Nov 26

Potential Mets’ 2015 Batting Order

Let’s assume the Mets won’t make any significant additions at the Winter Meetings, and what we have now is what we’ll get Opening Day. Given that, here’s what I see as a potential batting order:

Juan Lagares, CF: In the absence of a legit leadoff hitter, the Mets would be making a gamble. Lagares has the speed and showed he can steal a base. He must improve his on-base percentage and cut his strikeouts.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Let’s begin with this notion: He won ‘t be traded. Murphy is patient at the plate and can hit to the opposite field. Those are important qualities for a No. 2 hitter.

David Wright, 3B: In theory, a team’s best hitter – the combination of average and power – bats third. The Mets are hoping for Wright to hit for more power after an injury-shortened 2014 season.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He has the potential to be the power bat the Mets have long needed. Last year, he hit 30 homers with 92 RBI. Of his 130 hits, 57 went for extra bases. He still strikes out too much, evidenced by his 135-69 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Michael Cuddyer, LF: Injuries limited him to only 49 games and 190 at-bats last season. However, he won the NL batting title in 2013 and hit 20 homers with a .389 on-base percentage. That player could give the Mets a potent middle-of-the-order.

Curtis Granderson, RF: He could hit fifth, but I’ll slot him sixth to separate the left-handed hitters between Cuddyer. It might be too much for him to hit 40 homers as he did with the Yankees, but 30 shouldn’t be out of the question. Isn’t that why they moved in the fences?

Travis d’Arnaud, C: He hit 13 homers in only 385 at-bats leading to expectations of possibly 20 over a full season (just 108 games in 2014). He’s still a work in progress, but the Mets are hopeful.

Wilmer Flores, SS: We won’t know of the optimum spot to hit Flores until he plays a full season – he only has 354 career at-bats. The Mets like his offensive potential, but it is premature to make projections. One thing for certain, his 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must improve.

Pitcher’s spot.

Nov 25

Wright’s Comeback Is Mets’ Most Critical Question

Among the myriad of questions facing the New York Mets this question, I believe the most important is the status of David Wright.

A recent ESPN poll listed baseball’s top ten third basemen and Wright, based on his recent injury history and performance, wasn’t on the list and shouldn’t have been. Therein, is why he’s my most critical Mets’ question heading into the 2015.

WRIGHT: He needs to smile again. (AP)

WRIGHT: He needs to smile again. (AP)

The key focus on Wright is health. Only once on the past four years did he play in as many as 150 games. Last year, a bum left shoulder limited him to 134 games and hurt his performance in the field and at the plate.

As the face of the franchise, Wright was rewarded with an eight-year, $138-million contract that has the Mets committed to him through the 2020 season. He was signed with the hope he’d regain his All-Star form.

This isn’t about whether the Mets should have signed Wright, or whether they should have taken Jose Reyes instead. It is about the immediate situation, which is Wright’s status. He’s here and not going anywhere.

It must be understood Wright has been a star, but his most productive seasons when he was younger and healthier, but also when he was surrounded by supporting talent, notably Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Wright has always been an important element to the Mets’ success, but never the centerpiece bat.

This year will be more of the same. The main source of power will come from Lucas Duda followed by Curtis Granderson. If they meet expectations, a lot of pressure could come off Wright.

A seven-time All-Star, Wright figures to bat third and could be prevented with solid RBI opportunities if there’s a productive leadoff hitter and strong season from Daniel Murphy.

It can’t be underestimated how the upheaval at the top of the order, plus the lack of support behind him, coupled with his injuries and propensity for carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders contributed to him not driving in over 100 runs since 2010 or scoring over 100 runs since 2008.

Then again, every time Wright struggles resurfaces the questions stemming from the 2009 beaning by Matt Cain.

This is a critical year for Wright, who at 31, is at the crossroads of his career. Does his slide continue or can he recapture the stroke that made him an elite talent?

Wright as Wright can carry the Mets to the next level to potential playoff contending status. If not, and he struggles again, there will be the lingering questions about his contract, especially if he’s healthy and doesn’t produce.

There are six more years on that contract and could become an albatross.

Nov 24

Mets’ Shortstop Question Defines Winter

To get an accurate read on how the New York Mets feel about themselves, look no further than their handling of the shortstop position.

It’s an oversimplification to call them cheap for not going after Troy Tulowitzki because the asking price, both in what the Rockies would demand in players and the salary the Mets would have to pay would have been exorbitant.

Everybody, of course, knows the Red Sox are always serious about winning, so signing Hanley Ramirez is something in the Boston’s DNA.

The Mets won’t go that high-end, but there is talk they might go after Stephen Drew, but he’s not the missing piece to their puzzle. He might be a better, more experienced and expensive alternative to Wilmer Flores.

However, is Drew the player the Mets want to build around? He might cost them $4 million, but if he proves himself he would likely walk after 2015 and the Mets – who deem themselves competitive this year – would be searching for a new shortstop next year.

And, teams considering themselves contenders aren’t usually in the market for a shortstop.

Alexei Ramirez or Starlin Castro have been linked to the Mets, but they don’t want to surrender their young pitching.

That brings us full circle to their shortstop at the end of last, which is Flores. He represents their least expensive option. He could also be their future, if they were to give him a full shot at the position.

And, if it didn’t work out, then they could always go get a shortstop next year.

Meet the new winter, just like the old one.

Nov 23

Backman Paying His Dues; Should Get Another Chance

It is clear Wally Backman wants to manage in the major leagues. His decision this week to accept an offer to manage in the Dominican Republic indicates the Mets, and other teams, should take that pursuit seriously.

BACKMAN: Paying his dues.

BACKMAN: Paying his dues.

Backman was hired to replace the fired Jose Offerman for Licey in the winter leagues, when he could have taken the rest of the offseason off shows how badly he wants to gain experience and refine his craft.

The Mets haven’t announced it, but Backman is expected to return to manage Triple-A Las Vegas.

Backman has been trying to get another job at the major league level since he was hired, then fired, in a four-day span by Arizona ten years ago for off-the-field issues and then, according to the Diamondbacks, lying about them.

Baseball has forever been giving people second chances – excluding Pete Rose, of course – and it should be about time he’s given one. The Mets didn’t give him an opportunity to be their bench underneath Terry Collins, giving the impression he was being snubbed by his own organization.

There have been numerous managerial openings in recent winters and Backman’s phone hasn’t rung and that’s not right.

Nov 22

Could Former Met Davis Land With Nats?

The reports came so close together that they invariably are linked. First, Ike Davis was released by Pittsburgh, and then Met-killer Adam LaRoche bolted the Nationals and signed a two-year, $25-million deal with the White Sox.

So, what does two plus two equal? I can see it adding up to Washington signing the former Met.

DAVIS: Could he go to Washington?

DAVIS: Could he go to Washington?

Davis hit 11 homers with 51 RBI and a surprising .344 on-base percentage last year. There was so much going on with Davis’ head last season, then the trade, that it was almost inevitable he wouldn’t have a breakout year.

Davis made $3.5 million in 2014, so he shouldn’t command a big salary. And, by putting him in a powerful lineup where he doesn’t have to carry the full load – Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth – he could be worth a roll of the dice.

There were a lot of reasons why Davis didn’t make it with the Mets. After a promising start there were injuries and slumps, the latter having its roots in a misguided approach where he didn’t care about strikeouts and tried too much to pull the ball for home runs.

“I’m a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis once told me. “Strikeouts are going to happen.’’

That, and trying to power-pull the ball through a shift were aggravating to watch.

It wasn’t too long that those lunging catches over the dugout rail were forgotten.

If he learned, it wouldn’t be a bad move by the Nationals.