Sep 14

Reflections Of The Week: Don’t Cash 2015 Checks Yet; Niese Worth Keeping

It has been well documented the Mets are gearing for 2015 because of Matt Harvey’s anticipated return following Tommy John surgery.

Not so fast.

mets-matters logoWith Sandy Alderson saying there won’t be much activity in the free-agent market, where will the power come from? David Wright hasn’t come close to 30 homers since 2010, when he hit 29. That was four years ago. He’s averaged 15 homers a year since.

And, while Lucas Duda has proven to be better than Ike Davis, he’s still not a monster masher.

Plus, despite his chirping, there are no guarantees what Harvey will do next year. Also, Zack Wheeler, despite his stuff, still throws way too many pitches and is a six-inning pitcher.

* Jon Niese pitched well in today’s 3-0 loss to Washington, but is 8-11 with one winning season since his career began in 2008. Still, he’s left-handed, has a reasonable contract and is only 27. All good reasons to keep him.

* It was definitely the correct decision to shut down Wright the remainder of the season. The playoffs won’t happen despite the math. And, finishing .500 isn’t worth the risk of further injury, plus there are things to look at, such as seeing more of Dilson Herrera and Daniel Murphy at third base. It’s always a positive to get as much information as possible.

* With the Mets losing three of four to the Nationals, it makes Jenrry Mejia’s post-game gesturing even more foolish. C’mon, act like you’ve been there before.

* Reliever Vic Black already hampered with a herniated disk in his neck, his fastball down by 3 mph., saying his shoulder aches, why not shut him down for the rest of the season? What is there to be gained?

Finally, I would be remiss if my wide range of thoughts from my first week back blogging on the Mets didn’t include expressing my gratitude for the acceptance and well wishes you’ve given me in my return.

I wasn’t sure of your reaction, and frankly I am overwhelmed.

I am working hard in my rehab, which includes pumping hard on an exercise bike. It is imperative to build up my leg strength. My legs have atrophied to where they are stick-like.

Thanks also go out to Joe DeCaro of MetsmerizedOnline.com and Adam Rubin of ESPN for promoting my return. Also, to the Mets’ Jay Horwitz for continuing my access should I be able to get out to Citi Field this month.

Thanks again.

Sep 10

Don’t Buy Into Thinking Wright Injury Could Pave Way For Murphy Trade

My first question stemming from the Mets’ shutting down David Wright for the remainder of the season is: What took them so long, especially considering his propensity for playing through pain and injury?

Seriously, Wright has had a sore left shoulder for weeks. He’s played through worse. Last night, Sandy Alderson said Wright “did what captains do,’’ and he “preserved.’’

MURPHY: Think he's staying. (AP)

MURPHY: Bet on him staying. (AP)

But, could the Mets have been more proactive? It’s easy to say so, but as unlikely as it seemed, the wildcard was still possible, they hadn’t had a winning season since 2008, so their thinking was to go with their best shot, that being Wright.

I won’t bury the Mets for sticking with Wright, but analyze where they are headed without him for the remainder of this season and the future, which some suggest are linked.

It has already been decided Daniel Murphy will replace Wright at third and Dilson Herrera coming off the bench and back to second. In theory, the Mets would be showcasing Murphy for a possible trade this winter.

What’s not to like about Murphy in the eyes of another team? He’s an All-Star; he’s worked hard to become an above average second-baseman; his natural position is third; he doesn’t make a lot of money; and he never stops hustling.

The problem other teams see in him is the same the Mets do, and that’s he doesn’t hit for power, especially at an infield corner position. Nine homers this year and 48 in just less than 3,000 career at-bats won’t have a contender drooling.

The Mets covet a power hitter, and Murphy won’t get them one by himself. The only way Murphy nets the Mets a slugger – especially a corner outfielder – is if he’s packaged with one of the young pitchers they covet.

Bottom line, unless the Mets ease up on their young pitching, I don’t see Murphy going anywhere this winter. That’s because they want to keep their pitching more than they desire a power hitter.

 

Sep 09

Not Concerned About Syndergaard’s Feelings

One of these days, Noah Syndergaard might develop into a franchise pitcher. Then again, like thousands of other live arms to try, he might be bust out. Nobody can say for certain.

NOAH: Not ready for prime time.

NOAH: Not ready for prime time.

Regardless, it was no surprise to learn he would not be part of the September call-ups. And, his numbers weren’t worthy of a promotion. He’s 9-7 with a 4.60 and 1.48 WHIP indicate there’s more work to be done. I have no issue with Syndergaard not being promoted; especially considering we knew it wasn’t going to happen this year.

Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler were in similar situations and weren’t elevated to delay their arbitration eligibility. What I have a problem with is Syndergaard not paying attention to what happened with Harvey and Wheeler before him and not draw a similar conclusion.

Not only won’t we see Syndergaard this year, but there’s no way he’ll be in the 2015 Opening Day rotation. The earliest we’ll see him is the beginning of June.

With Sandy Alderson saying there won’t be a splurge in the free-agent market and the team wants to hold onto its young pitching, there’s not room for Syndergaard in April. Next season’s rotation to start the season will be Bartolo Colon, Harvey, Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Jon Niese. Syndergaard at the start just won’t happen, and the only disappointment is him not realizing his situation.

Sep 08

Questions The Mets Might Have Already Answered

Let’s begin the Mets’ salvage operation for September by seeing how they answered the most significant questions facing them as they entered spring training.

Q: Can the Mets finish with a winning record?

A: Mathematically, it’s possible as Sunday’s victory in Cincinnati has them seven games under with 19 to play. They are six games behind in the wild-card standings, but need to leapfrog five teams. They have head-to-head match-ups with Washington, Atlanta and Miami, but even so, the odds are against them. They were 14 games under last year and won’t be the 90-win team GM Sandy Alderson thought possible this spring. Bet, he regrets that comment. Even so, improvement is possible. Hey, you take what you can get.

Q: Who’s on first?

A:  Probably more than anything, Alderson’s high point this season is how quickly he disposed of Ike Davis. Honestly, I thought this might get played out as it was the past two years, but Alderson pulled the trigger quickly on a trade. Davis struggled both with injuries and at the plate out of the gate, and Lucas Duda has done more than just out-play him. Duda has developed into a legitimate slugger who could merit a better contract. As the Mets brace for legitimacy in 2015, they’ll have one less question because of Duda’s development.

Q: Who’ll play shortstop?

A: The Mets teased us with talks of signing Stephen Drew or trading for Nick Franklin. April began with shortstop as a black hole with Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores competing for the job, and the Mets having little confidence in either.

I envisioned Tejada winning the job by default because I didn’t think Alderson would gamble on Drew or Franklin, or ever have the stones to go with Flores.

Surprise: Flores has been getting the lion’s share of the playing time and September is for him to put a stranglehold on the job. Flores always had the better bat and he’s not embarrassed himself in the field.

This could be one less question for the winter.

Q: Who’ll be the leadoff hitter?

A: There was no clear-cut favorite, although manager Terry Collins had lukewarm preference for Eric Young. However, this has been a miserable season for Young, who doesn’t have a good on-base percentage. Several players were used to lead off, including the departed Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. The job now appears to be sliding to Juan Lagares, who stole two bases Sunday. Lagares can steal a base, but there’s more to leading off than stealing bases. Working the count and a high on-base percentage are paramount, and those are two categories are something he’ll need to work on this month. Lagares’ development also assures Eric Young won’t be back.

Q: How will the rotation shake out with Matt Harvey gone?

A: The biggest issues were whether Zack Wheeler would progress and if Jon Niese would take it to the next level. Wheeler has pitched well following a slow start. He won his tenth game Sunday, but was hampered by the persistent problem of running up his pitch count, throwing 99 in six innings. He’s worked into the sixth or longer in all but one start – have to like that – but his 99 Sunday was the fewest he’s thrown. As for Niese, the Mets expected far better than 8-10. The Mets could very well be tiring of Niese’s inconsistency and this could finally be the time when they opt to trade him. Could happen.

Q: Who replaces Bobby Parnell in the closer role?

A: The Mets finally decided on a role for Jenrry Mejia, and it is closer. Mejia still has those moments when he tends to overthrow and lose command. He labored Sunday with 25 pitches, but came away with his 24th save compared to three blown saves.

Let’s face it, 2014 was supposed to be a transition season for the Mets, who made no secret they were waiting for Harvey’s return and a step toward competitiveness.

For the most part, the Mets addressed their issues in the positive. Even so, in the cases of Lagares, Flores, Mejia and Wheeler, there’s a difference between optimism and definitive answers. Looking ahead to 2015, they need to see more of those four in September before deciding their offseason plans.

There’s not enough time remaining for some guys – such as David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud – to finish with statistically impressive numbers. Even so, there’s time enough to enter the offseason with positive vibes.

The flip side are the nagging questions:

Where is Wright in his career? Has his career peaked and is he on the downhill slide? Did his shoulder injury hurt him more than the Mets let on?

As for Granderson, we knew there would be a power slide leaving the Bronx, but will he ever be a significant power threat again?

The Mets haven’t gotten the production they hoped from d’Arnaud, but the defensive part of his game is getting better and the pitchers are comfortable with him.

As for pitching, nobody can say for certain how Harvey and Wheeler will develop. Niese remains an enigma. The bullpen has been good in spots, but is always a work in progress. Is this as good as it will get for Mejia? What can we expect from Parnell next season?

There will be no playoffs this season, but .500 can be had with a 13-6 finish. With 13 of their remaining games at home, and nine against teams with losing records, stranger things have happened for a franchise that likes to call itself, “Amazin.’’

Let’s not think about 2015 just yet.

COMING UP THIS WEEK:  Mets we might not see in 2015 … Numbers and milestones that could happen … Looking at second base … Are the Mets in better shape than the Yankees?

Mar 17

Little Time, Many Questions For Mets

Spring training is not just to get ready for the season, but for teams to sharpen their cliché skills. The New York Mets have used many this spring, but the prevalent one is: There’s plenty of time left.

Memo to Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins: No, there isn’t.

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

With Opening Day two weeks away, the Mets have many decisions left; way too many for a team that could win 90 games. I bet Alderson already regrets that thought.

Here’s what’s left to decide:

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis entered spring training as the frontrunner, but because of leg injuries, neither him nor Lucas Duda has played much.

Neither will get close to 70 at-bats, much less the 90-plus Collins hoped for Davis.

They could, but I don’t see them carrying both.

Speculation is Davis will open the season on the disabled list, with Duda playing. That’s presumably because Duda is further along.

They could run Josh Satin out there, but I believe they wasted this spring to learn more about Wilmer Flores.

Collins suggested using Flores at shortstop, but he’s barely played there. He has a promising bat, but scouts say he is better equipped for second base or the corner infield positions.

Flores won’t get third because of David Wright, and last I checked first base is a corner infield position. Why couldn’t they look at Flores there? Where’s the vision?

SHORTSTOP: Publicly, they support Ruben Tejada, but almost as visible have been their efforts to land Stephen Drew and trade for Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Neither is imminent, and the Orioles and Rays also have interest in Franklin. If they really wanted him, they should have acted weeks ago.

Shortstop remains a black hole, but I see Tejada winning the job by default because the Mets are skittish about giving Drew the money and surrendering prospects for Franklin. Anticipate Tejada as the Opening Day shortstop, with much criticism to follow.

LEADOFF HITTER: Collins prefers Eric Young, which is the best choice. However, where does that leave Juan Lagares? That’s the rub.

If Young plays, the outfield would include him, Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.

This isn’t softball, so there is no extra outfielder. For the purposes of his development, Lagares should play fulltime, either up here or in the minor leagues.

If it is here, they are wasting Eric Young. They also have no idea if Lagares can hit at this level.

One possibility is to go with Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the extra outfielder – both can play center – and give Lagares his at-bats in Triple-A Las Vegas.

PITCHING; Both the rotation and bullpen are seemingly set, but there’s the Jenrry Mejia question: Rotation or bullpen?

If they aren’t going to use Mejia in the rotation in the majors, they should use him as a starter in Las Vegas.