May 23

Will We See Wright Again This Year?

At the beginning of spring training I wrote the position player the Mets could least afford to lose was third baseman David Wright. We can now assume that to be the case with reports out Pittsburgh are Wright’s lower-back pain has resurfaced and he’s been shut down again.

The 32-year-old Wright went on the disabled list April 15 with a pulled right hamstring, and the initial projection was he’d be out two weeks. Of course, we know how such projections have been in the past. Wright now has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and they are first prescribing rest followed by strengthening his core. As far as we know, surgery has not yet been discussed, but that can be a future option.

WRIGHT: Return delayed and uncertain. (AP)

WRIGHT: Return delayed and uncertain. (AP)

The back pain began as Wright’s hamstring healed. The Mets are now saying he will be out for at least another week, but how do they really know that will be what it takes?

Wright’s importance to the Mets comes in his, 1) production at the plate, 2) steadying influence in the field and in the clubhouse, and 3) what he represents to the stability of the franchise and the sense things will be all right.

And, naturally, with Wright gone comes the whispers the Mets made a poor decision when they signed him through the 2020 season, including $20 million through 2018. Undeniably, Wright’s contract will preclude the Mets from diving deep into the free-agent market, and their dollars will be spent on retaining their young pitching.

You might recall Wright was out for two months in 2011 with a stress fracture in his lower back, an injury the Mets’ medical staff said he has not had a reoccurrence. However, what is reoccurring is Wright’s inability to stay in the lineup as he has averaged 126 games a year from 2011 through 2014, and will be lucky to reach that this season.

Extenuating circumstances involved prompted the Mets to offer Wright such a large contract. We can argue whether they were right or wrong all day, but this much is certain: The Mets’ offense is in trouble and they have to be preparing for the idea we might not see Wright again this year.

May 22

Six-Man Rotation Could Be Good For Mets, Pending Harvey’s Approval

The New York Mets are again making noise about going with a six-man rotation when Dillon Gee is activated from the disabled list. Doing so would allow them to not choose between Gee and Noah Syndergaard, Friday’s starter in Pittsburgh.

The Mets considered this before Gee was injured, but rejected it, in large part because it would have meant Matt Harvey pitching with more rest than in a normal five-man rotation.

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

However, as often is the case with the Mets, they don’t have a definitive plan. They didn’t when it came to naming a format to regulate Harvey’s innings; settling on a batting order; and determining a leadoff hitter.

I don’t have a problem with a six-man rotation, if it is implemented properly, meaning – stick with it.

The negative is less starts for Harvey and Jacob deGrom, but the flip side is they could be stronger when they do pitch.

Another positive is less starts – and more rest – for Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese. Another positive is that if Gee pitches well, which he has this year at times and in his rehab, it enables the Mets to showcase him for a possible trade by the July 31 deadline. If they do this, they can go back to the more conventional five-man rotation.

But, what if it works? What if the extra rest and extra pitcher improves the team? Remember, at one time a four-man rotation was the norm. The Mets really have nothing to lose by this, especially since it could give them an idea of what might happen next summer when they have Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz.

However, for it to work, two things must happen, 1) the Mets must give it time to develop, and 2) the starters must be on board with the change.

If one starter, and of course I’m talking about Harvey because he’s been known to make noise when he doesn’t like things.

It will be interesting to see if the Mets sacrifice the chance to better the team to appease one player.

 

 

 

 

May 21

Collins Made Right Call To Pull De Grom

It would have been nice to see Jacob deGrom finish today’s start for the Mets, but manager Terry Collins‘ decision to pull him was totally reasonable.

At the beginning of the season Collins said deGrom and Matt Harvey would be watched carefully in terms of pitch counts and monitoring, which fell into line his decision to not let him come out for the ninth.

DEGROM: Pulled out of caution. (AP)

DEGROM: Pulled out of caution. (AP)

In fact, even though deGrom’s pitch count was at 104 and he was cruising having retired his last 23 hitters.

Collins volunteered deGrom was dealing with soreness in his hip and shoulder recently, so it was actually a no-brainer. All Collins has to do is think about the 134 pitches Johan Santana threw in his no-hitter.

“I already lived through one of those harrowing experiences,’’ Collins told reporters. “At my age, you can’t live through too many more.’’

In that regard, it didn’t hurt the lone hit deGrom gave up came in the first inning.

Sure, deGrom wanted to stay in, but didn’t push matters with Collins.

“I haven’t thrown a complete game in the big leagues,’’ deGrom said. “That’s something I want to do. But I had a lot of pitches early on. My goal was to try to stay in there for at least seven. Then, whenever they let me go back out for the eighth, I was just happy to do that.”

The prevailing theory is deGrom altered his mechanics to compensate for hip stiffness, which consequently lead to shoulder soreness. Whether or not this was the result of mechanics remains in question, but what isn’t in doubt is Collins made the right call.

May 21

Is Panic In The Mets’ DNA?

Sometimes, Mets manager Terry Collins sounds like a man who is trying to convince himself of something he’s not sure of, when he said, or vowed, his team would not panic.

As somebody who has been in on hundreds of such press briefings, I know why the topic of panic was raised. Believe me, it’s not because it’s New York and the media is prying. The question would be the same in Pittsburgh or Cleveland or even laid back San Diego. When you lose seven of ten games and nine games in the standings to your main division rival, nerves get frayed, no matter how loudly or vociferously, Collins denies it.

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

“There’s a lot – a lot – of baseball left,’’ Collins said last night. “There’s no sense of urgency here. We have things we have to continue to try to do. We have to continue to try to watch the workload of some guys. We need to continue to try to get healthy. But there’s no panic here, believe me. Not in the clubhouse. Not anyplace else.”

This is what Collins believes and I don’t doubt he thinks that way. He would be a fool to admit otherwise. That’s why I don’t get why some in my profession would even pose the question. They already know the answer.

I raised the issue yesterday the Mets are at a critical point to their season, and I did so because I’ve seen them fold before. Do you remember September of 2007 when they lost a seven-game lead to the Phillies with 17 games remaining?

Of course you do.

It has been in the Mets’ DNA to go into long, dry spells. That’s where they are now. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors. Reporters ask questions to find out.

The Mets’ primary issue now is a stagnant offense that has scored three or fewer runs in 16 of their past 22 games. Not surprisingly, they are 10-15 since their 11-game winning streak.

GM Sandy Alderson already said not to expect help from the outside, that the plan is to wait for David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud to return from the disabled list. There are other options, such as juggling the lineup, but that smacks of panic unless the move is justifiable, which it would be when Wright and d’Arnaud to come back.

The Mets don’t have a good bench, so benching somebody isn’t a great option. Plus, the guy they always look to sit is Wilmer Flores, who is their best home run hitter. Just who in their minor league system is an answer?

The Mets’ best option, as distasteful as this sounds because that’s been Alderson’s mantra, is to wait this out. Slumps happen in a 162-game schedule and that’s what’s going on with the Mets.

Getting out of a slump takes time, and I don’t know how patient the Mets will be. Unfortunately, neither does Collins.

However, when the story of this season is written, this period will be the watershed moment.

 

May 20

Mets Facing Critical Juncture To Season

Every season has its critical juncture and for the Mets it is now after Bartolo Colon‘s 41-year-old arm was mauled tonight by major league’s best team in St. Louis. The Mets’ 11-game winning streak and eight-game lead over Washington has faded from euphoria to the cusp of panic after Colon was ripped.

We’ve seen hot streaks from the Mets morph into inescapable slides before. The Mets’ 9-0 loss coupled with the Nationals beating the Yankees, 3-2, tonight, leaves Washington in sole possession of first place in the National League East and begs the question: Can manager Terry Collins‘ team recover?

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

After a 13-3 start, the Mets are 10-15, including 3-7 over their last ten games. They aren’t hitting. Their starting pitching has faltered recently with Colon, Jon Niese and Thursday’s starter, Jacob deGrom. They haven’t won behind Matt Harvey in three starts and blew 1-0 leads in his last two. Their defense has been poor.

In two respects, the Mets’ hopes to regroup are tied to two gambles by GM Sandy Alderson: 1) the signing of Colon, whom they hoped would stem the tide tonight, and 2) the decision to see how David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud come back from the disabled list before attempting to trade for a hitter to aid their faltering offense.

The estimate on their returns is at least two weeks, and nobody knows where the Mets will be in the standings by then. Don’t forget, they lost eight games in the standings to the Nationals in a little over three weeks. Bryce Harper is hot; Stephen Strasburg is back.

It is possible the Mets could respond from tonight’s mugging and win another 11 in a row. Then again, they could continue their funk. They have another game with the Cardinals Thursday, then three in Pittsburgh before playing the Phillies, who are now playing well.

In many ways Colon personifies Alderson’s patchwork approach in building this team. Colon was signed as a stopgap after Harvey was injured. They eschewed going after a big name free-agent in favor of Colon, who was signed to eat innings and win about a dozen games. Colon won 15 games last season and sought his seventh tonight. Colon gave up five homers in splitting his previous four starts, and was hammered tonight, giving up nine runs on 11 hits – including two homers – and a pair of walks in 4.1 innings.

Meanwhile, for all the talk about the Mets’ ailing offense, it wouldn’t have mattered tonight against Colon and Tuesday against Niese, who is also proving not to be an answer.

Lately, there have been more questions than answers for the Mets, including this big one: Can they pull it together?