Aug 08

Want Mets To Go For The Throat

Let’s not have any of this wild card talk, it’s up to the Mets to go for the throat, and as Bob Murphy once so eloquently said, “win the damn thing.’’

For the first time in franchise history, the Mets overcame deficits in each of the last three innings to beat Tampa Bay last night.

MURPHY: ``Win the damn thing.'' (Mets)

MURPHY: “Win the damn thing.” (Mets)

It was an effort manager Terry Collins correctly labeled “pure character,’’ as the Mets increased their winning streak to seven straight.

Noah Syndergaard takes the ball tonight with the objective of putting the Mets games over .500, where they were when they won 11 straight games.

The Mets have won 18 of their 59 games – tied for eighth with the game’s best record – in those two winning streaks. It’s numbers like those that win pennants.

With things going their way and their lead over the Nationals now up to 2.5 games, the Mets want to win this thing going away as to avoid the wild-card play-in scenario and to set their rotation as they please. Honestly, I never thought I would write those words this year.

If the season ended today, the Mets, Cardinals and Dodgers would be the division winners and Pittsburgh and Chicago would be the wild cards.

Things frequently fluctuate this time of year and there’s so much more of the season to be played. The Mets are starting their push down the stretch at a good time, and they are gradually improving on some important team stats. They’ve now won four straight on the road to improve to 21-32 (still the worse among those National League teams that would qualify for the postseason) and their runs differential is now plus-16.

In addition, Lucas Duda is hitting homers; David Wright could begin a rehab-assignment on Monday; and the team was energized by the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.

The Mets still have issues, including their bullpen (which is always critical in the playoffs), but as they were in April they are again a thrill to watch.

But, let’s not have them be content with playing well, but let’s have this be like the college football rankings and go heavy on the style points. Let’s have them put this away and “win the damn thing.’’

Jul 23

Alderson Calls Into Question His Believability

He wouldn’t be Sandy Alderson if he weren’t snide and condescending. The Mets’ general manager told reporters this afternoon at Citi Field the team could add payroll.

“We have the ability to take on payroll,’’ Alderson told reporters, then added, “even though none of you will believe me.’’

ALDERSON: Holds court. (AP)

ALDERSON: Holds court. (AP)

Geez, Sandy, ever wonder why that is?

Could it be he’s gone back on nearly every player-acquisition comment he’s made? Could it be hardly any of his injury update statements have proven false? Could it be “Mr. Panic City” has made a habit of being flippant and rude? And, let’s not even start with the shortstop and leadoff decisions, not to mention talk of 90 wins.

Late last month Alderson was quoted in the New York Daily News saying it was within his budget to acquire a pricey, impact bat. Now, Aramis Ramirez – who is none of those things is reportedly on his way to Pittsburgh – there’s no interest in Justin Upton, and now even Oakland’s Ben Zobrist, who is making around $4 million, is too expensive.

I’m just wondering who this middle-of-the-order, inexpensive quality bat is and where he’s coming from?

It’s hard to tell if the Mets are buyers or sellers, considering they will still entertain offers for Jon Niese, Friday’s starter, who has been exceptional the past two months.

If the Mets are to contend they need hitting, but they’ll also need what Niese is giving them, which they apparently won’t get from Bartolo Colon or Dillon Gee.

Niese is under contract through 2016 and with the Mets holding a club option for 2017 and 2018. They would be open to dealing Niese if the contract they would take on has similar parameters.

So, I don’t see Niese leaving any time soon.

And, not coming any time soon is David Wright, who Alderson said would resume baseball activity next week in New York.

Of course, we’ve heard that several times since Wright went on the disabled list in April.

 

Jul 12

Nieuwenhuis Powers Mets Into Break On High Note

The Mets couldn’t have asked for a better April, and couldn’t have had a better stretch heading into the All-Star break. After losing their first two games of the month to the Cubs, with their sweep of the Diamondbacks completed today the Mets cruised into the break by winning three straight series.

Who saw that coming?

NIEUWENHUIS: Who would have guessed this? (AP)

NIEUWENHUIS: Who would have guessed this? (AP)

They did it with stellar starting pitching, and believe it or not, another barrage of power. Today, it was Kirk Nieuwenhuis hitting three homers. In the first two games of the series Lucas Duda found his homer stroke.

The Mets enter the break in second place, two games behind Washington and five games over .500. I would have signed on for that in a heartbeat coming out of spring training, and I’m sure most of you would have done so also.

There are two schools of thought about the Mets’ situation heading into the second half:

1) The Mets are where they are for the most part without David Wright, little offensive production overall and an erratic first-half from Matt Harvey. Given that, the Mets are right there and should go for it by making a bold trade.

2) Since they are close, they should keep the status quo and hope for Wright and Travis d’Arnaud to come back.

Can you guess which option GM Sandy Alderson is most apt to take?

Alderson is taking a “wait and see,’’ tact regarding trades, saying the market hasn’t yet defined itself. Entering the break, there are 12 teams that are seven games or less out of first place. Subsequently, there are 12 teams – plus the six division leaders – who believe they are in contention, and that includes the Mets.

The Mets are close, but not in the money if the playoffs started coming out of the break.

By extension, these teams are considered buyers at the deadline. But, are they really? With more and more teams trying to hold out for more – and teams such the Mets who are prone to want to fleece the opposition – there could be limited activity at the end of the month.

I’m expecting the Mets not to do anything substantial at the deadline, but that would be a mistake. The Mets are close despite a myriad of injuries, but also because Washington has been crippled and not played well.

Injuries are always a wild card and we don’t know what to expect next season. Will Washington be healthy? What key Met could be injured? Will the Braves be better? We don’t know. We do know the Mets are this close in large part because they won 11 straight games in April. They can’t count on that again.

I think Alderson should go for it, because we never know what will happen in the future.

 

Jul 11

Harvey Pitches, And Hits, Above Expectations

If Matt Harvey keeps having more days like today he could buy his own jet … even afford to take a helicopter from his Manhattan apartment to Mets’ games.

HARVEY: Plays like a star. (AP)

HARVEY: Plays like a star. (AP)

Harvey had one of those games like in high school, where he struck out nine Arizona Diamondbacks and hit a two-run homer in the Mets’ 4-2 victory.

It was a strong effort in a frustratingly erratic first-half for Harvey.

“For me, flushing the first half and going back out the second half with a fresh start is something I’m looking forward to,’’ Harvey told reporters. “There were ups and downs obviously – after the hot start, more ups and downs than I expected or wanted.’’

Harvey finished the first half with an 8-6 record, but the most important number were his 111.1 innings. He’s on pace for 205 innings, which is more than what GM Sandy Alderson wanted. But, that doesn’t include the playoffs, which is the ultimate goal.

Can you imagine the outcry should the Mets actually make it, but have to shut down Harvey. You think he complains now? That’s why the innings Harvey needlessly pitched in April when the Mets blew chances to rest him can’t be overlooked.

Of course this puts the six-man rotation issue back into the forefront. With Steven Matz down for at least five weeks – don’t forget he’ll have to go on a minor league rehab assignment when he’s cleared – the Mets must decide whether they’ll use Logan Verrett or Dillon Gee for the sixth spot or scrap their innings limitations.

It wasn’t a good start for Harvey, who walked four, but settled into a groove to with his eighth game. It was an effort the Mets have been waiting a long time to see.

Harvey has thrown hard this year coming off Tommy John surgery, but what usually happens in the first season back from the procedure is a lack of command.

That manifests itself not only in walks – nine in his last two starts – but also in home runs allowed.

He gave up a two-run homer to David Peralta in the first inning, but regrouped.

“I really wanted to do everything I could to keep the team within striking distance,’’ Harvey said. “When you look up at the scoreboard and it’s 2-0 and you only faced two batters, the last thing you want to do is keep that rolling. I really just had to buckle down and try to pound the zone as much as possible.’’

Which he did, marvelously so.

 

Jul 02

Collins Will Take Hit From Failures By Alderson And Ownership

The Mets’ Terry Collins isn’t a great manager, but far from a terrible one. The hitting slump continued today as the Mets scored only one run in being swept by the Chicago Cubs, which erased any positive thoughts garnered from sweeping the Reds.

April’s 11-game winning streak is forgotten; archived in Mets’ trivia.

ALDERSON: His manager is on the hot seat. (AP)

ALDERSON: His manager is on the hot seat. (AP)

With the Mets not hitting, there was nothing Jacob deGrom could do, although he was lucky he didn’t break his hand or a couple of fingers when he punched out a water cooler. That would have been typical Mets, wouldn’t it?

Collins told reporters after the game, “we have to lighten up a bit. … More guys fail in this game from fear than they do a lack of talent.”

Although Collins remains supportive of his team – and his players generally play hard for him – radio talk shows roast him on a regular basis, and stories are percolating about his future. One writer I greatly respect, Newsday’s David Lennon, did so in Thursday’s editions, and nailed it when he said pressure on Collins is “not fair, or right … but it’s reality.’’

Also reality is Collins isn’t getting help from ownership or general manager Sandy Alderson, who said in his book – that proclaimed him as the game’s smartest general manager – he didn’t have any confidence in his manager.

Nice, huh? What a way to instill confidence in your team. You say stuff like that when the manager is not under your employ. Do you think that didn’t go unnoticed by the players? It will certainly be brought up when the ax falls on Collins.

The Mets, a team whose rotation was largely put together by former general manager Omar Minaya, is good enough to win most games with even a little support. They haven’t gotten much, if any, this year. Of their 40 losses, 21 have been by two or fewer runs. They have been shut out nine times; and 29 times (including wins) scored two or fewer runs.

Yeah, that’s Collins’ fault.

Shouldn’t we instead dish blame on the Wilpons for not allowing for a budget needed to acquire a top-drawer hitter? Especially considering they received positive nods in the courts – not to mention a $167 million windfall – in the Madoff case.

Or, how about Alderson, whose only offensive acquisition of quality, was the project Curtis Granderson? The Mets have also had a long line of hitting coaches – they haven’t had a collective clue at the plate since firing Rick Down – with Kevin Long the latest not to reach them.

Yes, the Mets have had injuries, but all teams do. Washington has arguably been hit harder.

Ultimately it comes down to the players.

Collins can’t hit for his players, and as hard as he tries to pound fundamentals into them, it just hasn’t sunk in. Too many strikeouts, not enough walks, not enough situational hitting, and too many wasted at-bats.

The Mets’ team batting average is a league-low .232 by nine points. They have a paltry .297 on-base percentage. I don’t need any of the new sexy stats to tell me how badly they’ve hit. I see it with my own eyes.

Including today, they’ve scored 277 runs (3.4 a game). The Mets have also struck out 620 times (7.7).

No worries, things should be better when the Mets go into Los Angeles and face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Then, it’s on to San Francisco where they get Chris Heston, who threw a no-hitter at them at Citi Field, and Matt Cain.

By that time, they could be four games under .500, maybe more, heading into the All-Star break. Perhaps by then Alderson would make a trade or two, only as a seller and not a buyer.

Collins will eventually take the fall for Alderson’s inability to put a representative team on the field. Alderson wasn’t able to fill the void created by Wright’s injury. For years now, Alderson failed to bring in any quality hitters – or even one.

Instead, Alderson has worked on his comedy routine – several times at the expense of Wilmer Flores – with his latest quip calling the media and fans “residents of Panic City.’’

Of course, the condescending Alderson was telling us we’re not as smart as him. Sandy, I might not be able to build a watch, but I can tell time.

And, what you’re doing isn’t working.

If Collins goes, you should, also.