Aug 26

Conforto And Cespedes Season Ends Are Fitting

First of all, please forgive my absence from talking about the Mets this week. As you might know I had an accident a few years ago and had several subsequent back surgeries. I had some complications this week.

Personally, when you can’t get out of bed nothing else seems to matter. Honestly, with Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, and my body feels right in with the 2017 Mets.

CESPEDES: This is fitting.  (AP)

CESPEDES: This is fitting. (AP)

Actually, the first two games in Washington perfectly describe what’s going with this team and what it will take to return the Mets to contending status.

It begins with pitching and that’s Jacob deGrom, the ace of this future formidable staff. Next up is Noah Syndergaard, who, like Cespedes, took his conditioning in his own hands and failed miserably.

Both said they need to revisit their offseason workout routines, and that’s probably the most important development of this season.

Strength is good, but flexibility is more important. For Syndergaard, bulking up does nothing for his fastball or his ability to last longer in his starts. Frankly, tearing his lat muscle might be his career-defining moment, a watershed event if you will.

If he takes being limber to heart, then he has a chance to become what is expected.

For Cespedes, if his flexibility is increased then so is his ability to stay on the field. Being flexible and limber won’t sacrifice any of his strength.

I didn’t like the Cespedes signing and still don’t. But, he’s here and will be for three more years. The most important number isn’t the Mets’ $110-million investment in him, but the 81 games he played this year. That’s half a season, and the Mets knew his injury history before GM Sandy Alderson signed him. So, this is on him, just like it was on him by letting Syndergaard pitch without taking that MRI.

So, the Mets are stuck with Syndergaard and Cespedes, so let them come together on productive conditioning routines and then possibly things will develop for the best.

As far as Conforto is concerned, it’s better this happened in a lost season, one with a month remaining. He’ll have surgery, and I know as well as anybody nothing is guaranteed once they start cutting into your body.

All you can do is trust your doctors and hope for the best.

That’s kind of a hopeless situation, but that fits in with following the Mets.

Again, sorry for the absence and I’ll speak with you tomorrow.

 

Aug 21

No Surprise, Matz To Have Season-Ending Elbow Surgery

As much as Steven Matz and the Mets tried to convince us to the contrary, the team finally admitted something was wrong with the left-hander’s arm and placed him on the disabled list with surgery expected to follow.

MATZ: Done for year. (AP)

MATZ: Done for year. (AP)

It only took eight lousy starts to convince GM Sandy Alderson to finally seek the exam that revealed a ulnar nerve condition that if it doesn’t respond to a cortisone injection and more than two weeks of rest, will have season-ending surgery.

Matz’s condition is similar to Jacob deGrom’s last year, but we all know people respond differently from surgery, so it is only a guess he’ll be ready for spring training.

“I think it’s something [Matz] has had to deal with and we felt this was the best time to address it,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “I am sure some of the issues have kept him from being the pitcher we know he can be.’’

Translated, Collins’ quote tells us: 1) this has been bothering Matz for a long time, and 2) don’t believe it when Mets’ management, or their pitchers, say there’s nothing wrong.

Since July 9, Matz is 0-6 with a 10.19 ERA, numbers to be expected considering opponents are hitting .385 against him with seven homers. Matz, 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA overall, joins Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo on the disabled list.

“There’s no guarantees, especially with young, power pitching, that you are going to say these guys are all going to be healthy throughout the season,’’ Collins said. “We came into this season saying we were prepared for it, because we had seven guys. Five of them went down. I just think you need to keep as much pitching around as you possibly can because you never know when you are going to need it.’’

EXTRA INNINGS: Robert Gsellman was superb in his second start since coming off the disabled list, giving up one run on five hits in 6.1 innings. … Matt Harvey gave up two runs in three innings for Double-A Binghamton in his second rehab start. … Jeurys Familia is scheduled to make consecutive appearances Tuesday and Wednesday, and barring complications could be activated this weekend when the Mets are in Washington. … Yoenis Cespedes has ten RBI in his last 11 games.

 

Aug 20

DeGrom And Cespedes Demonstrate Leadership In Different Ways

As today’s game unraveled for the Mets in the seventh the topic of leadership was brought out by broadcasters Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez.

Cohen was right to call out Yoenis Cespedes’ lackadaisical approach on Christian Yelichs fly down the line in left. Hernandez was also right in saying Cespedes should have used two hands.

DE GROM: Words spoke louder than pitching. (AP)

       DE GROM: Words spoke louder than pitching. (AP)

Manager Terry Collins, of course, apologized for Cespedes, calling him “as a good a left fielder as there is in the game and he has a Gold Glove to show for it,’’ but the bottom line is if Cespedes hustled he wouldn’t have been put in the position where he had to reach for the ball.

Lack of hustle earlier played a role in the third when Dee Gordon’s shallow pop fly fell in front of Cespedes. Cohen called out Cespedes, saying he doesn’t dive or slide for balls, stemming from when he hurt his right hip in a mid-July game against Colorado.

What Cohen didn’t say is had Cespedes hustled against the Rockies he wouldn’t have had to make an awkward slide that injured his hip.

Cespedes recovered to get Adam Conley on a force play at second. Gordon, however, quickly stole second and scored on Yelich’s single off Wilmer Flores’ glove. Safe to say Conley, the pitcher, wouldn’t have done the same.

The topic turned to the lack of veteran leadership after Cespedes’ error in the seventh. While some players – like David Wright – develop into vocal leaders, I maintain ALL players have leadership potential regardless of their personalities.

Leadership comes from the basic concept of doing your job so your teammates know they can rely on you. That means knowing your responsibility on every play, whether at the plate or in the field. That means hustling on every play, not when the mood strikes. It means running out every grounder.

It means knowing your opponent. It wasn’t an error, but Amed Rosario can’t take his time throwing to first when Gordon is the runner. Leadership also comes from taking accountability, which is what Rosario did.

“I got a little overconfident on that play,’’ Rosario said, referring to his habit of double-pumping before throwing. “I take 100 percent (responsibility). I’m learning from every play. This will teach me not do that in the future.’’

Had Rosario made the play, the Mets could have intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton. Instead, Jacob deGrom was forced to pitch to Stanton, who hit the first pitch for a three-run homer.

A lot was made about Rosario’s play, but deGrom wouldn’t pile on, despite being visibly frustrated and putting him arms up. One could understand if deGrom lost his concentration on the pitch to Stanton.

“I don’t think so,’’ deGrom said, then demonstrated what being a leader is all about when he pointed the finger at himself.

“I can’t show my emotions like that. He plays hard so I don’t think it will happen again. That’s on me, I made a bad pitch. I have to do a better job.’’

DeGrom did what leaders do, which is assume responsibility. He knows that as a pitcher, that regardless of what happens behind him, he’s still responsible for throwing the next pitch. He also recognized nothing can be gained by throwing a rookie under the bus.

DeGrom’s day was done after that pitch, but not the Mets’ poor play. The next batter, Yelich, lifted a lazy fly to left, and after Cespedes’ error, ended up on second where he scored on Marcell Ozunas single.

Cespedes drove in two runs with a homer and double, but gave them back with his poor hustle and defense.

There are 40 games remaining in this lost season and much is made about exposing the young players to how the game is played on the major league level. Today they learned a lesson about leadership from both deGrom and Cespedes.

From deGrom’s words after the game and Cespedes’ actions during it.

 

Aug 19

Montero Solid Again; Flores Has Superb Effort

Rafael Montero is finally showing signs of getting it. Tonight’s outing against the Marlins encored a strong six-inning effort – only two runs – against the Yankees.

MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

         MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

That’s two of at least six innings, and seven over all that he’s worked into the sixth.

Montero’s recent success stems from working inside with his fastball to set up his change-up away. Montero also worked quickly and ahead in the count, two things he failed to do in previous years when he struggled.

“He pitched in and had good movement on his fastball,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “That’s why he got so many ground balls. We’ve been preaching to him to pound the strike zone.’’

Montero has made significant improvement, enough to where he could fit into their future plans.

Working with Kevin Plawecki, who caught him at Las Vegas, Montero gave up one run on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings to win his second game and first at Citi Field, 8-1.

Montero said his sinker was working which resulted in him getting four double plays.

If all five of the Mets vaunted starters are healthy next year, Montero could be used as a long reliever.

FLORES AT THIRD: Wilmer Flores made a diving stop of a hard-hit ball by Marcell Ozuna in the first inning to possibly save a run. He also started three double-plays.

Although he’s not Graig Nettles, Flores has always played third base reasonably well. If the Mets are looking for answers for 2018, I’d like to see them finish the season with Flores at third.

Flores also hit his 15th homer, a two-run blast in the Mets’ seven-run sixth inning. Nine of those homers have come against right-handed pitching.

I’ve long been a Flores supporter, something GM Sandy Alderson is not. I want to play Flores full time, and I can see a contender wanting him.

In addition to Flores, Plawecki also hit a two-run homer, and Dominic Smith hit his first Citi Field homer. Perhaps more important than the homer was Smith drew his first career walk.

LEADOFF HITTER: Another thing to look at is their leadoff hitter. Tonight it was Brandon Nimmo, who went 1-for-4. His .380 on-base percentage definitely works in his favor.

If not Nimmo, I’d like to see Amed Rosario get a shot. With his speed, if he walks more he could be a 50-stolen base candidate. Rosario hitting first, with Nimmo second to protect him, the Mets could have something special.

However, for Rosario to be an effective leadoff hitter he must improve his on-base percentage (it’s only .256).

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets tied a franchise record by turning five double plays. … Jeurys Familia threw 25 pitches in a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance. … Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4, but reached on an error and scored the first run in the Dodgers’ victory over Detroit. … Smith has hit safely in five of his first nine major league games. … The win was the Mets’ 54th of the season. Conversely, the Dodgers are 53 games over .500.

 

Aug 19

Granderson Trade Officially Closes Mets’ Window

The Mets’ Great Salary Dump of 2017 continued today when the Mets traded Curtis Granderson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash. Dealing Granderson marked the symbolic closing of the Mets’ window of contention.

The Mets signed Granderson to a four-year, $60-million contract in 2013, and with their young pitching, they promised to be a contender. It wouldn’t be until 2015 that they overachieved and not only reached the playoffs but made it to the World Series.

GRANDERSON: Trade closes Mets window. (AP)

GRANDERSON: Trade closes Mets window. (AP)

They lost in the wild-card game last year but were heavy favorites to return to October – with many thinking the World Series – this season.

I ask: If injuries were the number one cause of the failure this season, doesn’t it stand to reason that with a little tweaking added to the present core, then how far off could the Mets be for 2018? That’s with, or without, David Wright.

That GM Sandy Alderson would cast off so many of the Mets’ veteran assets is only indicative how poorly he constructed this team. Granderson, combined with Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and soon to be Rene Rivera, adds up to six future free agents after this season.

It stands to reason Alderson wouldn’t bring back all of them. But, to not bring back any of them is simply poor management.

You don’t construct your roster to have eight expiring contracts – don’t forget Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera – at the same time. That’s 33 percent of your roster. And, coupled with casting off Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy, and that’s just a terrible job by the man whose biographer refers to him as the game’s smartest general manager.

Maybe you don’t keep them all, but if you’re telling the public your goal is to compete, you try to keep the core together. Of all the remnants the Mets received in return, only AJ Ramos – projected in a set-up reliever role – figure to make the 2018 roster.

Turner, for spiteful reasons, brought nothing from the Dodgers. He’s an All-Star who could win the NL batting title this year. Murphy, of course, walked because they wouldn’t spend the money.

Hell, that’s the case with all of them.

The Mets threw good money after bad with trading for and extending Walker when they could have kept Murphy.

Duda, well he was only keeping the seat warm for Dominic Smith. Reed could have been extended when Jeurys Familia was first suspended, then injured. Bruce was signed as a hedge in case the Mets didn’t re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, who, so far, has turned out to be a bust.

Cespedes has been a health and hustling concern each of the past two years. Having Bruce’s 29 homers would be needed next season.

And, still, Alderson tells us he expects the Mets to compete next year. That is, if the three of the core rotation that is on the disabled list return healthy next year, and a fourth – Steven Matz – rights himself.

Ex-Mets Granderson and Turner could meet ex-Met Murphy or ex-Met Rivera, who was claimed on waivers by the Cubs, in the NLCS for the right to possibly meet ex-Mets Bruce or Reed in the World Series.

As it is now, the Mets have only Jacob deGrom from that vaunted rotation. What can you count on from Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Matz? Remember, that rotation has yet to pitch in turn since 2013.

Their best player is Michael Conforto, but they don’t have a set position for him. Smith and Amed Rosario are promising questions. They refuse to play Wilmer Flores full time and Wright can’t be counted on.

The bullpen outside of Jerry Blevins is awful. Do you really trust Ramos and Familia? Don’t tell me you trust Hansel Robles.

I think Rosario could be a star, but as with what happened with Conforto, there could be growing pains. I like Smith, but he needs to get into shape. How will Rosario and Smith fare in a full major league schedule?

So, in looking at the Mets’ current roster, I only trust Conforto, deGrom and Blevins. Everybody else is a question or a black hole.

We know the Mets won’t be big spenders this winter as all their money is tied up wet-nursing Cespedes. There won’t be big-name help coming in from the outside. So, you’re delusional if you think they really would go after Manny Machado or Evan Longoria.

The Mets window to compete opened when they signed Granderson. It officially closed today.