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.

 

 

 

Mar 25

Mets’ Outfield Alignment Set

In somewhat of a surprise, manager Terry Collins announced today Michael Cuddyer would play left field and Curtis Granderson would be in right.

The decision is somewhat of a surprise because the presumption was Cuddyer – with 854 career games in right and just three in left – would play the position where he was most comfortable.

However, this makes sense in the respect right field is tricky in Citi Field, and Granderson handled it well.

That Cuddyer has been deaf in his left ear since he was 11 is not an issue, said Collins. Cuddyer can still see and will be able to see the dugout waving him into position.

However, it could be a concern if he and center field Juan Lagares converge on a ball.

WHEELER SURGERY: Zack Wheeler underwent successful Tommy John surgery this morning at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

Dr. David Altchek performed the surgery and Wheeler is expected to be out until June of 2016.

ON DECK: Who is in better position to win sooner, the Mets or Yankees?

Mar 24

Mets’ Handling Of Harvey’s Starts Leads To Speculation

On one hand, I admire Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s veiled attempt at honesty. He admitted today the decision not to start Matt Harvey over Jacob deGrom for the Mets’ home opener is partially based on ticket sales. The Citi Field home opener will likely draw a full house anyway, so the Mets are saving Harvey for later in the homestand.

HARVEY: Already there are questions. (MLB)

HARVEY: Already there are questions. (MLB)

Alderson explained to reporters the timing of when to pitch Harvey: “Look, we take a lot of things into account. I think the first and foremost is: Does any pitcher deserve to pitch in a game of that sort? And I think that was the primary focus. You’re assuming people are more interested in seeing Harvey pitch than Jacob. That’s probably true, but not something that I would acknowledge.’’

Of course, he won’t because the Mets’ decision spoke for itself. Alderson also acknowledged other considerations and didn’t discount ticket sales. How the Mets handled announcing their starting rotation and saving Harvey for later in the first homestand screams several things, and none of them very good:

* The front office isn’t on the same page with manager Terry Collins. But, if that’s not the case, then Collins – as I suggested Monday – isn’t being decisive. There have been reports Alderson and Collins aren’t working in harmony and this doesn’t discount that thinking.

* The indecision when Harvey would make his first two starts indicates they don’t have a definitive plan to limit his innings. They will fly by the seat of their pants and hope for the best, just like many of us thought all along. Frankly, I believe the Mets are afraid to annoy Harvey, who has already shown little regard for management’s decisions. If they are thinking placating Harvey now will give them an edge when he becomes a free agent, they are kidding themselves.

* If weather is a factor as suggested by saving Harvey for the afternoon game in Washington instead of Opening Day, that raises concerns about his physical status. The Mets are banking on a warmer day for the season’s third game instead of the first. If it’s really cold in Washington when he’s scheduled to pitch, will the Mets pull him? Either he’s ready or he’s not. It’s not that hard. If that’s the case, then why not keep him in Florida for an extended spring training and bring him up in May? If they did that, then both the weather and Harvey’s innings become moot points. They obviously won’t as to not alienate Harvey.

* If saving Harvey for later in the first homestand is so the Mets can sell a few more tickets, that tells you how financially solvent they are heading into the season. What difference will those extra tickets make? How will that money be spent? Harvey might be the Mets’ best pitching draw, but he’s no Tom Seaver or Dwight Gooden in that regard. That’s penny pinching and it tells you they really aren’t ready to compete, because that costs money.

Basically, we’re talking about several thousand extra dollars. If that’s going to make that much of a difference, then the Mets aren’t ready to get off the porch and run with the big dogs.

 

 

Mar 23

What’s The Point Of Mets Announcing Partial Rotation?

What is it with the Mets that they can’t go all the way with certain things? Manager Terry Collins announced his rotation for the season-opening three-game series at Washington, but stopped there. How difficult is it to name the full rotation? And, more to the point, if Matt Harvey is ready for the season, then why not go ahead and name him the Opening Day starter?

COLON: Opening Day starter.

COLON: Opening Day starter.

I endorsed Bartolo Colon earlier, but that was because said it wouldn’t be Harvey. He’s regarded as the staff’s ace and so much has been made of his return. Given that, if he’s ready physically, then why not give him the ball in the season’s first game?

I heard the reasoning is to start him in the season’s third game, which would begin a couple of hours earlier and with it the likelihood of warmer weather. Seriously, if the game time is that big a deal where it might be a few degrees earlier, that suggests concern. If that is the case, then is Harvey really ready?

The starters for the Nationals series are Colon, Jacob deGrom and Harvey. That leaves Dillon Gee and Jon Niese for the first two games against the Braves. Collins did say deGrom would start the season opener at Citi Field.

Collins’ rationale for going with Colon was what I pointed out several weeks ago: his 15 victories; 200-plus innings; and the veteran presence to handle the big stage.

Well, all that was there two weeks ago, but in the interim the Mets hinted at deGrom, Colon and Zack Wheeler while saying no about Harvey.

I would have gone with – assuming everybody is healthy – Harvey, Colon, Niese, deGrom and Gee. I like the idea of slotting the lefthander in the middle of the rotation. Plus, with Harvey’s innings that much an issue, I prefer an innings-eater to follow him to take pressure off the bullpen.

However, the bottom-line reason for not liking the partial announcement is it smacks of indecision. If Collins isn’t ready to name the full rotation, then wait.

Mar 22

Harvey Looks Ready

It was encouraging for us and the Mets to watch Matt Harvey mow down the Yankees this afternoon. It is cliché to say it was effortless, but it definitely looked as if he could go longer than the 5.2 innings he cruised through on 60 pitches.

HARVEY: Looks ready. (Getty)

HARVEY: Looks ready. (Getty)

Harvey gave up two hits, walked none and didn’t strike out a batter in today’s 6-0 victory over the Yankees. Both his walks and strikeouts showed an economy in pitch counts.

“That was a test, and obviously the workload was increasing,’’ Harvey told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “I felt pretty good into the sixth inning and was commanding pretty much everything.’’

Harvey definitely looks ready for the season, and in normal springs would be the Opening Day starter. That’s moot because the Mets announced today Bartolo Colon would get the first game of the year and Jacob deGrom would get the home opener at Citi Field.

Command is essential and something Harvey knew might come to him after velocity.

“Coming in, I knew that was possibly an issue with Tommy John surgery,’’ said Harvey, who has thrown 9.2 consecutive scoreless innings in his last two starts. “So, for me, really concentrating on throwing strikes, pounding the zone and kind of picking up where I left off was very impLortant.’’

Which is what he’s done.

EXTRA INNINGS: Juan Lagares, David Wright, Lucas Duda and Eric Campbell homered for the Mets. … Manager Terry Collins said he doesn’t plan to platoon Duda with Michael Cuddyer early in the season. … Wilmer Flores fouled a ball off his left foot and left the stadium in a walking boot. … The Mets are in Jupiter Monday to play Miami, with deGrom going against Mat Latos.