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.

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.

Jun 08

Mets Need Another Parnell Injury If They Want To Keep Him

The New York Mets’ injury news continues to get worse. Former closer Bobby Parnell’s 30-day maximum rehab assignment stay expires Wednesday, at which time the Mets are obligated to activate him from the disabled list.

PARNELL:  Due back soon (AP)

PARNELL: Due back soon (AP)

If this scenario sounds familiar to Mets’ fans that’s because it is – they went through this several years ago when they didn’t want to bring back Oliver Perez. You remember how well that worked out, don’t you? The Mets were forced to activate Perez otherwise he would have exercised his right to become an immediate free agent. The Mets would loved to have traded him, but knew they’d get nothing in return.

Parnell, who underwent Tommy John surgery, April 8, 2014, has not done well in his rehab. Parnell’s fastball, a 96 mph., average with the Mets, but had touched 100 mph., is at 92 mph.

Going for the reach as he often does, manager Terry Collins said he’s hoping adrenaline will add some steam to his fastball.

While at Double-A Binghamton, Parnell was 0-2 with a 14.21 ERA in seven games. In 6.1 innings, he’s given up 11 hits and six walks. Parnell is clearly not ready to return to the Mets, and more to the point, bringing him back now would only weaken the team.

While the best thing would be to keep him on the disabled list, the Mets don’t have that option. They could try to trade him, but would get nothing, and nobody will deal for an injured pitcher with a $3.7 million contract.

The Mets could release Parnell, but that won’t happen. As is often the case with the Mets, their best option is to hope – that they can find some other injury and stash him back on the disabled list.

 

 

Jun 01

Mets Issues Heading Into June

Honestly, had to you told me heading into the season the Mets would be five games over .500 and a half-game out of first place on June 1, I would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

So would you.

However, after an 11-game winning streak in April, one would think they would be better than they are at the start of their first West Coast trip of the season. The Mets face a myriad of questions following a sluggish 13-15 May:

1. Can they win on the road?

A: They are 7-15 this year away from Citi Field and have 15 games on the road in June.

2. Can they win outside the division?

A: To date the Mets are 4-10 outside the NL East with only six games – all against the Braves – within the division during June.

3. Will the six-man rotation work?

A: Manager Terry Collins said he’s committed to it until August. With only two off days this month, they’ll need to make this work, especially with an innings watch on Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. This move was made primarily to protect Harvey, but no starter is really on board with this. This move was also necessary because the Mets had no definitive plan for Harvey entering the season.

4. What’s wrong with Harvey?

A: He hasn’t won in five starts, but pitched well enough to win three of them. And, the bullpen twice coughed up to 1-0 leads in the late innings. He’s been throwing consistently in the mid-90s and the belief is something is amiss with his mechanics. He will next pitch Thursday in Arizona.

5. Is this the beginning of the end for Jon Niese?

A: Niese says he’s healthy, but he’s been hammered and has lost five of his last six decisions. He hasn’t made it past the sixth inning in his last four starts.

6. Can Bartolo Colon keep this run going?

A: Take away Colon and the Mets are in third place in the NL East and possibly not even a .500 team. But, he’s 41 and this can’t last forever. The six-man rotation is as important to Colon as it is Harvey.

7. What can Dillon Gee give the Mets?

A: The Mets are hell bent on trading Gee, and their best chance to get something back is for him to pitch well and create interest heading into July.

8. Can they get something from their catchers?

A: Travis d’Arnaud, on the disabled list with a fractured finger, had a setback. His replacement, Kevin Plawecki, hasn’t shown enough to stay up here when d’Arnaud returns.

9. When will David Wright return?

A: Your guess is as good as anybody’s. He’s had several setbacks since going on the disabled list. His replacement Eric Campbell didn’t pan out and now Ruben Tejada is getting the chance to win the third base job.

10. Will Juan Lagares hit?

A: Lagares hit in April, but not May. He got the contract because of his glove and the promise he would eventually hit. There’s nobody else who can play center for the Mets, so they’ll have to stick with Lagares.

11. Will Curtis Granderson supply any power?

A: Granderson is on pace for 19 homers and 50 RBI, which might be decent numbers for a leadoff hitter. Of course, at the start of spring training he was supposed to supply middle-of-the-order power.

12. Will they ever get off Wilmer Flores’ back?

A: Probably not. Flores has ten errors, but leads the team with eight homers. Of course, there will always be Troy Tulowitzki rumors, but as you can see the Mets have more pressing issues.

13. Will the bullpen stabilize?

A: It was good in April, but a lot of things were good in April. Jeurys Familia should be an All-Star, but there’s been little else that’s consistent with the bullpen.

14. Will Lucas Duda go on a power tear?

A: He has stiffness in his knee after getting hit by a pitch over the weekend. Duda homered 30 times last year and is on pace to hit 29 this season. However, he’s on pace to drive in only 79 runs season.

15. Will the Mets add anybody to their dismal offense?

A: They keep saying when Wright returns that will act as a trade, but that’s simply a cliché for a team that’s not likely to do anything. They aren’t going to get Tulowitzki, and I’m not betting on Martin Prado, either. It takes a proactive team that will make a deal in June, and frankly, I don’t see the Mets being such a team.

 

May 28

Mets’ Six-Man Rotation Proof They Didn’t Get It Right With Harvey Initially

While some are giving the Mets kudos for the inventiveness of going to a six-man rotation, they are doing so to protect Matt Harvey and his surgically-repaired money elbow. More to the point, they are doing it because they didn’t properly calculate a program to monitor his innings in the first pace.

The Mets entered the season with a “play it by ear” approach with Harvey, but it didn’t take long to second-guess several decisions by manager Terry Collins, and yes, to take some jabs at the young star.

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

HARVEY: The fly in the six-man ointment. (AP)

First, they let him pitch with a strep throat, when Collins should have told Harvey to stay home. However, Harvey wanted to pitch that day – of course, he did – and left the impression he wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer, which is to paraphrase Collins.

Starting him was bad enough. Letting him pitch into the seventh that day compounded matters.

When they had a chance to rest Harvey, the Mets spit the bit. Soon it would bite them in the butt.

Entering the season, part of the Mets’ “play it by ear,” plan was to take advantage of one-sided games to give Harvey a few innings off. But, when they could have pulled him after seven in a blowout win over the Yankees, he pushed the envelope because he wanted the complete game.

Collins, of course, caved.

What followed were back-to-back no-decision games for Harvey in which the bullpen coughed up 1-0 leads. Obviously, with benefit if hindsight the Mets would rather have had Harvey pitch longer in those games than stay in for a few more innings in a meaningless game against the Yankees.

Then Harvey was hammered in the worst start of his career and Collins thought he had a “tired arm.”

The goal, said pitching coach Dan Warthen, is to have the pitchers make 30 starts over the course of the year instead of 34.

The fatal flaw to this plan is pitchers are creatures of habit and it is difficult to jump into this format in midstream, a move that has all the pitchers annoyed to some degree.

At the start of spring training, I wrote the Mets should map out Harvey’s starts from April through September with a definitive idea of how many innings he would throw in each start. Well, the Mets didn’t want to do that because they didn’t want to come across as having a leash on Harvey, an idea he despised.

However, in the end it looks as if they will have to do what they should have done in the first place.

There’s a saying the smart carpenter measures twice but saws once. However, the Mets come across as Gilligan trying to build a grass hut.