Feb 26

Alderson Weighs In On Shortstop Situation; So Far, Endorses Tejada By Default

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson danced around published reports critical of Ruben Tejada’s conditioning and steady media demands to sign Stephen Drew.

Earlier this week, The New York Post, citing unnamed sources, said despite Tejada training in the offseason at a Michigan fitness camp he didn’t look any more in shape than he did last season.

TEJADA: Holding on (Getty)

TEJADA: Holding on (Getty)

When Tejada first reported, manager Terry Collins said the shortstop, whose job is on the line this spring, looked good physically.

The off-the-record comment could have come from anywhere: from a front office official, a coach or a player. By club rule, the medical staff isn’t permitted to speak to the media.

“Look, we have probably 30 front office and coaching staff down here,’’ Alderson told the MLB Network. “There’s going to be a stray comment about players from time to time. That’s unfortunately the nature of the media in New York. It’s so pervasive that comments like that are going to be gleaned from time to time.’’

If indeed the comment came from a front office official, that could have easily been prevented if Alderson ordered his staff not to speak. It’s done all the time in all sports and provides an effective muzzle.

Alderson, who said during the winter Tejada could open the season at shortstop, still said the team is looking for improvement.

“We were happy with what Ruben did in the offseason,’’ Alderson said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll show significant improvement on the field – back to the levels he has demonstrated, so it’s not an unrealistic hope. But we continue to look at our middle-infield situation.’’

There’s no way that can be interpreted as an endorsement.

Ever since the day after the season, which ended with Tejada out with a fractured leg, there have been reports the Mets were interested in Boston free agent Stephen Drew. However, his $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox, which would cost the Mets a compensatory draft pick, was a deterrent.

Even so, the reports persisted.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Stephen Drew obviously,’’ Alderson said. “My own personal view is at this point, Stephen and his agent are reviewing the situation and perhaps looking at a strategy that prolongs this situation into the regular season or even into June.’’

Alderson didn’t say if the job would be Tejada’s until June.

Drew is currently working out in a facility in Miami owned by his agent, Scott Boras.

In the wake of Nelson Cruz signing with the Orioles – he wanted a five-year, $75-million deal, but settled for a one-year, $8-million contract – there’s been speculation Drew would reconsider.

Despite claims Drew might wait until June – when the draft pick compensation condition would be lifted after the draft – there’s been so signs Boras will back down.

“From our standpoint, look, it does appear that we would be a logical landing spot for someone like Stephen Drew,’’ Alderson said. “But, at the same time, we have to make our own, independent evaluation and cost-benefit computation and act accordingly, which is what we have done.’’

Translation: Drew remains too expensive.

The Mets are also discussing a trade with Seattle for infielder Nick Franklin, who reportedly would require pitching in return.

Whatever option the Mets choose, it is clear they are not enamored with Tejada. If by chance they can’t land somebody and Tejada keeps the job by default, he needs a big year to stay with the Mets in 2015.

ON DECK: More injuries.

Feb 25

Mets Still Unsettled At Shortstop; Not Thrilled With Ruben Tejada

It’s not hard to figure out the New York Mets aren’t thrilled with the prospect of entering the season with Ruben Tejada as their shortstop. Despite off-season assertions from GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins they would be happy with Tejada, there are events to the contrary.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

Despite praise for Tejada’s participation in an off-season fitness camp in Michigan, there have been reports he’s not exactly buff. This can’t please Collins, who has already called out Tejada on his work ethic.

Perhaps, the most damning stories have been the reports from outside camp, beginning with the incessant drum beating to sign Stephen Drew coupled with Alderson’s reluctance to draw the line on the subject.

Either the Mets want Drew or they don’t. “Most unlikely [we will sign him],’’ as Alderson says, leaves open the door. That’s definitely not good news for Tejada and leaves the impression the Mets don’t know what they are doing.

For those scoring at home, Alderson entered the off-season with upgrading shortstop and first base as priorities and did neither. Funny, in the first week of full-squad workouts both are in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Next are reports the Mets are interested in Seattle’s Nick Franklin, which tells us Drew’s asking price remains high, and it goes beyond the compensatory draft pick as an obstacle.

Just as they were with Ike Davis, the Mets’ ambivalence in addressing possible Tejada replacements indicate there’s little desire to keep him if there’s an affordable alternative.

As for Drew, his agent Scott Boras, has him working out in a facility he set up outside of Miami. The sticking point is the compensatory draft pick and there have been reports Drew could stay out until after the June amateur draft when that condition is removed.

Hopefully, the Mets will have a shortstop they are happy with by then.

ON DECK:  Have to like what Buck Showalter did.

 

Feb 25

For Ike Davis, Motivation Should Come From Within, Not Yelling At Reporters

One of the more ridiculous things I’ve read in the wake of the Ike Davis-Mike Puma verbal spat is the notion this will motivate the underperforming first baseman. If that’s the case, the New York Mets have a greater problem than they thought.

That thinking is flawed on many levels. As a professional athlete, if Davis needs a confrontation with a reporter to fire him up, it says little about his mental constitution.

DAVIS: Needs to motivate from within (Getty)

DAVIS: Needs to motivate from within (Getty)

It says that constitution is weak.

A professional athlete should be motivated first by pride and a sense of accomplishment. These rank even ahead of money, as often times you’ll hear if a player is solely motivated by dollars his fire dies and the game becomes a grueling job.

The hottest fire is the desire to compete, and yelling at a reporter is misguided and wasted energy. If Davis need jousting with Puma to get him going then he’s in the wrong profession.

If you’ve seen Davis struggle you have to know his pride is wounded. That is where the rebuilding must originate. Arguing with a reporter does nothing to restore his pride, unless he thinks it makes him big in the eyes of his teammates. Even then, most were probably thinking to themselves, “please Ike, shut up.’’

Davis’ confidence is in tatters for the simple reason because what worked for him in high school, college and minor leagues abandoned him in the major leagues.

The competition level is much greater and Davis has not adjusted. Those few good moments he’s enjoyed in his MLB season were snuffed out by superior pitching and betting that he could play through injuries and he doesn’t know how to react.

One just does not restore confidence without a fundamental overhaul, which in Davis’ case is his basic Neanderthal approach to hitting of  “I see ball, I must crush it.’’

Davis labels himself as a “home run’’ hitter with the understanding “strikeouts will happen.’’

What Davis doesn’t understand is why strikeouts happen, which are because of both mechanical and mental flaws. The two become linked.

Davis wants to pull the ball and does use the whole field. Doing so leaves himself open to the mechanical issues of pulling his head off the pitch and opening up too quickly.

When that happens, there’s no way he can hit the outside pitch, especially if it is a breaking ball. He’s simply not in good hitting position.

Davis also has a terrible hitch and dramatically moves his hands before the pitch arrives, leaving him behind and slow in his swing.

The more he struggled with mechanics, the greater the frustration and the more he pressed. It grows into a vicious cycle.

If Davis said he was hurt last year I believe him, but what I don’t accept is the injury did not affect him. Being in pain makes it hard to swing the bat and slows everything.

And, hitting is about being quick. Be quick with your thinking and pitch recognition, with your hands, with your hips.

A slow hitter walks back to the dugout. And, yelling at a reporter does nothing to speed up your swing.

Mechanics are the issue and in Davis’ case they stem from a poor approach. That good stretch of at-bats he needs to get him going – as some said – will never come unless he changes his thinking.

Look, Davis said he wants to be with the Mets and I believe him. Yesterday probably hurt the chances of the Mets making a trade because the perception is Davis is a headache in the clubhouse.

And, in the parking lot.

That Davis continued with Puma in the parking lot shows he didn’t adjust to the incident from earlier in the morning. Much like he hasn’t adjusted to the down-and-away slider.

ON DECK: Ruben Tejada a question – again

Feb 24

Mets’ Manager Terry Collins Wants Players To Reveal Injuries

Ike Davis isn’t the first New York Met to withhold an injury from manager Terry Collins and won’t be the last.

He’s just the latest, and his recent revelation he concealed an oblique injury last season perplexed and frustrated his manager.

COLLINS: Not pleased with Davis. (AP)

COLLINS: Not pleased with Davis. (AP)

As Davis struggled at the plate, he denied anything was bothered him. On Sunday he opened up to the New York Post and indicated he didn’t report anything to the medical staff because it was about the time he was to be optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas and didn’t want people to think he was making excuses.

Davis admonished the reporter Monday morning, and by the afternoon Collins was in the storm – and not pleased about it.

“There’s got to be a conversation,’’ Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “And then certainly it’s up to me to decide which way to proceed. … As I look back now, everything would have been better off had he said something, and certainly he’ll hopefully learn from it that he needs to speak up.’’

Davis defended his actions, telling The Post, players perform injured all the time and he didn’t want to come off as making excuses. At the time, Davis said he was fine, but clearly something was off.

Collins said it goes beyond pain and discomfort.

“Once again, I can’t address it because I don’t know how bad it was,’’ Collins said. “Was it aggravating? Was there pain? Did it hurt you to swing? Were you trying to protect it coming off the ball? I mean, there’s all sorts of different things. And I certainly don’t have any answers for you.’’

All managers receive a daily report from the training staff on the extent of an injury and whether the player received treatment. If Davis said nothing, then Collins wasn’t given any information.

That this story came out the way it did is embarrassing to Collins and the Mets, an organization that has received its share of criticism on how it treats injuries.

The Mets received heat for how it dealt with injuries to Ryan Church, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Pedro Martinez to name a few.

Last summer, they were embarrassed when the story broke that Matt Harvey wasn’t forthcoming on pain to his forearm, which eventually landed him on the disabled list and under the knife.

There were conflicting reports as to when Collins and the Mets’ hierarchy knew of Harvey’s injury. Collins said he never received a trainer’s report.

Of course we can speculate – and rightfully so – as to whether that lack of disclosure cost Harvey this season.

One understands a player’s desire to perform and help his team, but such intent isn’t always beneficial. Harvey, Davis and the Mets would all have been better off had players reported the injury immediately.

Not doing so shows poor judgment, but it is also something players have done for years, especially young players such as Harvey and struggling ones like Davis. Sometimes fear, and sometimes the competitive juices drown out good judgment.

No, Davis won’t be the last Met to feel something and hold his tongue.

ON DECK: Wrapping the day.

 

Feb 24

No Guarantee Mets Would Have Gotten Nelson Cruz For Bargain Price

It is an oversimplification to suggest the New York Mets could have signed Nelson Cruz for the same $8 million the Orioles did, if not a little more. Especially when juxtaposed against the Chris Young signing for $7.25 million.

I was against the Young signing, but that had nothing to do with Cruz, whom I would have balked against because of his connection to PEDs and defensive liabilities.

The Mets signed Young prior to the Winter Meetings when the market was fresh. Cruz was signed after spring training had begun.

Don’t forget at the time the Mets were apprehensive about giving up a compensatory draft pick. They didn’t have to surrender a pick for Young.

The market has dwindled dramatically since they signed Young. GM Sandy Alderson, who initially suggested he might let things play out in the market, had no way of knowing Cruz would sign for what he did, especially when the early reports had him asking for $75 million over five years.

Signing a power-hitting outfielder was a primary need and Alderson rolled the dice with Young. His odds were more in his favor later with Curtis Granderson.

But, for Cruz, who would have guessed this?

Maybe had the Mets re-visited Cruz with a low-ball offer, he could have signed with them, but the feeling is it wouldn’t have been a good fit because of the PED issue.

And, had they inked both Young and Cruz to one-year deals, the odds are good they would have needed to shop again for outfielders next winter.

As for Cruz, this is the best thing that could happen to him because it affords him an opportunity to put up monster numbers in bandbox Camden Yards and try free agency against next year.

ON DECK: Collins wants players to reveal injuries.