May 21

Is Panic In The Mets’ DNA?

Sometimes, Mets manager Terry Collins sounds like a man who is trying to convince himself of something he’s not sure of, when he said, or vowed, his team would not panic.

As somebody who has been in on hundreds of such press briefings, I know why the topic of panic was raised. Believe me, it’s not because it’s New York and the media is prying. The question would be the same in Pittsburgh or Cleveland or even laid back San Diego. When you lose seven of ten games and nine games in the standings to your main division rival, nerves get frayed, no matter how loudly or vociferously, Collins denies it.

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

“There’s a lot – a lot – of baseball left,’’ Collins said last night. “There’s no sense of urgency here. We have things we have to continue to try to do. We have to continue to try to watch the workload of some guys. We need to continue to try to get healthy. But there’s no panic here, believe me. Not in the clubhouse. Not anyplace else.”

This is what Collins believes and I don’t doubt he thinks that way. He would be a fool to admit otherwise. That’s why I don’t get why some in my profession would even pose the question. They already know the answer.

I raised the issue yesterday the Mets are at a critical point to their season, and I did so because I’ve seen them fold before. Do you remember September of 2007 when they lost a seven-game lead to the Phillies with 17 games remaining?

Of course you do.

It has been in the Mets’ DNA to go into long, dry spells. That’s where they are now. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors. Reporters ask questions to find out.

The Mets’ primary issue now is a stagnant offense that has scored three or fewer runs in 16 of their past 22 games. Not surprisingly, they are 10-15 since their 11-game winning streak.

GM Sandy Alderson already said not to expect help from the outside, that the plan is to wait for David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud to return from the disabled list. There are other options, such as juggling the lineup, but that smacks of panic unless the move is justifiable, which it would be when Wright and d’Arnaud to come back.

The Mets don’t have a good bench, so benching somebody isn’t a great option. Plus, the guy they always look to sit is Wilmer Flores, who is their best home run hitter. Just who in their minor league system is an answer?

The Mets’ best option, as distasteful as this sounds because that’s been Alderson’s mantra, is to wait this out. Slumps happen in a 162-game schedule and that’s what’s going on with the Mets.

Getting out of a slump takes time, and I don’t know how patient the Mets will be. Unfortunately, neither does Collins.

However, when the story of this season is written, this period will be the watershed moment.

 

May 20

Mets Facing Critical Juncture To Season

Every season has its critical juncture and for the Mets it is now after Bartolo Colon‘s 41-year-old arm was mauled tonight by major league’s best team in St. Louis. The Mets’ 11-game winning streak and eight-game lead over Washington has faded from euphoria to the cusp of panic after Colon was ripped.

We’ve seen hot streaks from the Mets morph into inescapable slides before. The Mets’ 9-0 loss coupled with the Nationals beating the Yankees, 3-2, tonight, leaves Washington in sole possession of first place in the National League East and begs the question: Can manager Terry Collins‘ team recover?

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

After a 13-3 start, the Mets are 10-15, including 3-7 over their last ten games. They aren’t hitting. Their starting pitching has faltered recently with Colon, Jon Niese and Thursday’s starter, Jacob deGrom. They haven’t won behind Matt Harvey in three starts and blew 1-0 leads in his last two. Their defense has been poor.

In two respects, the Mets’ hopes to regroup are tied to two gambles by GM Sandy Alderson: 1) the signing of Colon, whom they hoped would stem the tide tonight, and 2) the decision to see how David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud come back from the disabled list before attempting to trade for a hitter to aid their faltering offense.

The estimate on their returns is at least two weeks, and nobody knows where the Mets will be in the standings by then. Don’t forget, they lost eight games in the standings to the Nationals in a little over three weeks. Bryce Harper is hot; Stephen Strasburg is back.

It is possible the Mets could respond from tonight’s mugging and win another 11 in a row. Then again, they could continue their funk. They have another game with the Cardinals Thursday, then three in Pittsburgh before playing the Phillies, who are now playing well.

In many ways Colon personifies Alderson’s patchwork approach in building this team. Colon was signed as a stopgap after Harvey was injured. They eschewed going after a big name free-agent in favor of Colon, who was signed to eat innings and win about a dozen games. Colon won 15 games last season and sought his seventh tonight. Colon gave up five homers in splitting his previous four starts, and was hammered tonight, giving up nine runs on 11 hits – including two homers – and a pair of walks in 4.1 innings.

Meanwhile, for all the talk about the Mets’ ailing offense, it wouldn’t have mattered tonight against Colon and Tuesday against Niese, who is also proving not to be an answer.

Lately, there have been more questions than answers for the Mets, including this big one: Can they pull it together?

 

May 19

Mets Matters: No Offensive Help In Sight

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he’s not pursuing immediate trade options to improve the offense, and instead will wait to see what spark David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud might provide when they come off the disabled list.

No surprise in that stance.mets-matters logo

Alderson said neither player would be activated soon.

“I don’t think you can expect [Wright] back sooner than a week, maybe 10 days, maybe even two weeks,’’ Alderson said. “I’d say the same with d’Arnaud. I think a week is way too aggressive. It’s going to be a little bit longer than that.’’

I’ve said this a dozen times, but when it comes to injuries and the Mets, always bet the over.

Of course, not much would have helped tonight.

NIESE SLAUGHTERED

After Jon Niese’s last start, manager Terry Collins said the left-hander had to work harder to overcome in-game adversity.

It didn’t happen in tonight’s 10-2 loss to St. Louis.

Niese gave up single runs in each of the first four innings, and overall gave up eight runs on 11 hits in five innings.

It was just a horrible performance. If there was one stat that spoke volumes about how bad Niese was, it was that of the 25 batters he faced he got a first-pitch strike only 12 times. After the game Collins said Niese would remain in the rotation.

There were a lot of low-lights tonight, including Jack Leathersich walking reliever Randy Choate.

The loss, coupled with Washington’s victory over the Yankees, put the Mets in a first-place tie with the Nationals.

MURPHY LOST

There have been numerous times this season that you’ll see Daniel Murphy do something, either in the field or on the bases, and wonder what is going on in his mind.

Murphy’s brain cramp du jour came in the sixth when instead of covering first base on Michael Wacha’s bunt, he went for the ball that was by the mound.

That loaded the bases and was part of the Cardinals’ six-run inning that broke the game open.

May 02

Wright More Than A Week Away

As they should, the Mets are treating David Wright‘s hamstring injury with kid gloves and perhaps learning from experience, aren’t making any projections about his return. GM Sandy Alderson told reporters Friday having Wright back next weekend in Philadelphia “seems a little aggressive.”

Wright went on the disabled list April 15 with what was called a right hamstring strain that was subsequently changed to a pull. At the time, Alderson said it might take three weeks, but that won’t happen. Wright said he feels it when he exerts himself running and was restricted to physical therapy yesterday and plans to resume running today.

There were rumblings earlier this week Wright might come back for the Washington series, but this is the right call all around.

Holding the best record in baseball at 16-8, there’s no reason to rush him. None. With previous injuries Wright sometimes pushed the envelope and played hurt. He acknowledged that when he went on the disabled list and said he didn’t want to risk injuring himself further.

Apr 13

Alderson Says Not Bailing On Flores

While I don’t always agree with Mets GM Sandy Alderson, I liked what he did today when he expressed confidence in struggling shortstop Wilmer Flores.

The master of the deadpan obvious, Alderson said of Flores’ first week that, “It hasn’t been super,” noting three errors and a .158 batting average. Even so, Alderson didn’t put on notice the player he has frequently criticized.

“He’s made some good plays. He’s made some mistakes,” Alderson said. “He hasn’t hit yet, but that’s true of about six or seven of our guys. Wilmer is one of those guys that doesn’t let things bother him typically. As long as we don’t get to the point where we allow that to affect him then I think he’ll be fine.”

Confidence is a fragile thing in sports, and while Flores is having a bad start, we’re just a week into the season.