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.

Feb 23

Callaway Benches Smith; Shows Who Is Boss

Today wasn’t just a milestone day for new Mets manager Mickey Callaway simply because it was his first game, it was in that he firmly established who is in charge.

From the moment he was introduced, Callaway stressed accountability and responsibility.

It wasn’t always that way under Terry Collins, who, in all fairness, didn’t get support from GM Sandy Alderson. Obviously, Alderson wouldn’t undercut Callaway over Dominic Smith, but it was encouraging to see the rookie manager pull the prospect from the starting lineup after he showed up late to a team meeting.

Callaway doesn’t have many rules, but being on time is one of them. It’s not all that hard to show up on time, and it is head scratching for someone trying to make the roster being late for the first game of the year.

Players supposed to show up for an 8:45 a.m., meeting and Smith was late. Maybe he overslept, maybe he got stuck in traffic, maybe he didn’t set his alarm properly. Whatever the reason, it didn’t fly with Callaway, nor should it.

Smith is a professional, and while he might have a lot to learn about playing the game, he should already know how to set an alarm clock.

Perhaps it would have been more impressive if it was Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard – all who tested the limits under Collins – but Callaway wouldn’t wilt in his first disciplinary test.

Good for him.

To his credit, Smith made no excuses, was contrite and admitted he was wrong.

“I shouldn’t be cutting it close like that,’’ Smith told reporters. “I’m a professional. This is my job. This is my career. It’s my livelihood. I felt like I definitely let them down today.

“He asked me what I thought the decision should be and I agreed with him. That’s the only way it should be. They shouldn’t give me a pass or whatever. They shouldn’t give anybody a pass. That’s what he’s been preaching since Day 1 – accountability. You got to be accountable for yourself, your actions.’’

Yes, it was only a Triple-A prospect. It wasn’t Cespedes, who is erratic in his hustle and blew off treatment of a quad injury to play golf; it wasn’t Harvey, who blew off a game last year nursing a hangover; and it wasn’t Syndergaard, who refused to take an MRI and subsequently tore a lat muscle last April which basically cost the Mets their season.

Some might ask why this is a big deal, that what difference does a few minutes make.

It’s because being late shows a lack of discipline. It shows a lack of respect for the rules and your teammates. It’s because little things can grow into bad habits that can cost a team games if left unchecked.

Basically, it’s learning how to win, something the Mets don’t know how to do.

Feb 14

Alderson Wrong Again: Mets Do Need More Pitching

Of all of baseball’s many clichés, “you can never have too much pitching,’’ which Mets GM Sandy Alderson, whom his biographer claims in one of the smartest men in the game, refuted today.

DE GROM: Leads rotation loaded with questions. (AP)

DE GROM: Leads rotation loaded with questions. (AP)

Alderson told reporters today in Port St. Lucie: “Notwithstanding many opinions to the contrary, I’m not convinced we need more pitching.’’

There aren’t many things I agree with Alderson on recently, and this certainly isn’t one of them.’’

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Every possible pitcher in the rotation and that includes Jacob deGrom early in his career has undergone some type of surgery or been placed on the disabled list.
  • Noah Syndergaard missed nearly five months last year with a torn lat muscle, and only pitched two innings after coming back from the disabled list. He reported to spring training in good shape, but we don’t know how he’ll respond to a full camp much less a full season.
  • Matt Harvey has worked only one injury-free season since 2012 and twice had season-ending surgery.
  • Lefty Steven Matz has been to the DL four times since his major league debut in 2015.
  • Zack Wheeler has started 17 games in three years.
  • Seth Lugo is trying to rebound from a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament.
  • Robert Gsellman sustained a torn left hamstring last year and had trouble with his mechanics.

 

That’s seven possible starters and doesn’t include Rafael Montero, who has consistently labored with his command.

Jake Arrieta is the top free agent remaining, but we’d be spinning our wheels to think that will happen, and Alderson is already on record as saying the front office doesn’t want to forfeit a compensatory draft pick and a half-million dollars of international bonus pool space.

So, given the current status of the Mets’ pool of potential starters, how can Alderson responsibly say he doesn’t see how they don’t need more pitching.

 

Feb 01

It’s Truck Day

The equipment truck left for Port St. Lucie this afternoon with the bats and balls, and of course, the hopes of Mets’ fans everywhere. Spring training is the best time of year because it is when dreams are born.

GM Sandy Alderson was there to say goodbye and address the smattering of fans, many of them who consider the truck a seasonal rite of passage.

“It’s been a slow offseason,’’ Alderson told the small group of fans. “But I want to put that in context because that has been true across all of baseball. In fact, the Mets have really been as active as anybody.’’

Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes are returning to a team that finished 22 games below .500, and along with them Anthony Swarzak and an over-the-hill Adrian Gonzalez.

Unless the Mets’ young and battered pitching staff return healthy and live up to expectations, it’s hard to fathom those four additions lifting Mickey Callaway’s team to contending status. That likely won’t happen even if they add Todd Frazier or Eduardo Nunez or even a reunion with Neil Walker.

The Mets’ payroll is currently $137 million with little wiggle room.

Even if the Mets were to sign Mike Moustakas – which Alderson dismissed – that’s not nearly enough to put them over the top.

A big-ticket free-agent would cost the Mets draft-choice compensation and the loss of international pool money, something Alderson said is essential in “improving what is now a less-than-robust farm system.’’

Building from within is the most reliable and cost-effective way of building a team. The Mets tried that with their young pitching but have been derailed because of injuries.

The other ways of building are through trades and free-agency and Alderson has already said the latter is out. Quite frankly, the Mets have very few tradable assets other than their young – and most injured – pitching.

Are they willing to go there?

Jan 29

Mets Need To Find Out About Smith And Not Gonzalez

Do you remember last season when the talk surrounding the Mets was why weren’t they bringing up Dominic Smith?

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

They didn’t because the Mets already had a first baseman; because they still thought they had a chance to compete; and, most importantly, they didn’t think he was ready for prime time.

Well, they traded Lucas Duda; the injuries mounted and their season spun out of control; they finally brought up Smith and GM Sandy Alderson was correct – or partially so.

Smith, supposedly a defensive wizard, was erratic in the field. He hit with more power than expected, but his average and on-base percentage were worse than expected, and his attitude and conditioning weren’t what the Mets hoped.

Based on Smith’s limited window the Mets don’t believe he’s ready. Hopefully, Smith learned from last summer and rededicated himself and this might be the year he finds his game.

But, barring a dramatic turn, it won’t be in Flushing as the Mets for the start of this season at least are committed to Adrian Gonzalez. I would have preferred the Mets opened the season with Smith and given him a shot to live up to the expectations. With the Mets not anticipated to contend this year, this would be the perfect opportunity to see what the Mets have in the prospect.

Seriously, would Gonzalez put the Mets over the top? Of course not, and neither would Smith regardless of how well he plays this year.

But, the most important thing regarding Smith is to get an idea of what the Mets have in him. And, playing Gonzalez would only set the Mets back at least a year.

Just a ridiculous decision by Alderson.