conversely, could you see the Mets taking the same approach if they were undecided about adding a replacement for an injured player? We are all familiar with the questions the Mets faced in the offseason, but all they did was add Michael Cuddyer. Excuse me while I catch my breath.

Alderson entered the offseason with concerns at catcher, shortstop, in the bullpen and in the outfield. They still have them.

There’s no comparison in the team’s spending habits, but if you need another reminder, consider the Mets will delay bringing up Matz and Syndergaard to push back their free-agent eligibility a year – and that’s five years away.

That is the difference between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and his Mets’ counterpart in Sandy Alderson, and by extension, the respective ownership groups.

The AL East is more balanced than the NL East, and if the Yankees are in position in the middle of the season to make a move there’s no doubt Cashman won’t be afraid to pull the trigger. Meanwhile, if the Mets were in a similar situation, I have little confidence in Alderson to make a move, even if the Wilpons gave him the green light.

The Yankees finished out of the money last year, but were 84-78. The Mets had their sixth straight losing season in 2014.

The Mets might have the slight pitching edge now, but the Yankees would be more aggressive in overcoming it and filling any other voids.

I would bet on them playing in October before the Mets.