Oct 19

Alderson’s Top Ten Mets’ Questions

Unquestionably, the most important issue confronting the Mets is the health of their young, but battered, rotation. However, since injuries are beyond their control, the following are the top ten questions GM Sandy Alderson must answer this winter:

Should they add a starting pitcher? The Mets can’t control the recovery of their four surgically-repaired pitchers. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t add. Should the Mets rely on Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman continuing their development – and bring back Bartolo Colon – or add a starter from the outside? I’d explore a veteran stop-gap and definitely bring back Colon.

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

Should they bring back Cespedes? This isn’t entirely within the Mets’ control. If Cespedes opts out, which he is certain to do, the bidding reportedly will begin at $100 million over five years. Should they bite the bullet and give Cespedes what he wants in terms of money, years, position preference, and option to hustle, or should they spend the money on the myriad of other issues? I realize how important Cespedes’ bat is, but $100 million can fill a lot of holes, including adding a power bat. I wouldn’t be adverse to pursuing Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.

Should they bring back Bruce? This might not be first on the Mets’ wish list, but it is essential to guard against Cespedes leaving. He’s a proven hitter, but not as dynamic as Cespedes. Bruce will be cheaper than Cespedes, and they could add an option for 2018, when Curtis Granderson will be gone. They could spend the money earmarked for Cespedes on Bruce with plenty left over to fill holes.

Should they add a first baseman? Moving Michael Conforto from the outfield could be a reach. Should they gamble on Conforto or add from the outside – Encarnacion can play first – extend Lucas Duda or bring back James Loney? Duda and Loney maintains the status quo, which wasn’t productive. I like the idea of Encarnacion, which would fill the first base hole, replace Cespedes’ power, and allow Conforto to play full time in left.

Should they add a catcher? Clearly, Travis d’Arnaud hasn’t lived up to expectations. However, whether by free agency of trade, they can’t afford to go into 2017 with d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera. They must improve here this winter.

Should they examine another closer? After back-to-back flat Octobers by Jeurys Familia, the question has been posed by several. I think bringing back Addison Reed is their top bullpen priority, then building up the middle-innings bridge. I’m not worried about Familia.

Should they extend Collins? Manager Terry Collins isn’t sure if he wants to manage past 2017. I hate the idea of a lame duck manager, so I would make him an offer.

Are they good enough at second base? This begins with bringing back Neil Walker, who is recovering from back surgery. They also have Wilmer Flores, who is recovering from wrist surgery. They also have T.J. Rivera, who could be the future. Going outside for a second baseman isn’t necessary.

What should they do at third?  Their preparation in the event of David Wright being injured again was poor. If Wright is healthy, he has a spot on the roster, but where will he play? He’ll get first crack at third, but could also be tried at first base. However, the problem with trying Wright and/or Conforto at first base is we won’t know until spring training. That means they have to bring back Duda/Loney as a hedge. Either way, they need to bring back Jose Reyes, who also gives them a back-up at shortstop.

How good is the bench? Both Riveras, Juan Lagares and Kelly Johnson made positive impacts. Previously, Alderson built the bench last, but if you have proven performers, then why not address that right away? If nothing else, it will prevent them from trading for Johnson a third time.

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Oct 18

Dilemma In Rooting For Cubs

The Mets were a feel-good story when then finally reached the playoffs last season. The Cubs, because of their long Word Series drought, were also a feel good story. But, feel good is now past tense for the Cubs.

1024x768_wallpaper_08Frankly, I’m tired of having the Cubs jammed down my throat. They haven’t won since 1908, but they eventually will. Since 1945, their last World Series appearance, they’ve had several heart-wrenching near misses – including their collapse in 1969 – but mostly Chicago’s ownership insisted on selling the Wrigley Field experience over quality baseball.

Chicago’s current ownership has gone all out to produce a winner, which is something Mets’ ownership hasn’t always done. That’s to be applauded.

However, as with the Red Sox, I’m not a believer in curses. I’m just not a big supporter of their fan base that expects to win. There’s an undeserving sense of entitlement there that’s hard to understand. It’s almost cliché to root for the Cubs, just as it was to pull for Cleveland in last year’s NBA finals. The Cubs are the darlings of the networks, which is reason enough not to root for them.

Sooner or later the Cubs will get to – and even win – a World Series. When they do, I’m afraid Cubs’ fans will become like Red Sox fans. For years they wallowed in misery in Fenway Park; crushing defeat became a badge of honor. When the Red Sox finally won, their fan base became insufferable.

If the Cubs do win, what will their fan base identify themselves with?

What will make me feel empathy for the Cubs again is to do what the Red Sox did. Long personified as part of the curse, the Red Sox invited Bill Buckner back and all the angst seemed washed away. If the Cubs get to the World Series, Steve Bartman should be invited back to throw out the first pitch.

If he accepts and is booed, may the Cubs forever be cursed.

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Oct 16

Mets’ Top Three Surprises And Disappointments

Over the course of 162 games, there will be surprises and disappointments and the 2016 edition of the Mets was no exception.

CONFORTO: Big disappointment. (Getty)

CONFORTO: Big disappointment. (Getty)

I’ve narrowed it down to three of each:

SURPRISES

Bringing back Jose: When the Mets broke camp, Jose Reyes as starting his suspension and nobody expected him to end up playing third base by season’s end. With the uncertainty of David Wright’s health, it’s a no-brainer to bring him back.

Keystone Karma: When the Mets traded for Neil Walker and signed Asdrubal Cabrera it was assumed they upgraded up-the-middle. Both exceeded their offensive expectations. Cabrera is arguably the team’s MVP. Walker was an unexpected power source until he was injured and needed back surgery. It is uncertain whether the Mets bring him back.

Rotation relief: When their highly touted rotation was torn down by injuries, the Mets’ season was literally saved by Bartolo Colon – who continued to amaze – and the additions from the minor leagues of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Without them, there would have been no wild-card game.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Injuries: It’s a long season and players get hurt. Wright being injured could have been anticipated, but for three of their young pitchers to have surgery – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz – and a fourth in Zack Wheeler to have complications couldn’t have been projected.

Performance setbacks: Michael Conforto was supposed to continue his development into a star, but regressed and spent a lot of time on the Vegas Shuttle. Center field or first base and some of his speculated landing places for 2017 if the Mets keep Yoenis Cespedes. Curtis Granderson didn’t turn it on until late in the season and trade-deadline acquisition didn’t start hitting until the final week.

Catching vacuum: For the second straight season Travis d’Arnaud was injured and didn’t hit when he did play. The Mets have to be seriously thinking what their catching options will be in 2017.

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Oct 15

Bullpen Bridge Key For Mets

The Mets will have no shortage of offseason issues, and we’ll discuss them all. Let’s put Yoenis Cespedes on the back burner for now in terms of importance and go directly to the bullpen. Conor Gillespie’s fly ball hadn’t even cleared the wall and there was the question as to whether Jeurys Familia was a problem. Could this guy pitch in October?

MLB: New York Mets at Milwaukee BrewersI’m not worried about Familia. I think he’ll be fine. He saved 51 games this year with that nasty pitch of his that moves into lefty hitters and away from right-handers. His slider/cutter/sinker is one of the game’s hardest pitches to hit. About his psyche? Well, he was stand-up after the wild-card game, admitted he threw a bad pitch location-wise and said it was time to learn and move on.

As many of you know, I covered the Yankees for eight years before moving to the Mets and had many conversations with Mariano Rivera. He said giving up the game-winning homer to Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar was one of the best things that happened to him ibecause it taught him how to forget and move on; to develop a thick skin.

I’m positive the same will happen with Familia.

My bullpen concern is the bridge leading up to Familia. The Mets have four pitchers coming off surgery and we don’t know yet about Noah Syndergaard‘s bone spur, although indications are he’ll be fine. Ideally, the Mets want seven innings from their starters, but realistically can’t expect that on a nightly basis. Early on, at least, they’ll be happy to get six.

That leaves at least three innings to cover.

Bringing back Addison Reed is essential, and I might argue, on a par with Cespedes. They’ll need to make sure they are covered in the sixth and seventh innings. They liked Fernando Salas, and he pitched well. Hansel Robles was good until he was not. He’s still a question, but one with great stuff.

The Mets have three situational lefties to choose between Josh Smoker, Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin.

We don’t know what we’ll get from the injured starters, which makes building the pen a paramount issue.

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Oct 14

Collins Said 2017 Could Be Last Season

It was interesting to hear Terry Collins say this could be his final season managing the Mets. Most managers – especially those with a career .500 record (925-925) – don’t usually dictate their departure terms.

COLLINS: Says 2017 might be his last. (AP)

COLLINS: Says 2017 might be his last. (AP)

I don’t like it because it screams lame-duck status and if things sour as they did this year, you’ll hear loud rumblings about making a chance.

There are things I didn’t like about Collins, but many decisions were forced on him by GM Sandy Alderson. Considering the injuries and lengthy slumps by key players, the Mets were fortunate to reach the postseason. What the Mets should do is give him an extension to avoid lame-duck status.

“I just need to re-evaluate at the end of this coming year what’s going on, where I am, how I’m feeling,” Collins told ESPN. “I’ve always said a lot of it will be dictated by how I’m feeling. This was a tough year.”

Collins, baseball’s oldest manager at 67, said this was a grueling season, so draining he was hospitalized in Milwaukee. The issues bothering Collins most are travel and MLB’s often inane scheduling. (The Mets playing a day game on Labor Day in Cincinnati after a night game the previous day at Citi Field was demanding.)

“It takes a toll on everybody,” Collins said. “You talk to the players. If you noticed, that [Labor Day game] was the day we gave everybody off because they were stinking beat.

“This travel is hard, especially with the late-night scheduling that is prevalent throughout baseball. There are so many night games where you’re traveling after the game and getting into towns at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.”

Next year might not be much different than this season. The Mets enter the season with questions at catcher, first base, second base and on the mound with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz coming off surgery.

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