Feb 19

Suggestions For A Mets’ Batting Order; Nieuwenhuis At The Top

Like every manager in the history of the game, I love to tinker with batting orders. So much can happen between now and Opening Day, but when it is below freezing it is as good a time as any to think of what Terry Collins’ lineup could be this summer.

Collins is on record with Ruben Tejada in the leadoff slot, but I’m suggesting a different direction.

NIEUWENHUIS: Trying him at leadoff.

NIEUWENHUIS: Trying him at leadoff.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis had limited success last season when he first arrived, but pitchers figured him out. I’d like to give Nieuwenhuis the chance to lead off because he demonstrated patience and the ability to slap the ball around and run. If he can become more disciplined he could develop into a good leadoff hitter, and since we’re thinking long-term let’s give it a try because there’s an upside with Nieuwenhuis hitting first.

Tejada would hit second because he has good bat control, knows how to work a pitcher and can bunt. All are ideal for a No. 2 hitter. Tejada can also hit-and-run and steal a base. If Tejada can do all those things, it could get a running game going with Nieuwenhuis. If Nieuwenhuis doesn’t pan out as a leadoff hitter, Tejada would go back to the top. Let’s give it a month.

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Feb 18

Mets Matters: Daniel Murphy To Be Examined; Pitching Probables

The Mets’ first injury of spring training is Daniel Murphy, who is back in New York to have an intercostal muscle in his ribs examined and receive a possible cortisone injection.

Murphy complained of feeling a tugging feeling in his ribs and will be examined at the Hospital of Special Surgery.

This is not a new injury for the Mets, as David Wright and Scott Hairston had the same last spring, but both were on the Opening Day roster.

Murphy is thinking he’ll be down from a week to ten days. Murphy said he experienced similar pain last year and attributed it to a minor change in his stance.

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Feb 18

Collins To Initiate Process For Wright To Be Captain

David-Wright15It was during the summer of 2008 when I first broached the question with then-Mets manager Willie Randolph: Could David Wright someday be named captain?

I went back to my story and this is what Randolph said: “It’s not something we’re talking about now, but yes, David certainly has the qualifications needed to be a captain. He has the respect and admiration of his teammates. They listen to him.”

The Mets didn’t pull the trigger because they had veterans with more experience – such as Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran – and didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of the older players. Randolph wasn’t kept around long enough to name Wright captain, but it was always a foregone conclusion it would eventually happen.

Now, with Wright armed with an eight-year contract that will have him finish his career with the Mets, manager Terry Collins said today he will begin the process of naming his third baseman to the honor, joining Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and John Franco.

The first step is to involve discussing the matter with GM Sandy Alderson and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.

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Feb 18

Mets’ Full-Squad Workouts Start Today; Collins’ Lame-Duck Status

The Mets will have their first full squad workout this morning, prior to which Terry Collins will address his teams. Like I posted last night, don’t expect rah-rah. And, don’t expect the manager to use his lame-duck status as a motivator. He doesn’t work that way.

It must be an odd feeling for Collins to enter the season as a lame duck manager. Ownership and upper management are looking ahead to 2014, when Johan Santana’s contract will be off the books.

Trouble for Collins is he’s thinking about this year because there’s no guarantee of anything beyond while everybody else is thinking of the future.

Collins knows the score, but to his credit he’s not saying anything about it. Fred Wilpon and Sandy Alderson said they are pleased with the job Collins is doing and I’m wondering when that will translate into an extension.

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Feb 17

What Terry Collins Should Say To The Mets

Terry Collins will talk to his team prior to Monday’s full squad workout, but says he won’t go the underdog route, as COO Jeff Wilpon did last spring. The underdog angle is usually a good angle, but the Mets haven’t had a winning season since 2008, so it is safe to say they are familiar with the losing perspective.

Collins pulling a Knute Rockne tomorrow won’t do anything for the Mets. His message must be firm and simple.

It should begin the basics. “Gentlemen,” he should say, “you have the rare privilege of playing major league baseball. Make the most of this opportunity. We are a rebuilding franchise and are looking for players who produce and play hard. One thing I will not tolerate is a lack of hustle. I want to you be on time and hustle. There’s never an excuse for not running.”

Collins should let it be known a lack of hustle will be met with being benched.

Secondly, Collins should tell his troops there is also never a reason not to play fundamental baseball. Errors are part of the game, but mental mistakes such as throwing to the wrong base or wasting at-bats is not acceptable. For the pitchers, pitch selection has to be stressed. If a pitcher doesn’t like the sign put down by the catcher, then don’t throw the damn ball.

Prior to every pitch, a baserunner, pitcher or batter should know his responsibility. All too often in the past few years Mets hitters have thrown away at-bats and pitchers haven’t been able to finish hitters and innings.

Bernie Williams once told me one of the hardest things to do in the sport is to concentrate on every pitch, to ask himself what he should do on that pitch. And, to do it over and over again. It is something winning players and winning teams are able to consistently do.

If the Mets are to take a step toward credibility, it must first begin with learning how to concentrate and think the game.