Sep 08

Questions The Mets Might Have Already Answered

Let’s begin the Mets’ salvage operation for September by seeing how they answered the most significant questions facing them as they entered spring training.

Q: Can the Mets finish with a winning record?

A: Mathematically, it’s possible as Sunday’s victory in Cincinnati has them seven games under with 19 to play. They are six games behind in the wild-card standings, but need to leapfrog five teams. They have head-to-head match-ups with Washington, Atlanta and Miami, but even so, the odds are against them. They were 14 games under last year and won’t be the 90-win team GM Sandy Alderson thought possible this spring. Bet, he regrets that comment. Even so, improvement is possible. Hey, you take what you can get.

Q: Who’s on first?

A:  Probably more than anything, Alderson’s high point this season is how quickly he disposed of Ike Davis. Honestly, I thought this might get played out as it was the past two years, but Alderson pulled the trigger quickly on a trade. Davis struggled both with injuries and at the plate out of the gate, and Lucas Duda has done more than just out-play him. Duda has developed into a legitimate slugger who could merit a better contract. As the Mets brace for legitimacy in 2015, they’ll have one less question because of Duda’s development.

Q: Who’ll play shortstop?

A: The Mets teased us with talks of signing Stephen Drew or trading for Nick Franklin. April began with shortstop as a black hole with Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores competing for the job, and the Mets having little confidence in either.

I envisioned Tejada winning the job by default because I didn’t think Alderson would gamble on Drew or Franklin, or ever have the stones to go with Flores.

Surprise: Flores has been getting the lion’s share of the playing time and September is for him to put a stranglehold on the job. Flores always had the better bat and he’s not embarrassed himself in the field.

This could be one less question for the winter.

Q: Who’ll be the leadoff hitter?

A: There was no clear-cut favorite, although manager Terry Collins had lukewarm preference for Eric Young. However, this has been a miserable season for Young, who doesn’t have a good on-base percentage. Several players were used to lead off, including the departed Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. The job now appears to be sliding to Juan Lagares, who stole two bases Sunday. Lagares can steal a base, but there’s more to leading off than stealing bases. Working the count and a high on-base percentage are paramount, and those are two categories are something he’ll need to work on this month. Lagares’ development also assures Eric Young won’t be back.

Q: How will the rotation shake out with Matt Harvey gone?

A: The biggest issues were whether Zack Wheeler would progress and if Jon Niese would take it to the next level. Wheeler has pitched well following a slow start. He won his tenth game Sunday, but was hampered by the persistent problem of running up his pitch count, throwing 99 in six innings. He’s worked into the sixth or longer in all but one start – have to like that – but his 99 Sunday was the fewest he’s thrown. As for Niese, the Mets expected far better than 8-10. The Mets could very well be tiring of Niese’s inconsistency and this could finally be the time when they opt to trade him. Could happen.

Q: Who replaces Bobby Parnell in the closer role?

A: The Mets finally decided on a role for Jenrry Mejia, and it is closer. Mejia still has those moments when he tends to overthrow and lose command. He labored Sunday with 25 pitches, but came away with his 24th save compared to three blown saves.

Let’s face it, 2014 was supposed to be a transition season for the Mets, who made no secret they were waiting for Harvey’s return and a step toward competitiveness.

For the most part, the Mets addressed their issues in the positive. Even so, in the cases of Lagares, Flores, Mejia and Wheeler, there’s a difference between optimism and definitive answers. Looking ahead to 2015, they need to see more of those four in September before deciding their offseason plans.

There’s not enough time remaining for some guys – such as David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud – to finish with statistically impressive numbers. Even so, there’s time enough to enter the offseason with positive vibes.

The flip side are the nagging questions:

Where is Wright in his career? Has his career peaked and is he on the downhill slide? Did his shoulder injury hurt him more than the Mets let on?

As for Granderson, we knew there would be a power slide leaving the Bronx, but will he ever be a significant power threat again?

The Mets haven’t gotten the production they hoped from d’Arnaud, but the defensive part of his game is getting better and the pitchers are comfortable with him.

As for pitching, nobody can say for certain how Harvey and Wheeler will develop. Niese remains an enigma. The bullpen has been good in spots, but is always a work in progress. Is this as good as it will get for Mejia? What can we expect from Parnell next season?

There will be no playoffs this season, but .500 can be had with a 13-6 finish. With 13 of their remaining games at home, and nine against teams with losing records, stranger things have happened for a franchise that likes to call itself, “Amazin.’’

Let’s not think about 2015 just yet.

COMING UP THIS WEEK:  Mets we might not see in 2015 … Numbers and milestones that could happen … Looking at second base … Are the Mets in better shape than the Yankees?

Jul 30

How Collins Views Wilmer Flores

terry-collins1

The following transcript is courtesy of Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. It’s a conversation between reporters and Terry Collins at Citi Field regarding Wilmer Flores.

Reporter: ”When you take a look at Wilmer Flores, when he was up here in May, when he played in five consecutive games, he hit. When he plays every other game he doesn’t hit. Is now the time to see what Flores can do on an everyday basis?”

Collins: ”It all depends where you’re going to play him.”

Reporter: ”You don’t have confidence in him at shortstop?”

Collins: ”No, no. I didn’t say that. The other kid [Tejada] is playing pretty good. I don’t know what games you’ve been watching, but we’ve been playing pretty good lately.”

Reporter: ”He’s 3-for-29.”

Collins: ”We’re playing pretty good lately. You know, Ike Davis wasn’t hitting and we were winning games. So you pick and choose your spots. Wilmer came up because Ruben got beaned, so we were concerned about having a backup. So that’s why he’s here. There were no instructions to play him everyday. We’re going to try to get him at-bats. That’s why he’s in there today.”

Reporter: ”What do you need to see from him to keep him in the lineup everyday?”

Collins: ”Nothing from him. We’ve got to figure out if he is going to be the shortstop, or if the other guy is going to be the shortstop.”

During Flores’ first call-up to the Mets, he hit a grand slam and drove in six against the Phillies to win the game. Afterward, Collins said the following about Flores:

“It’s not like he hit it against Cliff Lee.”

After sitting idle for 12 straight days, Collins was asked if that was harmful to Flores’ development. The Mets manager responded:

“I cant worry about developing players, I have games I’ve got to win.”

Last week, when asked if Flores would share time at short with Tejada, the Mets manager said:

“Lets understand that if Tejada didn’t get beaned, Flores is not even here right now. Got it?”

Cripes… Yeah, we got it…

May 30

Chris Young and Sandy’s Big Gamble

chris young

Sandy Alderson’s $7.25 million gamble that Chris Young would suddenly revitalize his career by offering him an everyday role has come up snake-eyes for the New York Mets GM.

As Young shown throughout his career, he was not able to suddenly start hitting righthanded pitching the way Sandy thought he would simply by letting him face more of them. You see the trick to this game is to try and minimize the bad at-bats, the bad matchups, the bad results.

You can’t put out a fire by dousing it with gasoline, and that’s essentially what has happened here with Chris Young.

Alderson believed that CY’s .219 batting average over the last two years was an aberration and the result of inconsistent playing time. Wrong.

However, all the extra playing time has now resulted in career worst numbers for Young who went 0-for-3 on Wednesday and is now batting .195 with three homers and 11 RBI for the season. Hardly the middle of the order slugger Sandy thought he was getting when he decided to invest 9 percent of his payroll budget on him.

Young’s playing days are now winding down and the rebuilding Mets have turned to 40-year old Bobby Abreu as their short term solution, opting for the grizzled veteran instead of younger options like Eric Campbell or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who homered two more times last night for Triple-A Las Vegas.

The impetus for the Mets underperforming offense which led to the firing of hitting coach Dave Hudgens, is as much on the shoulders of Chris Young more than any other player on the roster.

Seeing Young fail again and again in endless RBI situations may have been the tipping point for what transpired after the weekend series with the Diamondbacks. 

What happens now?

It’s tough to say now that Collins has grown enamored with Abreu, who was only supposed to be the bat off the bench and not someone getting a healthy diet of everyday playing time.

But you have to believe that at some point Nieuwenhuis, who is 14 years younger than Abreu and has hit eight homers this season, more than any other player on the Mets roster, will get another chance to show if he belongs.

There’s no guarantee that Kirk will be the answer. But in a true rebuild and on most any major league roster with an eye toward the future, the choice between Chris Young, Bobby Abreu and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, wouldn’t be as difficult a decision as it seems to be for the Mets.

May 18

A Message For Our Readers

April 18

I just wanted to update and let you know that John is still hospitalized after suffering a significant setback which will need another surgery to resolve it.

He told me to pass along the fact that he misses all his readers and especially writing about the Mets.

March 31

I wanted to pass along that about a week ago, John had a very serious fall that resulted in a few severe injuries including a compound fracture of his arm.

He’s been hospitalized for the last ten days and had surgery to place titanium plates and screws to repair his breaks.

However there have been some complications and he will remain hospitalized for at least another week.

I wanted to make his readers aware.

Please keep him in your prayers as he tries to overcome his injuries and get back to writing.

May 16

DeGrom Snaps Mets Pitcher’s Hitless Streak

jacob degrom

It has happened, folks…

At 7:59 PM on Thursday night, during the Subway Series finale at Citi Field, righthander Jacob deGrom stroked a single off Chase Whitley of the Yankees to snap the 0-for-64 hitless streak by Mets pitchers.

The former college shortstop lined one in front of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to put runners on first and third.

The Mets fateful greeted him with a standing ovation as he stood at first base, probably unaware of what had just transpired.

As for his pitching performance in his debut, in a word, spectacular!

Good for him!