Mar 31

No Reason To Rush Conforto

It is both good and bad news that Michael Conforto could be activated by the Mets from the disabled list. The good news is that his rehab following shoulder surgery is ahead of schedule. The bad news, of course, is this gives GM Sandy Alderson the potential to tinker with an injury.

Alderson, who snapped, “I can’t tie him down and throw him in the tube,’’ when asked last year why he didn’t force Noah Syndergaard to take an MRI, then subsequently gave the all-clear decision to start him against Washington that resulted in a torn lat muscle that scuttled last season.

Originally, the Mets and Conforto stated a May 1 return date, and April 5 beats that by over three weeks.

“That’s a decision we’ll make over the next couple of days,’’ Alderson said.

Why so soon?

Why not see what Brandon Nimmo can do over the next month? What’s the hurry?

Alderson is the man who constantly pokes at the coals on a grill. He has traditionally mishandled injuries by rushing players back. He’s done it with David Wright, Matt Harvey and Syndergaard to name a few.

Conforto said, “I’m pretty close,’’ but that’s a player itching to get back and not a doctor. He’s already playing in minor league rehab games.

I’m not a doctor, either, but as a student of Mets’ history, I’ve seen too many players rushed back from injuries and know this has the potential to end badly.

There’s nothing to be gained by bringing Conforto back next week, but plenty to lose.

Mar 30

Callaway Made Right Call With Syndergaard

While Mickey Callaway’s lineup decision continues to be analyzed – just check out today’s papers – I believe his most important one was removing Noah Syndergaard after six innings.

After throwing 85 pitches, it might have been tempting to squeeze out another inning, perhaps even two, but Callaway’s niche is pitching and he made the right call.

Syndergaard left with an 8-4 lead, and while four runs isn’t an insurmountable deficit, it certainly is large enough to warrant Callaway’s confidence in his bullpen.

With the temperatures in the high 40s and Syndergaard having to sit through the Mets taking batting practice against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez, there was a reasonable-to-good chance the pitcher could have stiffened up. And, with Syndergaard having sustained a torn lat muscle that cost him most of the 2017 season, Callaway was protecting one of his biggest assets.

“I felt like he had done his job,’’ Callaway said. “We wanted to get some of our relievers in the game, so there was no second thought there at all.’’

There shouldn’t have been.

Syndergaard, who was one of former pitching coach’s biggest supporters, had no problem with being pulled: “I think that was the right managerial decision, just because we were up by a lot.’’

As far as batting the pitcher eighth, Amed Rosario ninth and Yoenis Cespedes second, I can appreciate the logic, but I prefer Cespedes hitting in the traditional run-producing slots in the batting order.

I would do it again Saturday because it worked and you never want to mess around with success

Mar 29

Syndergaard, Small Ball Offense Get Season Off To Good Start

New Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway has to know they all won’t be this fun – or this easy. Everything fell into place for the Mets this afternoon in a 9-4 victory over St. Louis, just the way it should be on Opening Day.

“It feels great,’’ Callaway said. “What a ballpark. All of us, the coaches, were sitting there going, man, this is something special. This is a different place than most.’’

SYNDERGAARD: Ten strikeouts in opener. (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Ten strikeouts. (SNY)

A day that began with the sad news of the death of franchise icon Rusty Staub began with everything breaking right for the Mets, who lost their first eight Opening Days, but have gone 37-12 on the season’s first game since.

At 37-20 (.649) they have the highest Opening Day winning percentage in the Major Leagues. So much went right for the Mets today, beginning with Noah Syndergaard, who struck out ten and didn’t strike out a hitter for the seventh time in his career, second only to Tom Seaver in club history.

Despite the numbers, Syndergaard wasn’t happy with giving up four runs on six hits in four innings.

“I thought it was a great team win. A lot of fun,’’ Syndergaard said. “Kind of kicking myself in the butt for allowing that (Jose) Martinez guy to get a little too comfortable, but that won’t happen again. … I didn’t have command. In the last game (of) the spring I was comfortable, so I don’t know what happened.”

Syndergaard had thrown a manageable 52 pitches entering the fifth inning, but finished with 85, which is too many for a starter who wants to pitch deep into games.

Twice the Mets gave Syndergaard a lead he gave up, something else he vowed to improve on.

Complementing Syndergaard was an offense that proved power isn’t the only way to win.

“I just wanted to make sure the guys were in a good position to succeed,’’ Callaway said of his batting order featuring Syndergaard batting eighth, Amed Rosario ninth, Brandon Nimmo leading off and Yoenis Cespedes second. “We wanted to just make sure that we thought everything out when we set that lineup. We’ll try and do that every single time.’’

Callaway’s thinking was to stack the Mets’ speed – Rosario and Nimmo – in front of Cespedes.

“It made sense,’’ Callaway said. “It’s not as much about the pitcher as it is who’s hitting at the top of our lineup, and who’s going to hit ninth for us. It’s not going to be something that happens every game.’’

Rosario responded with two hits, including a two-run single and Nimmo reached base four times on two walks and two hits.

“It was a blast,’’ Nimmo said. “I was anxious to get into this game. Whatever they give you, take it. I think that’s the mentality of this team right now.’’

Mets’ hitters struck out eight times, but more importantly, drew nine walks. They also went 5-for-15 with RISP and drove in six runs with two outs.

Coming through were Cespedes (three RBI on two singles); Jay Bruce (RBI single), Kevin Plawecki (two hits and an RBI) and Adrian Gonzalez (two hits and two walks).

“I put our lineup against anyone,’’ said Bruce spouting Opening Day confidence. “We have veteran guys. We have young guys with so much talent.’’

And, today it panned out.

Mar 29

A Sad Day As Rusty Staub Passes

I woke up this morning with snow on the ground and immediately thought it’s way too early for Opening Day. I turned on the TV and was hit with the news of the passing of Rusty Staub and thought it’s too sad a day for Opening Day.

How can a day meant for new beginnings be overshadowed by such a sad event?

DZdPUxGXUAEX_kII wrote about Staub several weeks ago and recalled how gracious he was to me when I introduced myself to him at an airport, and it was heartwarming to hear of the remembrances of him from Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling today.

Hernandez spoke of Staub’s influence wihen he joined the Mets and helping him get acclimated to New York. Darling said Staub taught him how to be a better person.

Fighting back tears, Hernandez said: “He was a great, great  friend, and he’s in a better place.”

It is almost cliché to say he was a better person than player, but in his case, it could be true when you hear of his philanthropic gestures, most notably the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund.

“Rusty started more than just a charity – he started a family,’’ wrote chairman Stephen Dannhauser. “While many admire Rusty for his impressive record as a baseball player, it is his work off the field that truly made him one of the greats.  We will miss his laughter, friendship, and leadership, but we will work to carry on his mission through our continued stewardship of the charity he founded.’’

I urge you to log onto to the charity’s website, answerthecall.org for information on how to donate. Increments of $4 or $10, Staub’s numbers, would be a nice touch.

I know you all have your favorite Staub memories and ask you share them.

 

Mar 27

Seven Things For The Mets To Make The Playoffs

Can the Mets reach the playoffs? It would take at least 86 victories, which is 16 more than last season, and that’s a reach. I don’t think it will happen, but stranger things have happened with the Mets. If it does happen, the  Mets need the following seven things fall into place:

DE GROM: One of the few answers. (AP)

           DE GROM: One of the few answers. (AP)

No injuries: They are due for a healthy season, beginning with their rotation. They already had a few this spring, and Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are coming off surgery. They have to be incredibly lucky from here on out.

As far as their position players are concerned, they need Michael Conforto (shoulder) and Yoenis Cespedes (shoulder and hamstrings) to return and have monster seasons. Conforto will miss the first month, so that’s at least 100 at-bats they’ll miss.

Who will fill that void?

Rotation lives up to the hype: Zack Wheeler will open the season in the minors and Jason Vargas on the disabled list. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom will have to win at least 17 games each, and Harvey has to win at least 15.

Relievers must fill their roles: Manager Mickey Callaway hinted at a closer-by-committee format, but Jeurys Familia will get the first chance to close.

Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo will combine for the Andrew Miller role (once the latter is replaced in the rotation by either Vargas or Wheeler). That’s something new with Callaway and it is a gamble that must work.

The older guys’ encore: Specifically, that would be Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Reyes and Jay Bruce. Frazier and Bruce must have big seasons, defined as at least 20 homers and 80 RBI.

The young guys can’t be intimidated: Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares will get at-bats in April with Conforto injured. Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith – when he comes up – are offensive liabilities. That has to change.

Win the East: When the Mets reached the World Series in 2015, they did so in large part by Washington getting off to a miserable start and the Mets beating up on the Nationals and Braves. That has to happen again.

Sandy Alderson must not blink at the deadline: In 2015, when the Carlos Gomez trade fell through he immediately went after Cespedes. If the Mets are close at the end of July, Alderson can’t be afraid to pull the trigger.