Jun 25

Striking Similarities Between This Year And Last For Mets

The similarities between this year and last are striking and the struggling Mets can only hope the results will be the same, which would be a long jaunt into October. Last year on this date, the Mets were floundering at 37-37 and 3.5 games behind the also struggling Washington Nationals.

CESPEDES: Bad on the bases.  (Getty)

CESPEDES: Bad on the bases. (Getty)

The Mets entered Saturday’s game in Atlanta with a better record (39-33) and closer to the Nationals (three games behind) than last season, yet there is a growing sense of urgency. Things would be a lot worse if the Nationals haven’t lost seven straight games.

Last summer GM Sandy Alderson was under pressure to revive the Mets’ listless offense, which was without David Wright, by making a trade – that turned out to be for Yoenis Cespedes – and bringing up Michael Conforto.

This year, with Wright again on the disabled list, the Mets hope to jumpstart their stagnant offense by bringing back Jose Reyes – which nobody expects will have an impact similar to Cespedes – and bringing up Brandon Nimmo and sending down Conforto.

When Conforto came up last year, he made an immediate positive impression, which didn’t go away until May of this year. Manager Terry Collins said when he saw Conforto had a “deer in the headlights” look Friday night, he knew it was time to make a move. The numbers screamed the same with an average of .107 over his last 25 games.

“I think in talking with the coaching staff and the manager, we just felt that, look, this is counterproductive and what we need to do is get him to Las Vegas, get his swing back, and then hopefully get him back here within a relatively short period of time,” Alderson told reporters.

What does that mean?

As much as I want to see what Nimmo can do, I don’t like the idea of him going back down right away, because we all know he’s not here to ride the bench. I’m also not crazy about the Mets’ thinking as to Nimmo’s future. He played center at Vegas, and although Cespedes is a Gold Glove Award winning left field, Nimmo will play left and Cespedes will stay in center.

Nimmo, after traveling most of the night – which only reinforces the notion the Mets need their Triple-A team to be closer – was on the bench tonight and is expected to start Sunday.

Speaking of playing out of position, Reyes is expected to play third and possibly some center, where he’s never played before on this level. At one time Reyes was a prolific base stealer who was stellar at shortstop. Those days are gone.

“Do we expect him to win the National League battle title this year the way he did in 2011? No,” Alderson said. “Has he lost a step maybe? Is he the premier shortstop that he once was? It doesn’t really matter – he’s not going to play shortstop. So we’ve taken all of those things into account. We think he can help us. You know, from a motivational standpoint, I don’t think we would be able to find a player who is more determined, more highly motivated to perform than Jose is today.”

The motivation comes in Reyes’ desire to save his career after a domestic violence incident that landed him a 50-game suspension.

“He understands the mistake he made and has taken responsibility for it,” Alderson said. “But at the same time, he doesn’t deserve to be ostracized.”

While Reyes isn’t the same player he once was, it’s a safe bet he’s still better on the bases than Cespedes, who was picked off first Friday night without diving back which resulted in a twisted ankle. And Saturday he dogged it and was thrown out at second going in standing up.

Both were mind cramps, which is also similar to 2015. However, if Cespedes gets the benefit of doubt and was injured and couldn’t slide, he shouldn’t have been in the lineup.

That’s on Collins and Alderson.

 

Jun 22

Mets Need To Be Cautious Regarding Gourriel

The Mets working out Cuban defector Yulieski Gourriel is one thing. Signing him to a multi-year, exorbitant salary is another, regardless of Yoenis Cespedes‘ endorsement. The Mets are among a half-dozen, major league teams interested in the 32-year-old infielder. The group includes the Angels and Dodgers, Giants, Astros and Yankees.

Gourriel is MLB’s latest flavor of the month in its voyage into international waters. He’s a hot name, but that doesn’t mean he’s the right fit for the Mets. It also doesn’t mean he isn’t the right fit.

“We’re going to do our due diligence on that player,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters. “So we’ve made arrangements to do that. At the same time, this player hasn’t seen live pitching for weeks if not months. It’s not clear how long a player in that situation would take to be ready. And, of course, there is the investment and all the other issues – and making an evaluation currently of the player based on workouts and not game competition. But we’re going to go through that process.”

Here are the red flags in signing Gourriel:

* The Mets are without David Wright for an undermined period, and while Gourriel could plug the hole at third base, a quick sign smacks of panic. Nobody knows if Gourriel is the right answer. By the same token, nobody knows if Wilmer Flores won’t develop into the right answer.

* Regardless of what numbers Gourriel put up in Cuba, it wasn’t against major league pitching. Nobody knows for sure how good he can be. To compare Major League Baseball to leagues outside the United States falls under the guise of political correctness. It’s baseball, so isn’t it all the same? Not even close. On that note, that’s why it is insulting to suggest Ichiro Suzuki should be the all-time hit leader. Nope, that’s Pete Rose. Period.

* As good as Cespedes has been, remember the world was once Yasiel Puig‘s oyster, too That quickly soured. There are no sure things when it comes to Cuban shopping. Speaking of Cespedes, what’s his endorsement really worth if he’s able to walk after this year? If he said, `Sign him and I’ll stay,’ that would mean something more.

* Gourriel is listed as 32, but as often the case with Latin players reported age is often not accurate as there are widespread incidents of them lying about their age, stating they are younger as to not scare away major league scouts. Birth records, when available, aren’t always accurate.

* There’s been nothing reported as to Gourriel’s salary expectations, but we can assume it won’t be cheap. If the Mets are willing to shell out big bucks, I would rather they spend it in two ways: 1) to lock up some of their young pitching, and 2) on proven bats in the free-agent market on players with proven talents.

Clearly, there’s a lot for the Mets to consider in signing Gourriel. In the big picture, I don’t know how good Gourriel can be. Nobody does. Signing him is akin to walking down a flight of stairs in the dark. Better be careful.

Jun 08

What’s Your Concern Level For Mets?

We know the Mets aren’t playing well, but are they in trouble? They have coughed and sputtered for the past six weeks, and if not for their outstanding starting pitching, they could have conceivably fallen back to .500 if not below.

So what’s your concern level with the Mets?

In addition to a month-long hitting funk, there have been injuries and bullpen lapses. For all their home runs, this team hasn’t hit with runners in scoring position, has a low on-base percentage and strikes out way too much.

I liked reacquiring Kelly Johnson, but considering the depth of their offensive funk he won’t be enough.

For the most part the pitching has been good, but their three top starters came away empty in Pittsburgh.

Last season the Mets’ hitting slump began around this time before the overhaul that brought in Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Juan Uribe and Johnson at the trade deadline.

It remains to be seen what GM Sandy Alderson can accomplish before July 31. The next month should tell the Mets what they might get from Lucas Duda and David Wright in the second half and the level of urgency for Alderson to deal.

It’s premature to say the Mets can’t get back to the World Series, but it isn’t too early to draw the conclusion from now until All-Star break can be very telling as they have three more games with Pittsburgh; two against Kanas City; three with the Marlins; four against the Cubs and seven with the Nationals.

In trouble? Not yet, but there is cause for concern.

May 24

Mets Wrap: Time To Send Out Harvey; A Dozen Reasons Why He Stinks

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

The question regarding Matt Harvey is basic: What next?

It would be a controversial decision, but should be a very simple one for the Mets. Either the Mets stick with Harvey to let him work his way out of this – even if it means taking more lumps – or he should be sent to the minor leagues or disabled list to rediscover himself.

“We’re not going to do anything rash tonight,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We’re going to sleep on it and discuss it tomorrow.”

Harvey had nothing to say because in a bush league move he bolted after the game without speaking and left it up to Collins, catcher Kevin Plawecki and his teammates to speak for him.

Twice Plawecki told reporters, “you watched the game.”

Previously, I advocated sticking with Harvey, but after giving up three homers in Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss at Washington, I’ve gone to the replay and upon further review think a change of scenery is the best option.

Going to Las Vegas should be seriously discussed, but the Mets have always gone out of their way to massage Harvey’s fragile ego, so they could manufacture a reason to put him on the disabled list, which eliminates the stigma of the minor leagues.

Either one should be GM Sandy Alderson’s choice for a variety of reasons:

* They can send him down to Triple-A Las Vegas or Double-A Binghamton if they want a closer look and let him work on everything, from conditioning to mechanics. The disabled list accomplishes the same objective. It’s the best option in it enables him to pitch without costing the Mets games.

* Harvey’s brief outings deplete the bullpen.

* It eliminates the between-starts distraction Harvey has become. What’s wrong with him? Will he make his next start? What’s wrong with him? And, another question: What’s wrong with him?

The answer could be one of many or a combination of a several. His velocity is down and command is off, but why?

Here are my theories, which I call “Harvey’s Dirty Dozen,’’ to explain why Harvey is 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA:

* Not enough work in spring training: Collins suggested Harvey’s early sluggishness was because the Mets reduced his workload to almost half of what is considered normal for a starter. That’s on Collins and Alderson. This would partially explain Harvey’s mechanical issues.

* Innings workload in 2015: This is on Collins and Alderson for not developing a definitive workload or program. It’s also on Harvey for continually pushing the envelope. Even his agent, Scott Boras, said Harvey wanted to pitch

* He’s hurt: Harvey denies this, but considering his history of withholding physical ailments, this option can’t be ignored.

* He’s out of shape: Yes, there have been cases with Mickey Lolich and Sid Fernandez, but there’s his growing paunch. His stamina is down and his mechanics aren’t crisp, so his conditioning must be considered. How can that not be a factor in his inability to make through the middle innings?

* Overcompensation for Game 5: He continually says he has no regrets for arguing with Collins to stay in the game and imploded in the ninth. How can he not think back on that game?

* Jealousy in the rotation: In 2013 Harvey was deemed the clear cut ace, but for all the talk of this being a close knit group that thrives on the competition, how can Harvey realistically ignore he’s fifth behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon? As a competitor, how can it not eat at him he’s not “the man,’’ anymore?

* Lack of run support: He’s 2-7 this year with less getting five runs support. But, how does that explain his 6.02 ERA in those games? Bottom line, if you’re a stud pitcher, you have to suck it up and figure out a way to win those games.

* He buys into the hype: It’s not the media or fans that wrongly placed Harvey on a pedestal, but for him believing he’s a superhero beyond reproach. After Tuesday, Harvey is 28-25 lifetime so let’s go easy on calling him great.

* He’s too sensitive: Harvey has openly clashed with the media to the point where he had a snow globe of a hand extending a middle finger, unquestionably directed at the press. He also had a photo taken of him in his hospital room flashing the bird. He couldn’t handle the innings flap last year or his urinary infection this spring.

* He thinks he knows it all: From withholding his physical problems, which was the first step towards Tommy John surgery. Then there was the arguing over his rehab, and where it would take place, to him forcing his way to the mound. He’s not shy in letting it known he doesn’t trust those around him.

* Tommy John let down: Sometimes a pitcher hits a wall in the second year following Tommy John surgery. Harvey didn’t  just hit a wall, but ran into it head first.

* Supernova: I floated this idea after his last start against the Nationals and it still applies. Maybe this is a good as it will get for Harvey. Maybe Harvey is not the ace the Mets thought. Maybe that’s something we should get used to.

Harvey said the simulated game over the weekend helped, but he gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings against the Nationals. He’s given up 14 runs in his last two games. He’s not close to figuring things out.

Collins gave Harvey the option of skipping Tuesday’s start, but he wanted the ball, which is to be applauded. However, leaving the ballpark without talking was classless.

Maybe he’ll post something on The Player’s Tribune.

METS GAME WRAP

May 24, 2016, @ Washington

Game: #45           Score:  Nationals 7, Mets 4

Record: 26-19     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East 1.5 games behind Nationals. Playoffs Today: First WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 178     Average: 3.95  Times 3 or less: 21

SUMMARY:  The middle innings did in Harvey again. After opening the game with three scoreless innings to provide a glimmer of optimism, but he gave up five runs in the fourth and fifth innings, including homers by Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy.

KEY MOMENT:  Back-to-back homers by Zimmerman and Rendon in the fourth erased a brief Mets’ lead.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera’s homer in the fourth. … Two more hits from Yoenis Cespedes. … Eric Campbell’s two-run homer. … Kudos to SNY’s Nelson Figueroa and Gary Apple for taking Harvey to task for not talking after the game. Also to Ron Darling for suggesting the minor leagues was the best option. … Neil Walker’s diving stop saved Harvey a run in the second.

THUMBS DOWN:  Harvey gave up three homers and the bullpen gave up two more. … Stephen Strasburg and two relievers struck out 15 Mets. … Just five hits. … Lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo gave up a homer to lefty hitter Revere.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play, but is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. … Ty Kelly went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his major league debut.

QUOTEBOOK: “It is what it is,” Plawecki commenting on Harvey leaving him to answer questions.

BY THE NUMBERS:  15: Strikeouts by the Mets for a season high.

NEXT FOR METS:  Matz starts Wednesday afternoon for the Mets.

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May 18

Will We See D’Arnaud Again?

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports Travis d’Arnaud is in California rehabbing his right shoulder with a private trainer, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Mets’ uniform again, much less develop into an All-Star player anywhere.

His inability to stay on the field is rapidly derailing a career that has never gotten off the ground.

D'ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’Arnaud working with a private physical therapist makes me wonder why he isn’t in Port St. Lucie or in New York where he can be around team doctors and officials. When I recall the controversy of where Matt Harvey would rehab his elbow, I wonder why the double standard.

It’s a given the Mets value Harvey more than d’Arnaud, but this detachment makes me think he’ll never make it as the player they hoped he’d be and are beginning the process of cutting ties.

D’Arnaud went on the disabled list April 26 with a right rotator cuff strain, which was aggravated when he tried throwing May 7 in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Alderson said the pain in his shoulder subsided, but couldn’t provide a possible return date. He couldn’t even pinpoint a month.

As for the California question, Alderson said: “He’s more or less as well off out there with somebody who knows him as well as our guys would know him. Right now I can’t give you chapter and verse on exactly what his return [date] is. We have to keep in mind that sometimes when we cite chapter and verse on when he will return, we’re kidding ourselves.”

That was a fairly evasive answer, which we’ve come to expect from Alderson.

The season began with d’Arnaud the starter and Kevin Plawecki the backup. Depending on how the year progressed, one ocould be traded as a catcher with major league experience is a valuable commodity.

Plawecki has proven good defensively, in fact, Mets’ pitchers have a better ERA with him behind the plate. He offense picked up on the last road trip, but he still needs a way to go. Gone are the days when a catcher was supposed to be an offensive force – Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Mike Piazza – as defense is now paramount.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are today’s premier catchers, but Plawecki has potential. Should d’Arnaud play again this season and the debate resurface between him or Plawecki, the Mets must consider his injury history.

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