Nov 10

Mets Should Go With Smith At First

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Mets’ need for a first baseman and where Dominic Smith fits into their plans. By any numerical system – conventional statistics or analytics – Smith did not have a good debut with the Mets last summer.

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

Smith, the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, exceeded his rookie status in 49 games and 167 at-bats last season. He hit .198 with a .262 on-base percentage and .658 OPS. However, those are just numbers, just like his 49 strikeouts (matching the number of games played) and only 14 walks. However, of his 33 hits, nine were homers.

All this has led to columns about the Mets going after Eric Hosmer or reuniting with Jay Bruce – cue singer: “To dream, the impossible dream.’’ – or maybe Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison or Adam Lind.

Smith will earn the major league minimum of $507,500.

Of all the names mentioned, Washington’s Lind, who earned $500,000 last season, is the one most likely to fit into GM Sandy Alderson’s budget. However, Lind has a lifetime .272 average with 200 homers, including 14 last year, so the Mets shouldn’t be so eager to celebrate – or write any checks.

At 34, Lind is probably looking at his last contract. That he also played in 25 games in the outfield last year could work to the Mets’ advantage. His age means he’ll be more likely to accept a one-year deal.

At 31, Santana, who hit 23 homers with 79 RBI for Cleveland, earned $12 million last year. He’ll be looking for at least a three-year deal. He’s too expensive.

At 30, Morrison, would be a great addition. He hit 38 homers with 85 RBI, but would want significantly more than the $2.5 million he made last year with Tampa Bay. Morrison is reported to be interested in Kansas City as the Royals will lose Hosmer.

As for Bruce, it is reported he wants $90 million over five years, but has a lower estimated landing price of $40 million over three years.

Either way, that’s too rich for Alderson’s blood.

All the names linked to the Mets are predicated on them being as competitive as Alderson believes. If they really are – and I’ve heard of nobody other than Alderson who thinks that way – then go for it.

The Mets won 70 games last year and one NL Scout thinks they’ll be lucky to win 80 in 2017, which won’t do it.

“They have too many holes,’’ the scout said. “Even if all their pitching issues work out for them, they just don’t have enough to contend. They need a second baseman and third baseman, and who knows how Amed Rosario will pan out over a full year? There’s also questions at catcher and first base, plus there are concerns about the health of Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto.’’

With a reported $30 million Alderson has to spend, and a large part of that will go in arbitration cases (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores.

So, where does that leave us with Smith?

I don’t think the Mets will be as good as Alderson thinks, but you already knew that, being the negative SOB that I am. If the Mets were a player away and money wasn’t an issue, I’d say go for it.

But, they aren’t.

The Mets will be lucky to finish .500, so why not go with Smith and Flores? Let’s give Smith at least to the All-Star break to see what he has, or platoon him with Flores.

In what figures to be another losing season, let’s see if they can find a nugget in Smith. It’s a better option than throwing a lot of money at a player who won’t turn things around and will be gone in a couple of years.

Oct 23

Callaway Era Begins

Sure, it was a gamble, and nobody knows how Mickey Callaway will pan out as the 21st manager in Mets’ history, but after listening to him this afternoon GM Sandy Alderson deserves credit for thinking outside the box.

I wondered yesterday whether Callaway represents a risk as to whether Alderson reached out and got the Mets a nugget or whether he was seduced by a hot “flavor of the month.”

NEW METS ERA

           NEW METS ERA

Alderson said the Mets had on their board a list of roughly 35 names and after their research, they whittled it down to six. Originally, Alderson planned a second round of interviews, but Callaway blew him away with his session.

“All of us came out of [Callaway’s interview] excited for the possibility that Mickey would be our manager,’’ Alderson said. “That’s a visceral reaction, not one that you can put down on a checklist, but to me that said everything. I think it was consistent throughout.’’

Callaway said the feeling was mutual.

“When I sat in the room and listened to the words that Sandy, [assistant general managers J.P. Ricciardi and John Ricco] and [Chief Operating Officer] Jeff [Wilpon] were saying to me and the questions they were asking me, I knew right then we were going to be in alignment in what we wanted,’’ Callaway said. “That’s why I was so excited when I called my family after. The team itself, the pitching is something that can be some of the greatest guys on the planet. So that obviously is very exciting to me.’’

Callaway impressed today at Citi Field with his enthusiasm and charisma.

“First, we’re in the greatest city in the world,’’ Callaway said. “This is one of the greatest franchises in the world. … When I look at the New York Mets, I see a team that can contend and compete with anybody and that’s what we’ll work hard to do.’’

Secondly, and this might be most important, is his pitching background. If the Mets are to get back to the postseason, they must pitch. The 42-year-old Callaway built a staff in Cleveland that included Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Andrew Miller that led the majors in ERA (3.30), strikeouts (1,614) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.1).

Callaway favors fastballs and curveballs opposed to the sliders under former pitching coach Dan Warthen. It will be interesting to see if there is a reduction in the number of sliders thrown and how it might cause a decrease in the injuries that crippled the staff for the past two years.

Callaway has already spoken with several players – but only singled out David Wright – and said he was eager to start making calls. But, one of his first orders of business is working with Alderson and his staff on finding a pitching coach.

“We already have a partial list, we want to make sure it’s as inclusive as possible,’’ Alderson said. “I think Mickey and the front office will work collaboratively to find someone that he’s comfortable with. One of the things that we’re going to do over the next few days is put together a list of potential pitching coaches.

“I think that it’s important to recognize that yes, Mickey is a former pitching coach and it’s important for us because that’s our strength. But at the same time, Mickey will be focused entirely on the 25-man roster and the pitching coach will be very important.’’

While Terry Collins’ name wasn’t mentioned today, there was a disconnect between several of the younger players and the former manager. Callaway vows that won’t happen with him.

“We’re going to care more about the players than anyone has before. We’re going to value their work. Value their dedication,’’ Callaway promised. “I’m going to reach out to the players. I know they got the news obviously from some other source than myself, but I’m going to reach out to them, let them know how excited I am, and we’re going to start this very, very important 2018 offseason. These next three months are going to be critical to what we try to do in the season and we’re going to get to work right away.’’

And, there’s so much work to be done.

Oct 22

Breaking News: Mets To Name Callaway As Manager

Multiple reports are saying the Mets have named Mickey Callaway, the pitching coach of the Indians since 2013 as their new manager, beating out a huge pool of candidates.

Kevin Long, Manny Acta, Bob Geren, Robin Ventura, Joe McEwing and Alex Cora were reportedly among those GM Sandy Alderson was considering.

Callaway will replace Terry Collins, who was forced out and took a position in the team’s front office after a disastrous, injury-filled 70-92 record this season.

Like everybody else considered, Callaway represents a gamble as it remains to be seen whether Alderson reached out and got the Mets a nugget or whether he was seduced by a hot “flavor of the month.”

Callaway, 42, built the Indians’ pitching staff into one of the best as they led the majors in ERA (3.30) and strikeouts (1,614), shutouts (19), complete games (7) and finished third with an opponents’ batting average of just .236. But, don’t forget, he’s not bringing Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer or Carlos Carrasco with him.

Among Callaway’s first priorities is getting, and keeping, the Mets’ young pitchers healthy as the Mets’ season imploded with injuries to Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.

 

 

 

Oct 17

Mets’ Managerial Search Remains Slow

A show of hands please: How many of you are enthralled with the Mets’ managerial search? I’m not either.

Today came word former Mets coach Manny Acta, who managed Washington and Cleveland, will interview later this week. Astros coach Alex Cora, who reportedly is a frontrunner in Boston after his interview Sunday, interviewed today.

The cynic in me suggests the Mets waited until the Astros were in town for the ALCS so they could save on airfare.

Joe McEwing is scheduled to interview Wednesday along with Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway.

Mets hitting coach Kevin Long met with GM Sandy Alderson last week. Former Detroit manager Brad Ausmus rejected the Mets, while Bob Geren, one of the first names mentioned, hasn’t even been contacted. Robin Ventura and Chip Hale were also brought up early, but that was nearly three weeks ago.

Long’s managerial experience is restricted to Single-A.

Again, the most experienced candidate out there is former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, but his name hasn’t been mentioned.

Alderson is waiting for something. I just wish I knew what it was.

NOT BANKING ON FRAZIER: The Mets had their chances at third baseman Todd Frazier in previous winters. They’ll have a chance again this offseason, but it’s not going to happen.

The 31-year-old Frazier made $12 million this season, and can you really expect the Mets to surpass that next year?

You know as well as I do that’s too rich for Alderson’s blood.

At his age, Frazier has one more big payday left and I’m thinking he’ll want three years, and he won’t get it from the Mets.

Oct 13

Why Won’t Alderson Consider Gardenhire?

Reportedly, Ron Gardenhire is one of three finalists for the recently-vacant Boston managerial position, the obvious question must be posed: Where is he on the Mets’ radar?

Of the ten or so mostly non-descript names mentioned to replace Terry Collins – whom the Boston media also lists as a candidate – Gardenhire is clearly the most experienced and qualified possibility.

GARDENHIRE: Should be the one. (AP)

GARDENHIRE: Should be the one. (AP)

Gardenhire, a former Mets infielder, led the Minnesota Twins to six division titles, and five times won at least 90 games. His kryptonite was the Yankees.

I find it incredulous Gardenhire’s name has not been linked to the Mets, despite GM Sandy Alderson stating leadership was the prime factor he valued in a manager.

The Mets knew months ago they were moving on from Collins, and yet they aren’t any closer to hiring a manager than they were when they announced he wasn’t coming back. John Farrell was fired as Red Sox manager Wednesday, yet not two days later The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported Gardenhire was a finalist.

Gardenhire is a fundamentalist, and his teams always played the game the right way, played hard and rarely beat themselves. He has been described as old-school, yet a teacher who can relate to young players. He is respected by players and opposing managers and executives.

So, why won’t Alderson give him the time of day? Is it because he’s old-school? Is it the money? Is it a losing record in the playoffs? Is Alderson afraid of a high-profile manager? Doesn’t Alderson want to win?

If Alderson is truly committed to returning the Mets to contending status, he is doing ownership, his players and New York fans a disservice by not putting a call into Gardenhire.

I’m sure he can get the number.