May 20

Mets Facing Critical Juncture To Season

Every season has its critical juncture and for the Mets it is now after Bartolo Colon‘s 41-year-old arm was mauled tonight by major league’s best team in St. Louis. The Mets’ 11-game winning streak and eight-game lead over Washington has faded from euphoria to the cusp of panic after Colon was ripped.

We’ve seen hot streaks from the Mets morph into inescapable slides before. The Mets’ 9-0 loss coupled with the Nationals beating the Yankees, 3-2, tonight, leaves Washington in sole possession of first place in the National League East and begs the question: Can manager Terry Collins‘ team recover?

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

After a 13-3 start, the Mets are 10-15, including 3-7 over their last ten games. They aren’t hitting. Their starting pitching has faltered recently with Colon, Jon Niese and Thursday’s starter, Jacob deGrom. They haven’t won behind Matt Harvey in three starts and blew 1-0 leads in his last two. Their defense has been poor.

In two respects, the Mets’ hopes to regroup are tied to two gambles by GM Sandy Alderson: 1) the signing of Colon, whom they hoped would stem the tide tonight, and 2) the decision to see how David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud come back from the disabled list before attempting to trade for a hitter to aid their faltering offense.

The estimate on their returns is at least two weeks, and nobody knows where the Mets will be in the standings by then. Don’t forget, they lost eight games in the standings to the Nationals in a little over three weeks. Bryce Harper is hot; Stephen Strasburg is back.

It is possible the Mets could respond from tonight’s mugging and win another 11 in a row. Then again, they could continue their funk. They have another game with the Cardinals Thursday, then three in Pittsburgh before playing the Phillies, who are now playing well.

In many ways Colon personifies Alderson’s patchwork approach in building this team. Colon was signed as a stopgap after Harvey was injured. They eschewed going after a big name free-agent in favor of Colon, who was signed to eat innings and win about a dozen games. Colon won 15 games last season and sought his seventh tonight. Colon gave up five homers in splitting his previous four starts, and was hammered tonight, giving up nine runs on 11 hits – including two homers – and a pair of walks in 4.1 innings.

Meanwhile, for all the talk about the Mets’ ailing offense, it wouldn’t have mattered tonight against Colon and Tuesday against Niese, who is also proving not to be an answer.

Lately, there have been more questions than answers for the Mets, including this big one: Can they pull it together?

 

May 19

Mets Matters: No Offensive Help In Sight

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he’s not pursuing immediate trade options to improve the offense, and instead will wait to see what spark David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud might provide when they come off the disabled list.

No surprise in that stance.mets-matters logo

Alderson said neither player would be activated soon.

“I don’t think you can expect [Wright] back sooner than a week, maybe 10 days, maybe even two weeks,’’ Alderson said. “I’d say the same with d’Arnaud. I think a week is way too aggressive. It’s going to be a little bit longer than that.’’

I’ve said this a dozen times, but when it comes to injuries and the Mets, always bet the over.

Of course, not much would have helped tonight.

NIESE SLAUGHTERED

After Jon Niese’s last start, manager Terry Collins said the left-hander had to work harder to overcome in-game adversity.

It didn’t happen in tonight’s 10-2 loss to St. Louis.

Niese gave up single runs in each of the first four innings, and overall gave up eight runs on 11 hits in five innings.

It was just a horrible performance. If there was one stat that spoke volumes about how bad Niese was, it was that of the 25 batters he faced he got a first-pitch strike only 12 times. After the game Collins said Niese would remain in the rotation.

There were a lot of low-lights tonight, including Jack Leathersich walking reliever Randy Choate.

The loss, coupled with Washington’s victory over the Yankees, put the Mets in a first-place tie with the Nationals.

MURPHY LOST

There have been numerous times this season that you’ll see Daniel Murphy do something, either in the field or on the bases, and wonder what is going on in his mind.

Murphy’s brain cramp du jour came in the sixth when instead of covering first base on Michael Wacha’s bunt, he went for the ball that was by the mound.

That loaded the bases and was part of the Cardinals’ six-run inning that broke the game open.

May 02

Wright More Than A Week Away

As they should, the Mets are treating David Wright‘s hamstring injury with kid gloves and perhaps learning from experience, aren’t making any projections about his return. GM Sandy Alderson told reporters Friday having Wright back next weekend in Philadelphia “seems a little aggressive.”

Wright went on the disabled list April 15 with what was called a right hamstring strain that was subsequently changed to a pull. At the time, Alderson said it might take three weeks, but that won’t happen. Wright said he feels it when he exerts himself running and was restricted to physical therapy yesterday and plans to resume running today.

There were rumblings earlier this week Wright might come back for the Washington series, but this is the right call all around.

Holding the best record in baseball at 16-8, there’s no reason to rush him. None. With previous injuries Wright sometimes pushed the envelope and played hurt. He acknowledged that when he went on the disabled list and said he didn’t want to risk injuring himself further.

Apr 13

Alderson Says Not Bailing On Flores

While I don’t always agree with Mets GM Sandy Alderson, I liked what he did today when he expressed confidence in struggling shortstop Wilmer Flores.

The master of the deadpan obvious, Alderson said of Flores’ first week that, “It hasn’t been super,” noting three errors and a .158 batting average. Even so, Alderson didn’t put on notice the player he has frequently criticized.

“He’s made some good plays. He’s made some mistakes,” Alderson said. “He hasn’t hit yet, but that’s true of about six or seven of our guys. Wilmer is one of those guys that doesn’t let things bother him typically. As long as we don’t get to the point where we allow that to affect him then I think he’ll be fine.”

Confidence is a fragile thing in sports, and while Flores is having a bad start, we’re just a week into the season.

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.