Aug 10

Cuddyer Back With A Lot To Give

Michael Cuddyer was signed to be a significant offensive piece for the Mets, but as often is the case in the twisting and winding turns of a baseball season, things changed. Cuddyer now finds himself as a role player.

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

A former All-Star and batting champion is hanging on to his career, but still has value. There could be times between now and October when lightning strikes his bat. Times when he’ll make a veteran play that means the difference between a win and loss.

While his playing times will come in drips and drabs, what defines him most – that he’s a good teammate – is what will be on display. He might pull aside a slumping player to give him a tip on that night’s pitcher. Or to calm him down, as was the case on the botched Wilmer Flores trade.

Pennants are won on talent, but what Cuddyer can offer is invaluable. There have been few playoff teams that don’t have a settling, veteran influence. To accept a change of roles with grace and class is something that can’t adequately be measured. It might turn out to be his biggest contribution to the Mets.

Make no mistake, his two-year, $21-million contract is why he’s still here, otherwise he could have been cast aside. That’s often the case with 36-year-old, non-hitting players with aching knees. He’s hitting .250 with eight homers and a .303 on-base percentage, not good in manager Terry Collins’ “hit or sit,’’ edict. Of course, it should have been that way all along, but for the longest time nobody – major league or minor league levels – was hitting.

Cuddyer’s injury opened the way for Michael Conforto, and he’s not going back down. To make room for Cuddyer, Eric Campbell – no surprise there – was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Conforto represents the Mets’ future, and because of their pitching that has been fast-tracked. Cuddyer is a veteran presence essential for a young, contending team, but his days as a starter are over, and to his credit he readily accepts his role.

“I just want to win,’’ Cuddyer said. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what’s in it for me. I want to win baseball games. Whatever the manager feels like is the best lineup to put out there, I’m all for it.’’

Cuddyer started the season in left field, but that position now belongs to Yoenis Cespedes. Cuddyer will give an occasional breather to Curtis Granderson in right field and Lucas Duda at first base.

But, no matter what he does on the field, he won’t get rattled, and as the Mets drive down the stretch, they need to see what Cuddyer still brings to the table.


Aug 09

A Lot Riding On Wright’s Return

I am cautiously optimistic as I post the following: Mets third baseman and captain David Wright will start a rehab assignment Monday with Class A St. Lucie.

Knock on wood. Don’t walk under a ladder. Throw salt over your shoulder. Cross your fingers. Do whatever it takes to get him back to Flushing soon and in one piece.

WRIGHT: A lot riding on rehab. (AP)

WRIGHT: A lot riding on rehab. (AP)

After winning seven straight, the Mets have dropped their last two to the Rays to fall a scant 1.5 games ahead of Washington. I said it yesterday and will say it again, forget the wild card and go for the division. Wright will help immensely in that regard.

Of all their position players, Wright is the one the Mets can ill-afford to lose the most because of what he represents: he’s their best hitter; he’s a team leader; he’s their biggest investment; he represents the Mets past, present and future.

Yes, there’s a lot riding on this.Wright sustained a right hamstring strain Aug. 14 against Philadelphia, and while on the disabled list was subsequently diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column. After spending most of the summer in Los Angeles undergoing physical therapy, Wright just spent five straight days of baseball activity, which is throwing, fielding grounders and taking batting practice.

What happens tomorrow is what realty counts as it best proximates what he’ll hopefully be doing the remainder of the season and into October – deep into October.

“There’s not much more preparation I can do other than games,’’ Wright told reporters last week when the Mets were in Miami.

Wright’s return is critical to the Mets on a number of fronts. First, if he’s close to form, it gives the Mets’ offense a jumpstart and deepens their bench and batting order.

That’s the most immediate impact.

Secondly, it should help determine the Mets’ offseason priorities: Will they need another third baseman? Will Wright need to change positions? Will a healthy Wright decrease the chances of keeping Daniel Murphy or Kelly Johnson, and possibly Juan Uribe? If Wright can’t make it, was his extension a waste and how will it effect their future spending?

No, this won’t be just a normal roster move when Wright returns. This could be roster, and possibly, franchise defining.


Aug 08

Want Mets To Go For The Throat

Let’s not have any of this wild card talk, it’s up to the Mets to go for the throat, and as Bob Murphy once so eloquently said, “win the damn thing.’’

For the first time in franchise history, the Mets overcame deficits in each of the last three innings to beat Tampa Bay last night.

MURPHY: ``Win the damn thing.'' (Mets)

MURPHY: “Win the damn thing.” (Mets)

It was an effort manager Terry Collins correctly labeled “pure character,’’ as the Mets increased their winning streak to seven straight.

Noah Syndergaard takes the ball tonight with the objective of putting the Mets games over .500, where they were when they won 11 straight games.

The Mets have won 18 of their 59 games – tied for eighth with the game’s best record – in those two winning streaks. It’s numbers like those that win pennants.

With things going their way and their lead over the Nationals now up to 2.5 games, the Mets want to win this thing going away as to avoid the wild-card play-in scenario and to set their rotation as they please. Honestly, I never thought I would write those words this year.

If the season ended today, the Mets, Cardinals and Dodgers would be the division winners and Pittsburgh and Chicago would be the wild cards.

Things frequently fluctuate this time of year and there’s so much more of the season to be played. The Mets are starting their push down the stretch at a good time, and they are gradually improving on some important team stats. They’ve now won four straight on the road to improve to 21-32 (still the worse among those National League teams that would qualify for the postseason) and their runs differential is now plus-16.

In addition, Lucas Duda is hitting homers; David Wright could begin a rehab-assignment on Monday; and the team was energized by the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.

The Mets still have issues, including their bullpen (which is always critical in the playoffs), but as they were in April they are again a thrill to watch.

But, let’s not have them be content with playing well, but let’s have this be like the college football rankings and go heavy on the style points. Let’s have them put this away and “win the damn thing.’’

Aug 06

Mets In Nationals’ Heads

The Mets aren’t saying, but I would guess they were thrilled to hear of the comments made by Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth this week.

On the heels of being swept by the Mets, Nationals outfielder – and NL MVP frontrunner – Harper, when asked about the Mets, snapped: “I don’t give a crap about what the Mets are doing.’’

CLiTBzaUMAE6ODqHarper is diving into braggadocio, but with the Nationals trailing the Mets by two games, he sounds like a man trying to quell his own doubts.

Same goes for Werth, who all but discounts the Mets when he said the NL East still belongs to the Nationals, that it is their division to lose.

“I think it’s a matter of time really,’’ Werth said. “We’re a great second-half team. … Half our team has been hurt all year. That’s the reality of it. When we all get back, we’re right there, in first place.

“We’re [two games out] But I think going forward we can get all back healthy and get rolling and it’s our division to lose.’’

He might end up being right, but pennants aren’t won in the papers; they are won on the field and currently the Mets have the Nationals’ attention, regardless of what their players say.

Both Harper and Werth speak with a sense of entitlement, that all they have to do is show up. It is reminiscent of the Nationals’ front office when it shut down Stephen Strasburg at the end of the 2012 season, acting under the assumption the playoffs were a given.

They are not.

It doesn’t work that way, and the mere fact they are commenting about the Mets, seemingly by-passing them as threats is interesting. The Mets, wisely haven’t responded. Nor should they.

That the Nationals are talking tells me the Mets are in their heads. And, will stay there for a while.

The teams have six games remaining with each other, Sept. 7-9 in Washington and Oct. 2-4 at Citi Field.

Interesting doesn’t begin to describe it.