Jul 18

Lagares Deal Not Panning Out

The Juan Lagares I saw last night couldn’t have been the same player the Mets signed to a five-year, $23-million contract. Could it be?

Two balls were hit over his head. There probably weren’t two balls hit over his head every two months last season. If that many. He’s not Paul Blair; he’s not good enough to play that shallow.

LAGARES: What happened? (AP)

LAGARES: What happened? (AP)

We know something is wrong with his arm. We’ve known that all year. He has no chance at getting a runner at home, and they routinely challenge him first-to-third and second-to-home.

However, it makes you wonder how badly his elbow impacts him at the plate. The Mets are saying it isn’t an issue. If it isn’t, then what is?

I can’t help but think being yanked from the leadoff spot must have some effect. After spending all spring training developing patience and an eye at the plate in the leadoff spot, he was dropped to sixth. There was some debate as to whom made the call, manager Terry Collins or GM Sandy Alderson, but we really know, don’t we? Lagares has hit everywhere south of fifth, including ninth behind the pitcher.

The Mets, at least publicly, hesitated moving Wilmer Flores off shortstop for feat of bruising his psyche. How come they didn’t show the same thought process with Lagares?

Surely, the game’s smartest general manager must have an explanation. Instead, he’s waiting for Lagares to kick into full gear, like he’s waiting for David Wright to return, like he’s waiting for Travis d’Arnaud to comeback, like he’s waiting for Michael Cuddyer to hit, like he’s waiting for the offense it pick up, like he’s waiting for Matt Harvey to pitch like an ace.

And waiting, and waiting, and eventually the trade deadline would have passed and another season would have faded away.

 

Jul 17

Oddsmakers, And Numbers, Don’t Like Mets

Last year’s National League champions, San Francisco, won 88 games to qualify as a wild-card entry. For the Mets to win that many games, they must go 41-32, nine games over .500.

Oddsmakers have the Mets at 33-1 to win the World Series, this after being 25-1 on July 1. Evidently, that four-game winning streak entering the break carried little goodwill.

We shall see what the Mets are made of after the first three series of the second half – at St. Louis and Washington, and home to the Dodgers.

The Mets are stacking their rotation for the Washington series, with Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. And, since Syndergaard goes tonight at St. Louis, it computes to the five-man rotation.

That means Harvey will get his way, for at least for the near future. You wanted it big boy, now just pitch.

“For us to stay in this race, we’ve got to beat Washington,’’ said Collins. “That is why we aligned the rotation the way we did.’’

Sure, the Washington games are important, but if the Mets lose in St. Louis but beat the Nationals, what have they gained?

The bottom line is all the games are important to the Mets, who will attempt to reach the postseason for the first time since 2006, but with an offense ranked 28th in scoring at 310 runs, which is roughly 3.5 a game.

With a 3.23 ERA, there is virtually no margin for error, and making it all the more difficult is there’s no imminent help on the horizon, whether from outside the organization; in the minor leagues; or from the return of the injured David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets’ primary competition for the wild-card at Pittsburgh, Chicago and San Francisco. They currently trail the Pirates and Cubs, but are one game up on the Giants. Also, all three teams are .500 or better on the road while the Mets have been dismal away from home. And, of course, the Giants have a championship pedigree.

GM Sandy Alderson has taken heat, and deservedly so, for not being aggressive in the trade market.

He did an admirable job cutting payroll and jettisoning the likes of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and others, but somewhere in his contract his job description there needs to be a clause about putting a winning team on the field, not a cheap one.

Jul 16

Dozen Questions Facing Mets In Second Half

The New York Mets vowed to be competitive this season, and when the second half begins tomorrow in St. Louis they still have a chance to play for October.

Seriously, it could happen depending how the following dozen questions are answered:

HARVEY: A lot expected of him. (AP)

HARVEY: A lot expected of him. (AP)

1. Question: Will they get off to a hot start in the second half?

Answer: The Mets open the second half at St. Louis and Washington, and at home to Los Angeles. The combined record of those three teams is 155-111 (.583). They are five games over .500, and by August they could be making strides in either direction. How fast they get out of the gate will have Alderson thinking whether the Mets are in the hunt or are done for the year.

2. Question: Will GM Sandy Alderson do anything to bring in a veteran bat?

Answer: If Alderson believes the Mets are in it, what will he do? Alderson has repeatedly said the trade market is slim. We know the Mets won’t get Todd Frazier or Troy Tulowitzki. They simply don’t want to part with their young pitching; and in the case of Tulowitzki, they don’t want to take on salary; and with Frazier, they don’t want a rental. The Mets will probably, if they do anything at all, attempt to bolster their bench. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is on that bench, and who doesn’t believe Alderson isn’t thinking his three-homer game in the first-half finale has him thinking the Mets’ offensive problems could be over. Trust me, they are not.

3. Question: If Alderson gets frisky, who will get traded?

Answer: We know it won’t be Noah Syndergaard, whom teams covet. We also know Alderson wanted to deal Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon over the winter. We also know Daniel Murphy likely won’t be back next year, so in Alderson’s ideal world he’d want to get something for Murphy. However, with David Wright’s return iffy at best, the Mets need him to play third base. Niese and Bartolo could conceivably be traded, but not if the Mets are a contender.

4. Question: Who gets hurt?

Answer: It is anybody’s guess, and considering the Mets have already had over a dozen players this season on the disabled list and there’s no telling who might be next. Steven Matz will be out until probably September, and nobody knows when David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud will be activated from the disabled list.

5. Question: Will Matt Harvey pitch like an ace?

Answer: He hasn’t so far with an 8-6 first-half record. Attempts have been made to monitor his innings, but at this rate he’ll finish with over 200, which would make October dicey if they are lucky to get so far.

6. Question: What will become of the six-man rotation?

Answer: The Mets aren’t saying yet, which is par for the course considering they didn’t have a plan entering the season. Should the opt for the six-man rotation, the sixth starter will be either Logan Verrett or Dillon Gee.

7. Question: Will the young stud pitchers keep it up?

Answer: Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have been brilliant. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, deGrom, is an All-Star and Syndergaard is pitching as if he could be this year’s Rookie of Year.

8. Question: Will Lucas Duda awaken?

Answer: Two homers heading into the break were positive signs. However, he’s hit 12 overall and on pace for 22 homers and 69 RBI, which won’t get it done.

9. Question: Will Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson come close to expectations?

Answer: So far they haven’t with a combined 20 homers and 58 RBI. Either would be fortunate to have those numbers at the end of the year.

10. Question: Will Juan Lagares come close to playing up to his contract?

Answer: He’s hitting .256 with three homers and 25 RBI, and a paltry .284 on-base percentage. He has 60 strikeouts and only ten walks. He hasn’t been red hot in the field, either, with balls getting hit over his head that weren’t before, and not being able to throw consistently. So far, the first season of his four-year deal hasn’t been good.

11. Question: Will Wilmer Flores show enough at second base so that it will become his position?

Answer: The Mets didn’t want to go this route, but since they are in contention had no choice. He made some progress at shortstop, but not enough.

12. Question: Going under the assumption they won’t add a shortstop, how well will Ruben Tejada play?

Answer: He’s done all right defensively, but his offense remains weak with a .237 average and .316 on-base percentage. On a poor offensive team, he could be the weakest link.

Jul 15

Frazier Not Coming

Sure it would be a great story. But, I hate to rain on your parade, but Todd Frazier’s recent visit to Citi Field will be his only one this year. There’s no way the Mets will trade for Cincinnati’s All-Star third baseman.

Not happening, and for the same reasons we’ve always known. The Mets won’t trade their young stud pitchers, and without them there’s not enough chips to offer.

If the Reds were smart they’d sign him long-term, but let’s assume they aren’t and Frazier enters the free-agent market after the 2016 season. Well, he’ll be one of those guys who could break the bank. And, if the Mets live up to their reputation, they won’t be writing any checks.

Frazier, at 29, is having a marvelous season, and with David Wright, 32, having played at least 150 games only twice since 2008, he would be a terrific addition. Trouble is, a lot of other teams would think the same thing.

 

Jul 14

DeGrom Provides Mets All-Star Memory

Jacob deGrom didn’t pitch long, but long enough to show why teams would salivate for the chance to get him if the Mets were to put him on the market.

DEGROM: Gives us a memory. (AP)

DEGROM: Gives us a memory. (AP)

The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year struck out the side in the fifth inning, and needed only ten pitches to do it.

Overpowering is too tame a word. He was nasty. He was filthy. He was special. He was so good that Madison Bumgarner, who is pretty special himself, waited on him when he returned to the dugout with a drink of water.

“He’s a nice guy,’’ the typically understated deGrom said of Bumgarner during a between-innings interview.

DeGrom also said, “I remember being nervous running out there, but not much else.’’

Even so, he gave Mets’ fans a memory that will rank among the franchise’s best in All-Star history as he joined Dwight Gooden as the only Amazin’ to strike out the side (in 1984).

The others on that list are:

2013: Matt Harvey throwing two scoreless innings at Citi Field.

2012: R.A. Dickey tossing a scoreless inning.

2010: David Wright getting two hits and a stolen base.

2006: David Wright homering.

1979: Lee Mazzilli hitting a pinch-hit homer in the eighth to tie the game and drawing a bases-loaded walk in the ninth to drive in the game winner.

1968: Jerry Koosman striking out Carl Yastrzemski to end game.

1967: Tom Seaver earning the save in a 15-inning game.

1964: Ron Hunt became the first Met selected and collected a single in his first at-bat in the game played at Shea Stadium.