Jul 10

Something Not Right With Cespedes

In analyzing the Mets’ first half, manager Terry Collins said what many of us speculated all along – that Yoenis Cespedes is not playing at full strength.

Was he rushed off the disabled list following his hamstring injury? That seems to be the case as Cespedes looks stagnant at the plate with little to no leg drive, and I’ve forgotten the last time he ran full steam.

CESPEDES: Something isn't right.  (AP)

CESPEDES: Something isn’t right. (AP)

“He is just not getting the barrel to the ball,’’ Collins said. “I can’t explain it. I think it tells you: You miss a lot of time, this is a hard game, especially when everybody else is in shape and you’re trying to get there.

“It tells you the importance of rehabs and all the at-bats, which you try to accumulate on the side, which he had a bunch of in Florida. I tip my hat to him, he couldn’t run, but yet he got at-bats.

“He’s just not hitting. You have to stay healthy. You cannot play this game at 75 percent. The league is too good.’’

There’s so much wrong in what Collins said. One, if Cespedes can’t run, he shouldn’t have been taking at-bats in Florida. So much of hitting is with the legs and if you’re not strong enough to run you’re not strong enough to hit.

And, if Cespedes is only at 75 percent, why isn’t he on the disabled list, or at least rested more often?

Since Cespedes isn’t talking these days, one can only guess what is going on.

I’m thinking he feels obligated to play because of the contract. He pushed himself because with all the time he missed he would feel guilty asking for time off.

Cespedes was hitting the first ten days after coming off the DL, but in his past 11 games is hitting .133 with no extra-base hits over a stretch of 46 plate appearances. Overall, he’s batting .265 with nine homers and only 19 RBI, 17 extra-base hits and only 13 walks with 27 strikeouts. His OPS has steadily declined from .942 in 2015 to .884 last year to .822 this season.

He’s certainly not living up to the $110-million contract the Mets will pay him through 2020.

Cespedes’ build is tightly wound, making him susceptible to muscle pulls and the Mets have not treated him properly. When he was initially injured in late April, instead of going on the 10-day disabled list, he missed three games, then was hurried back to play two games against Atlanta only to blow out the hamstring in the second game.

Cespedes finally went on the DL, April 28 until June 10. When he came back the Mets said they would periodically rest him, but that rest came roughly once a week, which probably wasn’t enough.

But, as the Mets were struggling, what was Cespedes to do, tell Collins he couldn’t play? And, Collins, of course, instead of being proactive, took Cespedes at his word he was fine.

Only he isn’t, and neither are the Mets.

Jul 09

Collins Expresses Hope At The Break

Today’s Mets’ buzzword is “energy.’’ Mets manager Terry Collins, in talking about his team’s poor first half, bemoaned their lack of energy.

“We have to get energy back,’’ Collins said. “We aren’t playing with energy. We have to put a streak together, starting Friday.’’

COLLINS: Still has hope. (AP)

COLLINS: Still has hope. (AP)

At the break, the Mets are eight games under .500, 12 games behind Washington in the NL East, and 10 games behind the second wild-card Colorado with six teams to jump.

The Mets have been a string of bad optics from spring training until today. But, they are still alive.

I look at a potential pennant race from two angles. One, for a team to be in a race it has to be playing .500 ball and the Mets are eight games under. Secondly, there is enough time remaining with them being 12 games behind with 12 weeks remaining. As long as they can pick up one game a week it can be done. Mathematically, they are alive, but can they make a run? Have they demonstrated any signs of turning around their season?

So far, they have not.

There have been numerous times when they were on the cusp of making a move but stepped back. That trend started in April when after winning five straight, they lost 10 of 11.

They came out of that slide by winning the first two games of a three-game series in Washington and had Noah Syndergaard going in the final game. The Mets still had a chance with their ace gong.

However, that was the day Syndergaard, after refusing an MRI, tore his lat muscle and the Mets were routed 23-5. That was the singular most important moment of the first half.

From there, the Mets showed the resilience that marked their playoff pushes in the past two years. They went on to win six of eight to get back to .500 and give the perception anything was possible.

However, one of those two losses came when Matt Harvey was suspended and spot starter Adam Wilk was shelled by Miami. Syndergaard’s injury and Harvey’s suspension were two watershed moments from the first half.

However, the underlying theme of the first half was injuries, beginning with losing David Wright. Also going down were Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Juan Lagares, Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, Harvey and Yoenis Cespedes.

Considering all that, it’s amazing they aren’t 20 games back.

“Well, pretty much the record speaks for itself,’’ said Collins. “No matter if you said, ‘Geez, we played without a lot of big pieces.’ We are not happy with where we are, certainly, so we’ve got to use this time to reassess what we’ve got to do in the second half and hopefully we start getting some of the pieces back.’’

Both the starters and bullpen have ERAs north of five, and there are no guarantees when, or if, they’ll get Syndergaard and Harvey back, and if so, how well they’ll perform. The same applies to Familia.

The Mets will be forced to decide if they’ll be sellers or buyers at the trade deadline. However, before that, they have to figure if they’ll get Syndergaard and Harvey back.

If they believe they’ll be back this season, then they have to be buyers. If they don’t, and GM Sandy Alderson has already decided his positions on Jay Bruce, Addison Reed, Duda, Walker and others for 2018, then they have to be sellers.

The key players are their best offensive player, Bruce, and their closer, Reed. If either is dealt, Alderson would have surrendered on the season.

“If you want to talk about what we saw the last few months, I’ll go back to what we saw in the last 12 months,’’ Collins said when asked if the Mets had it in them. “We saw a team, last year, that when they were challenged they rose up. So, I think it’s in their DNA that they can do it again. We’ll find out.’’

The Mets open the second half with a ten-game homestand against the Rockies, Cardinals and Oakland.

Jul 08

Conforto Activated; Not Starting

Let’s get this straight. The Mets have only one All-Star, Michael Conforto. He was activated from the disabled list today but isn’t starting. This makes no sense to me and screams of one thing. The Mets want him available to play in the All-Star Game, which isn’t a good enough reason.

If you hit, you will play, says Mets manager Terry Collins. Except, of course, unless you’re Yoenis Cespedes. Both Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce have been hitting. Cespedes has not been.

Assuming the Mets don’t trade either Granderson or Bruce, there will be a logjam in the outfield. Conforto is their future and needs to play, through hot times and slumps. Trading Bruce, who is younger than Granderson and Cespedes, would be a mistake.

This is the Mets’ starting lineup today.

Granderson – CF

Asdrubal Cabrera – 2B

Cespedes – LF

Bruce – RF

T.J. Rivera – 3B

Lucas Duda – 1B

Jose Reyes – SS

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Zack Wheeler – RHP

Jul 08

Just As Well Colon Goes To Twins

Initially, I advocated the Mets re-sign Bartolo Colon, but it is just as well he hooked on with Minnesota on a minor league deal on Friday. Colon was released by Atlanta, July 4, and the Mets expressed immediate interest.

COLON: Signs with Twins. (FOX Sports)

COLON: Signs with Twins. (FOX Sports)

“We made a strong effort to re-sign Bartolo,’’ Mets GM Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “But he decided to go elsewhere.’’

If the Mets were in a serious pennant race, then sure, go for it. Colon might give the Mets a few good starts and eat up some innings. But, on second thought, they aren’t and have several arms they still must learn about in Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero.

Assuming they stay healthy, they could get up to ten starts in the second half. That should provide the Mets enough of a litmus test for them to make some decisions about the future. Gsellman and Lugo pitched roughly half a season for the Mets in 2016 and their performances this year have been spotty at best. And, Montero has a lot to prove.

And, considering Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey are coming off injuries, to have established depth would be essential assuming the Mets believe they can contend next year.

Every personnel decision Alderson makes has to be with next year in mind and Colon would be nothing more than a stop-gap because the Mets wouldn’t sign him for 2018.

 

 

Jul 07

Conforto Takes BP; Hopes To Play This Weekend

Michael Conforto said his left hand tightened up on him during a rehab game Thursday, but felt good during batting practice today.

CONFORTO: Feeling better. (AP)

CONFORTO: Feeling better. (AP)

Conforto hopes to be activated off the DL Saturday, and if that happens, be able to play in the All-Star Game, Tuesday, in Miami.

“The one spot was kind of toward the back of the hand,’’ Conforto told reporters. “I didn’t feel it today. I think it was something I had to work through, maybe, just some tightness that had to be worked out. I woke up this morning wondering if I was going to be sore or not and I felt great, so we decided we were going to hit and hitting felt good.’’

That the hand tightened isn’t a good sign. What also isn’t a good sign is manager Terry Collins saying he isn’t sure whether Conforto would start Saturday.

If Conforto comes off the DL tomorrow and can’t play for the Mets, then I don’t see how he can play in the All-Star Game. If anything, he should take the break to continue to heal.