May 01

Mets Make Right Move By Sticking With Flores

It wasn’t that long ago when Mets manager Terry Collins said his team would eventually run into problems – “blips,” he called them – but vowed “there would be no panic.”

COLLINS: Stays with Flores. (AP)

COLLINS: Stays with Flores. (AP)

In the wake of Wilmer Flores’ costly error Thursday night that lead to a three-run inning for the Nationals, if there were a time the Mets would have panicked in the past, this would have been it.

The defense of their middle infield of Flores (six errors) and Daniel Murphy (four) was a question entering the season and remains so; the Mets have lost seven of their last nine games, and they are no longer in coast mode.

Flores made no excuses and said he botched the play. Normally, that’s enough, but the last 24 hours have seen a lot of Flores bashing, which, although deserved in part, is also shortsighted. Much of that bashing was from former-Met-turned analyst Nelson Figueroa.

“I wish I had the answer to it,” manager Terry Collins said. “When we decided he was going to be the shortstop, you realize there might be a couple rough spots.

“But, you realize the minute you jerk him out of the lineup and throw him on the bench because he’s not good enough to play shortstop, you might as well put him someplace else because those days are over playing shortstop. … You have to be a little patient.”

Collins is 100 percent on the mark about this, as patience is the Mets’ only option. What, do you want to play Ruben Tejada full time? And, before anybody brings it up, Troy Tulowitzki has an injury history and $129 million remaining on a contract that runs through 2020 (with an option for 2021). And, we’ve danced through this before; the Mets don’t want to part with any of their young pitching in a trade.

Until next year’s free-agent market develops, it is pretty much Flores or bust.

The Mets’ only option is to fiddle from within, which is what they did when they promoted second baseman Dilson Herrera after Thursday’s game and said Murphy will move to third base while David Wright remains on the disabled list for at least another week.

Consequently, the Mets will move Eric Campbell to the bench and demote lefty reliever Jack Leathersich to Triple-A Las Vegas.

This might not be a palatable option, but it is the only one. And, more to the point, it means Collins is staying true to his word and not panicking.

After all, we are only one month into the season and the Mets are perched atop the NL East which nobody expected. It is way too soon to shut the window on Flores.

ON DECK:  Why I like Matt Harvey

Apr 30

Mets Wrap: DeGrom Beaten; Wright Not Ready; Montero To DL

Well, today sure did stink for Mets, whose day began with the news Rafael Montero will go on the disabled list and David Wright is at least a week from coming off it. The day ended with Washington ripping Jacob deGrom and sending the Mets an 8-2 message they are far from ready to concede the NL East.

The loss was the Mets’ 15th in their last 16 games against Washington at Citi Field. It is now time to refer to their fast start in the past tense as they’ve lose five of their last seven games.

De GROM: Takes blame. (AP)

De GROM: Takes blame. (AP)

“We got off to a good start, but the last seven games have been disappointing,” manager Terry Collins said. “We have to go back and do what we were doing, which is catching the ball and not walking guys. … We knew there were going to be blips, and this is a blip.”

Just as they had against the Yankees, the Mets had deGrom and Matt Harvey set up for the first two games. DeGrom was torched by the Yankees last Friday and the Nationals did the same tonight.

The Mets gave him a 2-0 lead, but Wilmer Flores‘ sixth error of the season set up a three-run fourth for the Nationals. Yes, the error and uncompleted double play hurt, but part of a pitcher’s job description is to minimize damage. Sometimes a pitcher has to pick up his defense.

“It might have disrupted his thought process,” Collins said. “Obviously it didn’t help.”

DeGrom, a stand-up guy, pointed the finger at himself and made no excuses.

“I have to do a better job of picking Flo up right there,” deGrom said. “Normally, I do a pretty good job of it, but I started overthrowing.”

Naturally, SNY’s post game was all over this, but analyst Nelson Figueroa showed he’s in over his head as he jumped on Flores relentlessly and let deGrom off the hook. It’s always easy to lay off the bigger name and go after a non-name such as Flores.

Washington chased deGrom in the sixth and broke the game open with a three-run ninth.

At the start of the week, the Mets held an eight-game lead over the Nationals. It is now down to five and the Mets must rely on Harvey to stop the flood Friday night.

Meanwhile, Wright returned to baseball activities today in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Anderson said Wright is at least a week away.

Remember, when it comes to the Mets and injuries, always bet the over. Especially when Alderson is laying the odds.

The Mets also received bad news when Montero was placed on the disable list with swelling in his rotator cuff.

“It shouldn’t be serious,” Alderson said.

Of course not. It’s never serious when it isn’t your shoulder.

 

Apr 30

Mets, Nationals Not Just Another Series

While it is still early in the season, it is NOT premature for the Mets to approach this weekend’s series with Washington with a sense of urgency and purpose.

It would be wrong to call it critical, just as it would be to say it is like any other series. Clearly, it is not. Earlier this week the Mets held an unlikely eight-game lead over the Nationals in the NL East. It is now down to six.

DE GROM: Gets ball tonight. (Getty)

DE GROM: Gets ball tonight. (Getty)

Who didn’t think at the time, even for one moment, that the Mets could be up by 12 games if they swept the Nationals? I did, but I also thought today the Mets’ lead could be down to two if they were swept.

That’s the thing about math, it works both ways.

That’s why it is important for the Mets to play well. They can’t be thinking things like they will be fine if they just split, because they won’t. Splitting would be a disappointment. They need to go in wanting go for the throat. Playoff caliber teams don’t think about splitting series in May. They think about winning them.

Messages can be sent early in a season and the Mets need to reaffirm, 1) their hot start was not a fluke, 2) this is a different team and they will be around this year, 3) Citi Field does give them a home field advantage, and, most importantly, 4) they aren’t afraid of the team that beat them 15 times last year.

Washington enters on an upswing, while the Mets limp in after losing four of their last six. However, in looking at how they have played, they really only had two stinkers – both losses at Yankee Stadium – and played the Marlins tight.

Prior to the Miami series I wondered if it could be a trap series, but the Mets played well. They rallied to lose late in the second game, and Bartolo Colon gave them a solid start Wednesday night. They just got beat and it wasn’t because they lost focus.

One of the reasons why they lost Wednesday was because they couldn’t turn a double play in the first inning and Giancarlo Stanton followed with a two-run homer.

Later, Colon said, “things happen.’’

Michael Cuddyer, who hit a two-run homer Wednesday, said the Mets are entering this series with a proper frame of mind.

“There’s no concern,’’ Cuddyer said. “We played well [in Miami]. When you play 162 games, that’s going to happen. No, no, there’s no concern.’’

Maybe concern isn’t the right word, but I am willing to bet inwardly the Mets are a little more jacked up than if they were playing say, the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend. At least, I sure hope they are.

In looking at the big picture, where the Mets have been since moving to Citi Field and where they are now, this might be their most important series in this ballpark.

Here’s hoping they can really make it a home.

Apr 30

An Open Letter To A Reader

This is in response to a reader’s comment. I wanted to take it a step further because he made several well-written comment.

An Open Letter to Bill:

My obligation is not to cheer for the Mets. It is to give my interpretation of the news and what I see. Under no circumstances do I dislike the Mets or Matt Harvey. I covered the team full time as a reporter for a main stream newspaper for several years.

I am disabled and the Mets, from ownership on down, have been very good to me in terms of still giving me information, access and keeping me in the loop. I go to the games when I can and will go more year. For that I am grateful and wish them well.

The players, coaches, manager and management have been respectful and I try to respond in similar fashion and they understand I will be critical at times.

Given that, I have no animosity or agenda regarding Harvey. My obligation is that if I see something I will respond with my honest opinion.

I’ve covered this game for a long time and have seen many pitchers not be able to come back from an injury. I don’t want to see that with Harvey, which is why  I have been hard on the innings issue. I love good pitching and want to see Harvey do well and am excited in his potential.

Thank you for for reading and the times you have commented. I hope you reconsider and keep reading and posting your comments as they are valuable to me. I welcome opinions different than mine.

That is what sports is all about. I am sorry you misinterpreted my writing as disliking the Mets and Harvey as that is not the case.

Best to you.-JD

 

Apr 29

Mets In Good Spot With Colon Today

It’s all about winning series at this point and for the Mets today they have another opportunity. You have to be happy Bartolo Colon is going for them today against the Marlins.

The Mets have the chance to go home to face the Nationals in a four-game series with at least a seven-game lead if they put away Miami today. It is why I called Miami a trap series. However, with how the Mets played the past two games it is clear they are focused. Dillon Gee was superb Monday and last night they came from behind to tie.

COLON: Workhorse goes today.

COLON: Workhorse goes today.

That doesn’t happen with teams looking ahead. However, I remain respectful and wary of the Nationals, who were down 9-1 Tuesday, but rallied to beat the Braves. Dying teams don’t do that, so obviously they are focused, also.

Should Colon win he will become the first Mets’ starter to go 5-0 since Pedro Martinez in 2006, not coincidentally, the last time they reached the playoffs. The franchise record is 7-0 by Frank Viola in 1990.

Colon is one of the Mets’ top story lines in April and his start in light of Zack Wheeler’s injury has more than stabilized the rotation. The Mets need another strong start from him on the eve of the Washington series.

Last night’s starter, Rafael Montero, was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, which was to be expected considering he threw 85 pitches working into the sixth and wouldn’t be available soon.

Replacing him on the roster will be left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich. Subsequently, the Mets will go back to a short bench until David Wright returns from the disabled, which could be as soon as this weekend. Leathersich is a strikeout pitcher, averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

It will be interesting to see what the Mets do when Wright returns and when they want to bring back Montero.

The Mets like having Montero around, but they also like deeper bench. Unfortunately, they can’t have both.