Apr 04

This Year Will Be The Toughest Job Of Collins’ Career

If you heard Terry Collins‘ lame defense of Yoenis Cespedes‘ boneheaded error Sunday night – “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.” – then you’ll see why this will be the toughest of his managerial career.

Collins is an apologist for Cespedes’ lack of effort and for Matt Harvey questioning his authority. But there’s so much more. There’s how he’ll limit David Wright‘s playing time, or more to the point, not knowing when he’ll have the third baseman available.

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

Cespedes is also a Mets’ wildcard in nobody knows how he’ll respond to the pressure of his $27.5-million contract. If Cespedes folds then Collins is again searching for offensive help, especially if Wright doesn’t hit.

Everybody raves about the Mets’ young pitching, but none of those arms – save Bartolo Colon – have won as many as 15 games. And, please, let’s not forget about the uncertainty of the bullpen.

The Mets are also counting on a breakout years from Michael Conforto and Steven Matz and a new double-play combination.

That’s a lot of variables placed pressure squarely on Collins’ shoulders. How he handles that pressure will go a long way towards where the Mets finish. However, perhaps most importantly is Collins has never had a team this talented. He’s never had a team that went to the World Series the previous season and with as many expectations like his 2016 Mets.

In his first years with the Mets, Collins had the security of having a bad team without a willingness to spend money. Those teams had no expectations and GM Sandy Alderson wasn’t going to sacrifice Collins as he tinkered with payroll and building this rotation. Managers of rebuilding teams having low expectations don’t get fired.

However, it’s different now. That security is gone. The expectations are high as is the pressure to win. And, pressure makes managers vulnerable. That’s why this will be his toughest year.

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Apr 04

Cespedes’ Explanation Insulting

Seeing Yoenis Cespedes’ comments about his misadventures in left field Opening Day served as a reminder most players don’t care as much as fans do. His explanation was insulting.

I don’t know what I expected Cespedes to say after he lackadaisically loped into position and casually reached for Mike Moustakas’ routine fly ball in the first inning. And, dropped it because he wouldn’t do the most fundamental thing, which is to use two !@#$% hands.

CESPEDES: ``I'm human.'' (AP)

CESPEDES: “I’m human.” (AP)

Every Little Leaguer knows to do that, but not Cespedes – and to be fair most Major Leaguers, either. Maybe they don’t think it’s the “cool’’ thing to do. Maybe they just don’t give a damn.

Cespedes’ comment was as half-assed as his effort three hours earlier: “The ball just fell out of my glove. The ball just fell. I’m human.’’

Fell? It fell because he was too lazy to use two hands; too stubborn to do one of the most fundamental things in his sport. Actually, in all fairness to Cespedes, it “fell” from his glove twice, the second when he attempted to pick it up with his glove. Another screw-up, as in a play like that you reach down with your throwing hand.

I guess Mets fans should be grateful he at least reached down to pick it up.

The play, Cespedes’ comments, and manager Terry Collins’ reaction is emblematic about what is wrong with professional sports these days.

First, there’s the player who doesn’t care enough to do his best then dismisses legitimate questions. Then, there’s the manager who is too timid to do anything about it. And, worse, defends the botched play. Don’t dare call out the player who is making $27.5 million.

Instead, Collins meekly said: “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.”

I laughed because anybody who has been paying attention couldn’t be surprised.

Actually, the only person who came out of this looking good was the player victimized the most, with that being Matt Harvey.

Sure, Harvey had to be pissed – no pun intended – but he did the professional thing, which is to not publicly throw his teammate under the bus.

“It’s baseball. Things happen,’’ Harvey told reporters. “Nobody’s trying to do anything out there except to get outs and do everything we can to help the team. Errors happen. It’s part of the game.’’

So is using two hands.

ON DECK: Why this is Collins’ toughest job

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Apr 04

Today In Mets’ History: Let’s Go Mets

On this day in 1963, we heard the chant for the first time. The Mets were getting pummeled and trailed by 13 runs in the bottom of the ninth. They were down to their last out and didn’t have a runner on base when the chanted slowly then built itself up to be the rallying cry of a franchise: “Let’s Go Mets. Let’s Go Mets.”

Too bad nobody thought to trademark it.

ON DECK: Looking back at last night’s game.

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Apr 03

Mets Wrap: New Year, Same Old Story With Royals

GAME #1: Royals 4, Mets 3, at Kansas City.  Record: 0-1.

SUMMARY: We’ve seen this before from the Mets against Kansas City, and it didn’t look any better on Opening Day. The Royals took a 4-0 lead keyed by an unearned run in the first against Matt Harvey created when Yoenis Cespedes dropped an easy fly ball hit by Mike Moustakas. A passed ball, a walk and a hit and the Mets were again looking up at the Royals. The Mets scored three in the eighth on Lucas Duda‘s two-run single and Neil Walker‘s RBI forceout. The Mets had a chance to tie in the ninth, but David Wright took a called third strike and Cespedes struck out swinging to end the game.

CAN’T TOUCH VOLQUEZ: Royals starter Edinson Volquez limited the Mets two a pair of hits and three walks in six scoreless innings.

HARVEY NOT SO SHARP: Matt Harvey said his mechanics were off and it showed as he gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in 5.2 innings in his first career Opening Day start. The damage against Harvey could have been worse had Harvey not gotten three double plays.

CESPEDES’ GLOVE A FACTOR: This is what you get from Cespedes. He’s lax at times. Moustakas hit a routine fly and had he bothered to use two hands.

CONFORTO COMFY AT PLATE: Actually, Michael Conforto was more than comfortable as he reached base in all four at-bats with a double, single and two walks.

THE GOOD: In addition to Conforto, Juan Lagares made a strong throw to third base showing his arm is better. … Duda went to the opposite field on his two-run hit. … Curtis Granderson singled after a tough at-bat in the ninth. … Bartolo Colon and Jerry Blevins out of the pen.

THE BAD: Wright was hitless in four at-bats. … Cespedes in left. It was Cespedes’ first error in left in 156.2 innings. … Travis d’Arnaud‘s passed ball set up the Royals’ first run.

QUOTEBOOK:  “I felt all right. There were times I felt fine. Other times I couldn’t find my rhythm.” – Matt Harvey.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Mets fell to 35-20 in franchise history in openers (a MLB-best .636 winning percentage).

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Monday and will face the Royals Tuesday afternoon with Noah Syndergaard going against former Met Chris Young.

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Apr 03

Repeating Will Be Harder

Wilmer Flores wasn’t halfway back to the Mets’ dugout after striking out to end the bottom of the 12th inning and last year’s World Series when we already asking the question: Can the Mets return to the Series?

Getting to the World Series is one thing, but getting back there is different, and much harder. Much harder for the simple reason everybody is gunning for you.

SYNDERGAARD: Game two starter. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Game two starter. (Getty)

“The first thing I talked about in spring training is the difference between being the hunter and the hunted,” David Wright told reporters. “We have a bullseye on us now.”

That they do. The Washington Nationals want to wrestle the NL East back from them and the Chicago Cubs – everybody’s sexy pick to get to the World Series – want to avenge being swept in the NLCS.

Last year at this time, the Mets entered the season without having a winning record since 2008. The hope was their young pitching keyed by Matt Harvey‘s return following Tommy John surgery, and Jacob deGrom coming off a Cy Young season, could carry them. And, don’t forget, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz hadn’t even made their major league debuts.

The Mets entered 2015 with questions at catcher, shortstop, Wright’s health at third, left field and in the bullpen.

The Mets got off to a blistering start, but lost Wright in April with a strained hamstring that turned into spinal stenosis and almost four months on the disabled list. The pitching kept the Mets afloat when the hitting collapsed.

The Mets kicked away their early lead, then turned their season around when Michael Conforto was brought up and the team traded for Yoenis Cespedes with a couple of days after a trade for Carlos Gomez fell through which created the enduring image of the season, that being Flores crying at shortstop after hearing he had been traded to Milwaukee.

The season began with .500 as the goal, but the Mets pulled away from Washington, outlasted the Dodgers in five games – winning the deciding game on the road – and sweeping the Cubs to reach their first World Series since 2000 and the fifth in franchise history.

However, Jeurys Familia blew three save opportunities in the World Series and the bats fell quiet and the Royals won in five games.

“Falling short can be a motivator,” deGrom said.

Daniel Murphy left, but the Mets appear to have upgraded their up-the-middle defense with the acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cespedes was brought back and they’ll have Conforto for a full year. They’ll also expect to have Syndergaard and Matz for a full season.

The health of Wright and Travis d’Arnaud are significant issues as is the make-up of the bullpen.

But, we’re not talking about .500 as a primary goal, but winning a World Series.

“Mets fans are hungry,” Wright said. “We’re hungry.”

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