Jun 27

Mets Must Give Us Reason To Care

Sometimes listening to Terry Collins makes me want to scream. I know I’ve written that before, but Collins keeps making “I want to throw my shoe at the TV” type of comments. The Mets’ manager said several things over the weekend in preparation for tonight’s game in Washington that were simply puzzling. He means well, but it becoming clearer with each press briefing he can’t think on his feet.

First, after Jacob deGrom‘s start – his tenth straight without a win – Collins said he was looking forward to coming out of the break so he could set up his rotation. Well, what about setting things up now for the next two weeks, which includes seven games in two series against the Nationals. three with the Marlins and four against the Cubs?

COLLINS: Facing toughest stretch of season. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing toughest stretch of season. (AP)

I would begin by skipping Noah Syndergaard tonight in Washington because of his second complaint of soreness in his right elbow. Would I sacrifice a game in Washington to preserve Syndergaard for the second half? Damn straight I would.

After Monday’s butt whiping, the Mets are now four games behind the Nationals – who won’t have Stephen Strasburg for either series – because Washington’s seven-game losing streak kept them in the race. If the Nationals had any killer instinct they could be up by eight games or more with a chance to put away the Mets. Who knows, maybe they were waiting for the Mets to come to town to do it.

Collins told reporters Sunday in Atlanta in preparation for the Nationals series: “The worst-case scenario is: Go to the break no worse than we are sitting right now. Right after the Nats we’ve got the Cubs – arguably the best team in baseball right now. We’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to get the `A’ game going and maintain it. Right after them you’ve got the Marlins, who are playing very, very well right now. And then back come the Nationals again. I think the next 14 days are very, very important to us.”

Good for Collins; he can read a schedule. But, with |these games so important, why send the message of mediocrity? We watched the Mets pull things together and get to the World Series last year. Now their manager is talking about treading water until the break. At least that’s the perception.

Standing pat in the standings for the next two weeks and at the trade deadline aren’t acceptable for a World Series team. I don’t want Collins to panic, but a sense of urgency would be nice. The disadvantage of getting to the World Series is the expectation to go every year. That’s pressure, but also why they play.

We’ll watch Syndergaard tonight with crossed fingers and the hope we won’t get Antonio Bastardo. I don’t trust the bullpen now, with even Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia giving me pause. The offense is beyond awful. No homers, no wins. Manufacturing runs and playing fundamental baseball seem beyond their comprehension. There were more than a few times in June when they didn’t hustle.

As far as their `A’ game, we haven’t seen it since the end of April. Nothing has been reported as to what Collins has said to his team behind closed doors. Evidently he hasn’t read the riot act or we would have heard about it. Somebody always talks.

Yes, there are injuries, but championship caliber teams overcome them. Otherwise, they are just excuses. There were holes in the batting order even before David Wright and Lucas Duda were hurt and Michael Conforto was sent down. Hopefully, there will be more stability when Jose Reyes is activated and Curtis Granderson can hit lower in the order. But, whether Granderson bats first, second, third or fourth, will it really matter if he doesn’t hit?

The remaining two weeks could determine whether Citi Field experiences October. You and I both know the Mets won’t run the table from until the All-Star break, but I want more than 7-7, for which Collins – at least publicly – seems willing to settle.

I want a sense of urgency. I want hustle and heaven forbid, their hitters to manufacture runs. I know Collins cares, but dammit, show some fire. Kick your players in the ass, because they need it. And, that includes Yoenis Cespedes. If your “star” can get away dogging it, it’s a license for everybody else to drop it down a gear.

Playing .500 for the next two weeks or the rest of the summer isn’t acceptable. It’s like going to school hoping for a `C’ grade. It’s average, which is the worst of the best or best of the worst. Being average gives us little reason to care.

Damn, I want to care about this team again.

Jun 19

Collins Suggests Changes Coming For Mets – But What?

The Mets had just finished being swept out of Citi Field by the Atlanta Braves on Sunday when manager Terry adamantly suggested changes were in order, if not imminent.

COLLINS: What's he going to do? (Getty)

COLLINS: What’s he going to do? (Getty)

“You don’t want to panic early, but right now with what’s going on, we may shake some things up,” Collins told reporters after the Mets had lost for the sixth time in eight games. 6-0 to the Braves and dropped into third place in the NL East.

He wouldn’t specify, but it isn’t hard to speculate what options the Mets have, or don’t have.

TRADES: There are so many Mets, who based on their contracts, health and performance are difficult to trade. With the trade deadline roughly six weeks away, conventional thinking is it is too early to be making trades because the sellers and buyers haven’t yet been defined. In the Mets’ case, they care clearly buyers now, but if this slide continues that could change.

The Mets’ biggest trade chips are their young pitching, which they don’t want to deal, primarily because they will likely need those arms if they are to contend.

The minor league pitching bait is Zack Wheeler, whom the Mets nearly traded last year for Carlos Gomez.

THE VEGAS SHUTTLE:  There’s been much speculation the Mets might sending Michael Conforto to the minor leagues. Considering the Mets pinch-hit for him the other night indicates a growing lack of confidence by Collins in the player whom he said would be the team’s long-term No. 3 hitter. Conforto is on a 7-for-56 slide and has seen his average drop over 100 points since April.

Collins said Conforto would not stay with the Mets coming off the bench, so that means if he stays he plays. If Conforto goes down, coming up would probably be outfielder Brandon Nimmo.

THE DISABLED LIST: Travis d’Arnaud is expected to be activated this week. However, if the Mets continue to form and use Rene Rivera to catch Noah Syndergaard on Tuesday, we might not see d’Arnaud until the next day,

However, there’s no timetable for Lucas Duda and we might not see Wright for the rest of the season.

THE BATTING ORDER: Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker will continue to hit in the middle of the order. Collins toyed with using Curtis Granderson batting third, but that didn’t last long. Asdrubal Cabrera seems best as the second hitter, although I might take a shot at him leading off and dropping Granderson ahead of Cespedes. It couldn’t hurt.

At this point, the Mets might as well try anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 18

Mets Need Granderson To Go On A Tear

Mets manager Terry Collins spoke with tempered confidence Saturday afternoon regarding his team’s slide in the NL East over the past three weeks, going from tied to six games behind the Washington Nationals.

GRANDERSON: Need him to take control. (Getty)

GRANDERSON: Need him to take control. (Getty)

The Mets face the Nationals seven times over the next three weeks.

“We’ll be ready for it,” Collins told reporters about the two series that could determine the rest of the season for the Mets.

They might be ready, but also short-handed with David Wright likely gone for the season and Lucas Duda out indefinitely. There are performance leaders and clubhouse leaders. If you believe in the latter, who will replace Wright?

“We’re going to miss David’s presence,” Collins said. “We’ve got to pick up the slack, not just on the field but in the clubhouse.”

When a manager speaks of the need for players to step up, both on the field and in the emotional sense, it means he really doesn’t have anybody obvious he can lean on.

Yoenis Cespedes can carry a team on his back as he proved last summer. His homer Saturday night put a charge into the Mets. However, there are times he loses focus and becomes lackadaisical. Neil Walker is also capable, who carried the Mets in April? However, and this is important, just how much weight will their words and gestures carry considering both could be gone after the season?

It won’t be Lucas Duda, who is on the disabled list with no timetable for his return. And, when he does play, he’s extremely quiet.

It is essential a team leader is productive. Who listens to your words if you can’t back it up? Right now that rules out Michael Conforto, who is starting to hit some balls hard, but has been in a dreadful slump since the end of April.

It won’t be a pitcher as they play once every five games, and in the Mets’ case, are generally quiet.

The obvious candidate to me is Curtis Granderson, who is warming up after a slow start and has an outgoing personality. If the Mets are to turn it around, they need Granderson to grab this team by the scruff of the neck and shake it awake.

 

Jun 14

Moving Granderson To Third Is Best Mets Can Do

The argument for the Mets using Curtis Granderson in the leadoff spot last year was his high on-base percentage. Fueled by 91 walks, it was a solid .364 last season, which enabled him to score 98 runs.

His current numbers refute that argument. Granderson’s on-base percentage is a puny .316 this year with only 27 walks, but 61 strikeouts. These are numbers not befitting a leadoff hitter, which is why the decision to move him to third in the order, sandwiched between Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes is a good one.

GRANDERSON: Seeking a spark, Mets move him to third on order. (Getty)

GRANDERSON: Seeking a spark, Mets move him to third on order. (Getty)

Actually, there is not much else the Mets could have done. They aren’t hitting, especially with runners in scoring position. They aren’t getting on base. They have three starters on the disabled list and Neil Walker’s back and Michael Conforto’s wrist have them sidelined. With no help coming from the minors or in a trade, it is time to tinker.

With no help coming from the minors or in a trade, it is time to tinker. Moving Granderson to a traditional RBI spot seems like a logical first step, For his 12 homers, he should have a lot more than 20 RBI.

The Mets’ order tonight reminds me of when managers of slumping teams pulled the lineup out of a hat. It’s not quite that bad for Terry Collins, who was released from a Milwaukee hospital and will be on the bench.

Here’s tonight’s order:

Alejandro De Aza, LF: His .181 average isn’t encouraging, but he’s fast enough to be considered at the top of the order.

Cabrera, SS: Is hitting .267, but has been fairly consistent. Is not really a No. 2 hitter in the classic sense, but is comfortable here.

Granderson, RF: Not the prototypical No. 3 hitter, but his power (12 homers) fits in the middle of the order. He should have more RBI and should get more opportunities more RBI opportunities with Cabrera, and perhaps in the future, Juan Lagares hitting ahead of him. Hitting ahead of Cespedes, his walks could increase.

Cespedes, CF: Has hit five of his 16 homers with RISP. Overall, in the 57 games in which he has played, he’s batting .282 with 16 homers, 40 RBI and 34 runs scored. In his first 57 games with the Mets last year, he hit .287 with 17 homers, 44 RBI and 39 runs scored.

Kelly Johnson, 2B: Is 4-for-9 since coming over from Atlanta. Has gone 55 at-bats since his last homer, so he’s due.

Wilmer Flores, 3B: Is hitting .406 (13-32) since taking over for David Wright. Hit a game-winning single to beat the Pirates, June 8, at Pittsburgh.

James Loney, 1B: Has done well in place of Lucas Duda, including hitting a two-run homer, June 3, at Miami. Is a lifetime .314 hitter against Pirates.

Kevin Plawecki, C: Hitting only .205. I can see the Mets sticking with Rene Rivera as the backup when Travis d’Arnaud comes off the disabled list probably next week.

Jacob deGrom, P: Lost to the Pirates, June 7, giving up three runs in six innings. DeGrom hasn’t registered a win since April 30, getting two losses and five no-decisions in that span.

As I wrote the other day, the Mets are floundering and in dire need of a spark. Maybe this is it.

Jun 12

Things Better Change Quickly For Mets

Last week I asked if there was a reason to be concerned with the Mets, but stopped short of saying they were in trouble. I’m not stopping short any longer. If the season ended today the Mets would make the playoffs as the second wild card, but there are more than a few reasons to believe they aren’t heading in the right direction.

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

There’s plenty of season left to turn things around, but also enough time has gone by to conclude despite their young pitching – and Bartolo Colon – that if there’s not a reversal soon the playoffs many of us took for granted on Opening Day might not happen.

Following their 15-7 April, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Milwaukee the Mets have gone 19-21. They are 4.5 games behind Washington, and one of seven teams lumped under the 4.5-game umbrella of wild-contenders.

Teams will lose, but the Mets didn’t play well during their 5-5 road trip. They weren’t just beaten, they beat themselves. On Sunday, they had breakdowns in all phases: 1) Steven Matz was roughed up in his second straight start; 2) the defense committed three errors and could have had a fourth; and 3) and their hitters struck out ten times and went 2-for-9 with RISP.

April’s storyline was the Mets’ propensity for hitting homers, but more importantly in their 62 games they have scored three or fewer runs in half (31) of them. That’s an alarming number. Overall, they are hitting .214 with RISP; and average around nine strikeouts and close to the same in runners left on base in a game.

Nine strikeouts mean in three innings they did not put the ball in play. For all those who don’t give credence to strikeouts as an important statistic, it is time to get a clue. Not putting the ball in play means no chance for hits; no chance to reach on an error; no sacrifice flies; and no productive outs to put runners in scoring position.

A positive note is Matt Harvey seems to have turned it around, but could that be offset by Matz’s two straight stinkers? And, Jacob deGrom hasn’t won in his last seven starts. The bullpen, so positive in April, is showing cracks. Closer Jeurys Familia is far from a sure thing. Their most reliable reliever is Addison Reed; with everybody else you hold your breath.

Injuries are a concern with David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list. They could get d’Arnaud back in a week or so, but he wasn’t hitting or throwing runners out on the bases before he got hurt. Michael Conforto has a sore wrist and is in a dreadful slump; Neil Walker has a tight lower back; and Juan Lagares has an injured left thumb.

The upcoming schedule is brutal as from now until the All-Star break they have three more games with Pittsburgh; two against Kanas City; three with the Marlins; four against the Cubs and seven with the Nationals. Beginning Tuesday, the Mets start a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.

Seriously, there’s a chance the trade deadline could be moot.

The Mets can get on a hot streak, turn things around and maybe add a couple of pieces just as they did last season. However, since the end of April we’ve seen precious few signs of that happening.

There’s reason for concern, and yes, they are in trouble.