Jul 04

Collins Gets Confidence Vote; Pressure Squarely On Alderson Now

Mets GM Sandy Alderson gave beleaguered manager Terry Collins a “vote of confidence,’’ which traditionally is rarely a good sign. If the clock hadn’t been ticking on Collins yet, it is now.

Traditionally, that’s how these things go.

ALDERSON: Spares Collins for now. (AP)

ALDERSON: Spares Collins for now. (AP)

What winning Friday accomplished was give the Mets a winning record (41-40) at the halfway point, and for one night at least alleviated some of the pressure Collins spoke about Thursday.

The Mets flew into Los Angeles with speculation – on this site, also – they would lose to Clayton Kershaw Friday and Zack Greinke Saturday. At least, that’s how smart money had it.

The Mets have had an unprecedented number of injuries this season, beginning in spring training with the loss of Zack Wheeler and as now nobody knows when David Wright will return. Currently nine Mets are on the disabled list.

The injuries, coupled with absolutely little offensive production – they’ve scored one or fewer runs 21 times and have been shut out nine times – have put a tremendous strain on the young pitching staff.

“I think to put all of this on Terry would be grossly unfair,’’ Alderson said. “We’re a .500 team. We haven’t been moving in the right direction. I understand that. We’ve had a lot of people hurt for long periods of time.

“We’ve got some young guys in particular that are not hitting. We’ve got some older players that have had to try to carry the load. I think to put all of this on Terry would be grossly unfair. So from that standpoint, there’s absolutely no consideration of that.

“This is not a Terry Collins watch. … As I said, I think it’s very unfair to put a lot of the way we’ve played over the last few weeks on Terry.’’

We all know Collins can’t hit or field for his players. The pressure shifts to Alderson to give the Mets’ impotent offense a new bat or two.

It would have been good for Alderson to say: “The pressure is on me to give this team some offensive help. It’s up to me to give Terry and our pitchers some help.’’

But, Alderson didn’t say that … he didn’t need to because that’s what everybody is thinking.


Jul 01

Mets’ July Schedule Makes It Imperative For Alderson To Do Something Now

I couldn’t help but wonder what Mets GM Sandy Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – was thinking last night when his team was shut out for the eighth time. And, the fourth time by a 1-0 score.

Perhaps he was mulling over his Twitter account and what 140-character quips he might treat us with. Hopefully, he was thinking about the July schedule that will define this season. If he was, hopefully he was overcome by a sense of urgency. Somehow, I doubt it.

ALDERSON: Take off the shades and see what's going on.  (AP)

ALDERSON: Take off the shades and see what’s going on. (AP)

Alderson’s first priority when he was hired was to shave the payroll, and then develop a competitive team. He did the payroll bit. Gone are Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana and Jason Bay. Also gone are Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.

The payroll is down. Alderson did his job marvelously in that regard, although the parting with Reyes was a bit sloppy. Actually, for a team in New York, the Mets’ payroll of just over $100 million is too low.

For the first time since 2008, the Mets are competitive. They lived off the buffer of an 11-game winning streak in April and go into Wednesday’s game with the Cubs two games over .500 and in second place 3.5 games behind the Nationals. We would have signed up for that in a heartbeat entering the season, but after spending several days in the rarified air of 10 games above .500, we want more.

And, with one solid pitching start after another being wasted, it’s frustrating, if not aggravating, to have Alderson tell us the “market is thin.’’ It makes us angry that he gives the appearance of sitting on his hands.

I don’t care how thin the market is, do something to get some hitting. Michael Cuddyer won’t play before Friday at the earliest. … The bench is ridiculously thin. … The Mets have used three third basemen since David Wright was injured and there’s no prospect of his return.

Quit frankly, waiting for Daniel Murphy to come off the disabled list wasn’t the answer we wanted to hear.

OK, I get it, Sandy, you don’t want to trade any of your top four prospect pitchers – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz – and that’s fine. At least it is fine for right now.

However, nobody is ringing your phone for Jon Niese, Dillon Gee or Bartolo Colon.

The market might be lean, but it’s your job to find a nugget. It’s your job to push the envelope and put together a package to make a trade for somebody nobody is thinking about. It’s your job to find a taker for Niese and the others. It’s also your job to realistically look at the four foundation pitchers and ascertain their trade value. And, also project who will be hardest to sign and keep. That last thing shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

What’s better, keeping all four and missing the playoffs, or trading one and possibly getting in?

If the playoffs began today, the Mets would be on the outside with 83 victories. It would be a winning season, but not what we want.

Now that the payroll is manageable, it is your job to do something to make the playoffs happen.

If you can’t, or won’t, make a deal, then I don’t want to hear about not rushing young prospects like Michael Conforto, or Matt Reynolds, or Brandon Nimmo. The young pitchers are here, so let’s see about the young hitters. We all know this isn’t really about preserving their fragile psyche as much as it is delaying the service time clock. If you wait too long, the window might be closed.

And, by a window I mean July’s brutal schedule that includes three games with the Giants, seven with the Dodgers, three with St. Louis and four with Washington. Of those 17 games, only five are at home.

Let’s face it, the season could be over by July 31 and you know it. Moves must be made now.

Sandy, you and ownership asked the Mets’ fan base to be patient and they have. Now that they see a glimmer of what could be, they want it. And, it is your job to deliver.

Now, do your job.

Jun 27

More Head Scratching From Alderson

The more the Mets Sandy – the game’s smartest general manager – Alderson speaks, the more frustrating he becomes.

ALDERSON: What's he seeing?  (AP)

ALDERSON: What’s he seeing? (AP)

After doing little outside acquiring Michael Cuddyer in the offseason, he now says he’s willing to “overpay’’ to get hitting help. All along, the said the asking price for free-agents was too high, and he isn’t willing to trade their young pitching.

“I would characterize it as somewhat aggressive,’’ Alderson said Friday of the Mets’ approach to get a hitter. “Are we prepared to overpay? Me personally, yeah, I’m prepared to overpay. But there has to be something to overpay for.”

You mean, like Curtis Granderson?

When the sticker price for a car is $30,000, you’re not going to tell the dealer, “look, I’m willing to pay 35,000 for this car.”

But, that’s pretty much what Alderson did. Alderson’s rep is that he asks for too much, or isn’t willing to give up much, to make a deal. Now, he’s willing to overpay.

Makes no sense. Then again, what does?

Jun 26

Mets’ Six-Man Rotation: Take Two

For the second time this season, the Mets will go with a six-man rotation. The first time was earlier this month when Dillon Gee came off the disabled list, but quickly fizzled when he was hammered. This time, it is to squeeze Steven Matz into the rotation. He’ll start Sunday against Cincinnati.

Prior to Noah Syndergaard‘s 2-1, eight-inning gem Friday over the Reds, GM Sandy Alderson told reporters the Mets were committed to this move. Then again, that’s what Alderson and manager Terry Collins said the first time.

“We’re going to go to a six-man rotation,” Alderson said. “I expect that will continue for a period of time and we’ll see where it goes.”

Alderson wouldn’t define “period of time.”

Matz is 24, left-handed and throws gas. There’s a lot to like about him opposed to Jon Niese, whose career has been on a steady decline the past few years.

The Mets have six starters, but still aren’t scoring any runs. They only scored two tonight and would have lost if not for Syndergaard. Matz increases the depth of the rotation, but the Mets are still a team that can’t score.

There were considerable rumblings when the six-man rotation was initially bagged it was because those in the rotation – notably Matt Harvey - didn’t want to pitch with too much rest.

“This arrangement has been discussed with the other five pitchers,” Alderson said. “I think they understand it’s in their interest.”

We’ll see.

The Mets came across as unprepared and in a panic mode the first time they did this, and it’s no different now. As mentioned several times here, this juggling could have been alleviated had the Mets adopted a concrete plan to limit innings going into the season, but Harvey balked.

Once again, the Mets are flying by the seat of their pants.

Jun 26

DeGrom Doesn’t Erase Issues Surrounding Mets

As great as Jacob deGrom was for the Mets Thursday, one lone start is not enough to create the perception of them as a playoff team. DeGrom’s eight scoreless innings enabled the Mets to beat Milwaukee, 2-0, at Miller Park, but did nothing to diminish the growing number of questions swirling around his team.

DE GROM: Brilliant Thursday. (AP)

DE GROM: Brilliant Thursday. (AP)

The Mets were 36-30 when their road trip began, and their record is now 37-37. In the end, all the Mets’ 11-game winning streak in April did was prevent the bottom from totally falling out. The Mets scored 11 runs during their 1-7 trip. They were shut out twice and scored more than two runs once. Five of those seven losses were by two or fewer runs.

It tells you two things that the Mets are 19-18 in games decided by two or fewer runs: 1) they are competitive team, which is what the front office promised, and 2) they are still too flawed to reach the next level.

Playoff caliber teams win close games and the Mets simply aren’t winning enough. But, if you had been told before the season that the Mets would be sitting in second place at .500 at the end of June you would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

However, their improbable 11-game winning streak ratcheted the expectations of the Mets. What was once competing for a wild card spot changed to winning the division and going deep into the playoffs. It’s not that way any more.

However, this trip illustrates flaws the Mets haven’t been able to overcome:

* The Mets can’t win on the road, evidenced by an 11-26 record away from Citi Field. DeGrom can’t win them all, so there’s no sign this will change.

* The Mets can’t score. They have a minus-18 runs differential. In contrast, the Nationals have a plus-28 runs differential and scored 58 more runs. Like the Mets, the Nationals had early-season injuries, but they’ve been able to overcome them. They are 3.5 games ahead of the Mets and if that lead increases by much in the next 15 games prior to the All-Star break, they won’t be caught.

* The infield defense is atrocious. The best alignment has Wilmer Flores at third base or second, with Ruben Tejada at shortstop. There have been reports the Mets could be moving toward that thinking, but nothing official.

* We keep hearing rumblings Steven Matz will be promoted, and with that again the possibility of a six-man rotation. However, Matz does nothing to improve their offense, and the resulting demotion of Jon Niese only diminishes is already minimal trade value.

* The Mets have been hamstrung by injuries, with Travis d’Arnaud going back on the disabled list and David Wright not having any timetable for his return.

Finally, there is growing speculation manager Terry Collins’ job security is tenuous, which unfortunately is the way of the world. Collins unquestionably has flaws, but the real fault for the Mets’ slide since they were 15-5 has to be directed at ownership, which won’t spend, and GM Sandy Alderson, which hasn’t proven he can make the big trade.

There is a sense of urgency from the Mets’ fan base to do something, to do anything, but the Wilpons and Alderson don’t seem to be listening.