Apr 10

Whose Lineup Is It Really?

GM Sandy Alderson took a not-so subtle poke at Mets manager Terry Collins the other day when he interrupted the latter’s pregame press conference and said, “Hey, Terry, here’s your lineup for tomorrow.”

Now, I’m not saying Alderson handed Collins a lineup and said, “use this,” but I do believe he’s had a lot of influence in what is put on the field.

Curtis Granderson hitting first, David Wright second, projected leadoff hitter Juan Lagares sixth and the pitcher eighth is not what was practiced during spring training, and, of course, there are questions why?

The front office routinely talks with the manager about lineups, but I doubt a manager with far more job security would accept this influence, and definitely not the ribbing Alderson gave. Bruce Bochy wouldn’t have. Neither would have Joe Torre or Tony La Russa or Sparky Anderson.

All this seems to be a jab at Collins, whom Alderson said he wasn’t supportive of in his book. How can anybody not see that? Surely, it had to make Collins uncomfortable, although he wouldn’t say anything. How could he?

The Mets’ unconventional lineup has drawn attention throughout baseball, to which Alderson told reporters: “I think what happened is people were surprised by the lineup. People don’t like surprises, whether it’s the media or fans or other people in baseball who’ve got everything figured out. So when there’s a surprise like that, people are scrambling around for some sort of rationale or explanation. Sometimes it gets a little crazy. That’s what I chalk it up to — mostly.”

That’s one or the reasons why there is spring training as teams work to avoid surprises. Why practice something and then deviate?

It makes no sense.

 

Apr 08

Mets Game Wrap: DeGrom Falls Short; Offense Sputters

SCORE: Washington 2, Mets 1.

RECORD: 1-1.

THE SKINNY: It’s painful to waste strong outings by the starter, but that’s what the Mets did Wednesday behind Jacob deGrom. The Mets’ offense sputtered and left the bases loaded in the second against Jordan Zimmerman.

GAME SUMMARY: Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer off deGrom and the Mets’ new look line-up offered just six hits.

PITCHING:  Under normal circumstances, the Mets would take what deGrom gave them every night, two runs in six innings. … Rafael Montero pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

HITTING:  Could we please forget about this line-up? … The Mets bunched together three hits for a run in the second, with Travis d’Arnaud getting a RBI single. However, they left the bases loaded. … David Wright singled in the eighth for his first hit of the season.

NOTES:  Prior to the game GM Sandy Alderson poked his head into Terry Collins‘ office and joked he had the lineup. Always with the jokes is Alderson.

UP NEXT: The Mets conclude their first series of the season Thursday in an afternoon game with Matt Harvey starting against Stephen Strasburg.

Apr 08

The Bizarre World Of The Mets’ Batting Order

Welcome to the sometimes puzzling, and often maddening world of the New York Mets, where one can’t help but wonder how long before the Sandy Alderson-Terry Collins inevitable explosion.

Tick, tick, tick …

ALDERSON: What color is the sky in his world? (AP)

ALDERSON: What color is the sky in his world? (AP)

From now on I should refer to Alderson as the Mets’ general manager/manager because he seems hell bent on undermining Collins. The Mets’ lineup, bizarre to say the least, is there again for the baseball world to laugh at in the second game of the season.

Here goes and I hope you’re not eating:

Curtis Granderson, rf: One of the few legitimate Mets’ power hitters is at the top of the order instead of the middle where he would benefit from more RBI opportunities. That he walked twice Opening Day is irrelevant.

David Wright, 3b: Normally a team’s best hitter – the combination of power and average – bats third, yet Wright, who is coming off a strong spring training is second. Until Monday, he hadn’t hit there since 2010.

Lucas Duda, 1b: Yes, he had two RBI Monday, but he’s coming off a 30-homer season and is the club’s best power hitter. That means fourth.

Michael Cuddyer, lf: He needs to bat fifth to separate lefty hitters Duda and Granderson. Did the Mets really sign him to be a clean-up hitter?

Daniel Murphy, 2b: I can buy, in part, the reasoning of batting Murphy lower to give him more RBI chances. But, he’s not a power hitter and batting second would offer the best protection to a potential base stealer.

Juan Lagares, cf: After spending all spring trying to develop into a leadoff hitter – and he did a good job – they yank him from that role and bury him sixth. By the way, he is that potential base stealer. But, he’s not likely to do much running this low in the order.

Travis d’Arnaud, c: Off all the slots in the order, this makes the most sense. But, he’s certainly not the type of hitter that can take pitches to help Lagares.

Jacob deGrom, rhp: Yes, they are doing with the nonsense of batting the pitcher eighth. This was Tony La Russa’s attempt to re-invent the wheel. Question: If La Russa was such a genius, why didn’t more manager follow his lead with this? By the way, Alderson and La Russa worked together in Oakland, so it is clear to see whose fingerprints are all over this.

Wilmer Flores, ss: Supposedly, Flores is an offensive player, yet he’s buried ninth.

I’m not blaming Collins for this, because it is obvious this isn’t his call.

 

 

Apr 05

Still Plenty Of Questions For Mets

The Mets have their Opening Day roster, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have questions or concerns. This is a team GM Sandy Alderson said has the potential to win 90 games.

But, it is the spring and everybody has the right to be optimistic – even overly optimistic.

Yes, Matt Harvey is back – and with a chip on his shoulder – but, remember he’s only won 12 games in the major leagues. Also, they are without four pitchers – Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Zack Wheeler and Bobby Parnell – expected to be key members of the rotation, and replacing them forced serious damage control to their roster.

There’s reason to be hopeful about the season, but for it to be a truly successful summer, the following questions must be answered in the positive: (Note: I will revisit these questions through out the season.)

1. What can the Mets reasonably expect from Harvey?

Answer: He had a good spring training, but coming off Tommy John surgery they’ll be cautious. Harvey has 12 major league victories in only 36 starts, so expectations must be tempered. Don’t go thinking 20 wins and a Cy Young. The Mets would take 15 wins and for him to be healthy by October.

2. What happens to Bartolo Colon this year?

Answer: The Opening Day starter had a horrible spring training. The decision was based on winning 15 games and throwing over 200 innings last season. The Mets wanted to trade him during the winter, but found no takers.

3. An encore year for Jacob deGrom?

Answer: Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year was 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and with Zack Wheeler gone for the season, he’ll need a significant boost in his numbers for the Mets to entertain thoughts of being competitive.

4. Will it ever happen for Jon Niese?

Answer: Your guess is as good as mine. At one time Niese was a hot property. However, being left-handed and with a manageable contract have not been enough to offset his 52-51 career record over seven years; a career-high 13 wins in 2012; 17 victories in the past two years; and an injury history that has allowed him to make as many as 30 starts only three times.

5. How long a leash will the Mets give Dillon Gee?

Answer: Let’s face it, if he were pitching a no-hitter, they’d yank him in the seventh inning if somebody called with a trade offer. They waited to name him to the rotation, and if he falters at all there will be talk of Rafael Montero taking his place.

6. Can the Mets trio of lefty relievers do the job?

Answer: An on-going question this spring was whether they’d find a viable left-hander in the bullpen. In the final week they opted to keep Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin, and then traded for Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. You wouldn’t be wrong asking yourself if something were deficient with these guys, otherwise why would they be so available?

7. Can Jenrry Mejia hold the fort until Bobby Parnell returns?

Answer: After being bounced around from the bullpen to the rotation, Mejia assumed the closer role when Parnell went down with an elbow injury and responded with 28 saves, which is six more than Parnell had in his best year. Terry Collins said it is Parnell’s job when he comes off the disabled list. When that happens perhaps the bullpen can settle down into roles.

8. Will the Mets stabilize the rest of their bullpen?

Answer: Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Carlos Torres haven’t had a great spring, and Collins is trying to find roles for Montero and Buddy Carlyle. It appeared at the start of spring training the Mets had the foundation of a solid bullpen. But, without Edgin, Black and Parnell, the Mets are in potentially a lot of trouble.

9. When will Travis d’Arnaud evolve from the prospect stage?

Answer: A trip to the minor leagues helped d’Arnaud in the second half of last season, but he’s still not close to where the Mets hope he’ll be. If d’Arnaud gets off to a slow start, there will be clamoring for Kevin Plawecki.

10. Is Lucas Duda worth that contract extension?

Answer: The Mets tabled talks on a four-year, $31-million extension until next offseason. If he comes through with another 30-homer, 90-RBI summer, he’ll be worth the deal.

11. What will the Mets do with Daniel Murphy?

Answer: Because he’s making $8-million this year and will not be resigned, the Mets will make every effort to deal him by the trade deadline. They might even make a trade regardless of how well they are doing just to save some money.

12. What kind of patience will they show Wilmer Flores?

Answer: Because he had a good spring training and the Mets were preoccupied with a myriad of issues and injuries, Flores was mostly ignored. Rest assured, however, if Flores gets off to a slow start, there will be mutterings of replacing him.

13. Will David Wright regain his stroke?

Answer: Wright’s 162-game averages are 25 homers and 101 RBI, figures he hasn’t reached since 2010. Injuries limited him less than 155 games played in all but two years since 2010. Wright’s stroke is totally dependent on staying healthy.

14. Will Juan Lagares be worth the extension?

Answer: This is not a move the Mets have traditionally made with their own prospects so this is a gamble in every sense. He’s already proven he can field as evidenced by winning the Gold Glove Award, but he must improve his on-base percentage and cut his strikeouts if he’s to excel in the leadoff slot.

15. What is the power range for Curtis Granderson?

Answer: The Mets don’t expect him to hit forty as he did twice with the Yankees, but they’d like him to hit more than the 20 he did last season in his first as a Met. There was talk of hitting him in the leadoff spot, but 141 strikeouts are contrary to success hitting first.

16. Can Michael Cuddyer hit like a former NL batting champion?

Answer: Cuddyer hit .331 in winning the NL crown in 2012, and was at .332 last year when injuries cut short his season. The Mets aren’t expecting him to hit for power, but he hit six homers this spring. The Mets are planning to bat him fifth behind Duda.

17. Just how long before their decision to use contractual decisions to build their Opening Day roster hurt them?

Answer: It could happen any time. Gilmartin, Carlyle and reserve outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis are on the Opening Day roster primarily because of contractual obligations. In addition, they will be without role player Eric Campbell and be forced to carry eight relievers. In addition, did the Mets put their best pitching staff together by leaving off Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz?

18. What one stat could best determine if the Mets are to become competitive?

Answer: There are dozens of stats the Mets must improve on, but their 4-15 record against the Washington Nationals is arguably the most telling. Even if they were just 8-11 last year that would put them over .500 for the season.

19. How important is a fast start?

Answer: Huge would be an understatement. Apart from screwed up notion of playing three interleague games against the Yankees, the Mets schedule is entirely within the NL East. They’ll have three games against the Nationals; six against Atlanta; three against Philadelphia and four against Miami. There should be no excuse not to make a statement within the division.

20. Will there be a time when Collins and Alderson clash?

Answer: Undoubtedly yes. The make-up of the Opening Day roster has already caused head scratching. What should really tell us something is what happens if the Mets are competitive at the trade deadline and Alderson doesn’t pull the trigger on a deal.

 

Mar 29

Alderson Facing A Lot Of Questions This Week

The Mets are entering the final week of their eventful spring training. Unless the Mets make a surprise trade – and what are the odds of that? – there shouldn’t be any notable additions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t decisions to be made.

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

And, if you’ve followed closely, you know GM Sandy Alderson will make the final call on those decisions with only a minimal input from manager Terry Collins. The most successful teams have collaboration between the GM and the manager, usually based on respect, but that’s not the basis of this relationship. When the GM tells an author of his eroding confidence in his manager, what does that tell you?

So, operating under the theory this is Alderson’s team, here is what he must decide:

LEFTY RELIEVER: With Scott Rice optioned out, the thinking in Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin will get the nod over Dario Alvarez. There’s been talk about going outside, but that’s been going on all spring.

DISABLED LIST: There have been reports of Daniel Murphy and Vic Black being ready for Opening Day, but it’s a long season so why push it?

SECOND BASE: If not Murphy, then who? Alderson discusses Danny Muno or Matt Reynolds, but ignores Ruben Tejada, who is supposed to be the backup.

LEADOFF HITTER: They really don’t have one in the traditional sense, but based on their options it should be Juan Lagares. Quite simply, Curtis Granderson has more value as a run producer in the middle of the order.

BATTING ORDER: Primarily because of the juggling at the leadoff spot, there’s been little consistency in the order. We’ve seen the Mets have over 100 different batting order combinations in recent seasons. Unfortunately, it could be that way again.

ROTATION ORDER: Most teams who already know their rotation would have an order. Not the Mets.

So, Alderson has a lot to think about this week.