Feb 23

Callaway Benches Smith; Shows Who Is Boss

Today wasn’t just a milestone day for new Mets manager Mickey Callaway simply because it was his first game, it was in that he firmly established who is in charge.

From the moment he was introduced, Callaway stressed accountability and responsibility.

It wasn’t always that way under Terry Collins, who, in all fairness, didn’t get support from GM Sandy Alderson. Obviously, Alderson wouldn’t undercut Callaway over Dominic Smith, but it was encouraging to see the rookie manager pull the prospect from the starting lineup after he showed up late to a team meeting.

Callaway doesn’t have many rules, but being on time is one of them. It’s not all that hard to show up on time, and it is head scratching for someone trying to make the roster being late for the first game of the year.

Players supposed to show up for an 8:45 a.m., meeting and Smith was late. Maybe he overslept, maybe he got stuck in traffic, maybe he didn’t set his alarm properly. Whatever the reason, it didn’t fly with Callaway, nor should it.

Smith is a professional, and while he might have a lot to learn about playing the game, he should already know how to set an alarm clock.

Perhaps it would have been more impressive if it was Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard – all who tested the limits under Collins – but Callaway wouldn’t wilt in his first disciplinary test.

Good for him.

To his credit, Smith made no excuses, was contrite and admitted he was wrong.

“I shouldn’t be cutting it close like that,’’ Smith told reporters. “I’m a professional. This is my job. This is my career. It’s my livelihood. I felt like I definitely let them down today.

“He asked me what I thought the decision should be and I agreed with him. That’s the only way it should be. They shouldn’t give me a pass or whatever. They shouldn’t give anybody a pass. That’s what he’s been preaching since Day 1 – accountability. You got to be accountable for yourself, your actions.’’

Yes, it was only a Triple-A prospect. It wasn’t Cespedes, who is erratic in his hustle and blew off treatment of a quad injury to play golf; it wasn’t Harvey, who blew off a game last year nursing a hangover; and it wasn’t Syndergaard, who refused to take an MRI and subsequently tore a lat muscle last April which basically cost the Mets their season.

Some might ask why this is a big deal, that what difference does a few minutes make.

It’s because being late shows a lack of discipline. It shows a lack of respect for the rules and your teammates. It’s because little things can grow into bad habits that can cost a team games if left unchecked.

Basically, it’s learning how to win, something the Mets don’t know how to do.

Feb 21

Mets To Resist Temptation With Conforto

Don’t do it Mets. You’ve been down this road before with Matt Harvey, David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and numerous others. Now you’re facing the dilemma with Michael Conforto.

The initial prognosis was for Conforto to return by early May from surgery off his left shoulder. However, he’s ahead of schedule and been hitting balls off a tee.

CONFORTO: A lot to smile about. (AP)

CONFORTO: Need for caution.  (AP)

“I have been waiting forever to be able to do that and it feels great,’’ Conforto told reporters in Port S. Lucie. “It really makes you understand how much you love it.’’

It’s encouraging news, no doubt, but is it enough for the Mets to tempt fate?

Conforto, who had surgery in September to repair a dislocated shoulder, said he’s content with the timetable initially set by doctors and the Mets. However, there are temptations.

“There’s the May 1 date and that kind of gives me an idea,’’ Conforto said. “As a competitor, it’s tough to look at that date and not want to get out there before that, but that is why we have the great medical staff we have.’’

Conforto wants to break camp with the team, but rushing back – especially in the chilly April evenings when it is hard to get loose – would be the worst thing for him to do.

Manager Mickey Callaway insists he won’t be seduced by positive reports about Conforto’s shoulder, even if it means a slow start.

“Players always tell you they are better than they probably are [physically], so we are going to be aware of that,’’ Callaway said. “We want [Conforto] back, and when he’s there, he is ready for the rest of the season.’’

That’s what he says now. Will he say the same thing in a month?

Aug 16

Mets Matters: Syndergaard Begins Long Road Back

If there’s one date in which the Mets’ season went into the toilet it is April 30 when Noah Syndergaard tore his right lat muscle in a game at Washington.

mets mattersSyndergaard threw in the bullpen for the first time since, throwing 20 pitches Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. There will be at least two other bullpens, then batting practice before getting a rehab assignment. It is quite possible the minor league season will be over before Syndergaard gets the opportunity to throw in a rehab game.

Syndergaard will still lift weights in the offseason, but said he plans to incorporate more flexibility exercises.

“I’m still going to lift heavy and be strong,’’ Syndergaard recently told reporters. “We’re still professional athletes here. We’ve still got to be strong and durable. I’m just going to be more smart about it. … I expect to be the same guy in terms of velocity.’’

LUGO TO DL; GSELLMAN STARTS: Seth Lugo is back on the disabled list with a partially torn elbow ligament and shoulder impingement. He will be replaced tonight by Robert Gsellman, who has been on the DL since June 28 with a strained left hamstring.

The Mets believe Lugo hurt his shoulder compensating for his elbow.

“That always concerns me that you’ve changed your delivery to compensate if you’ve got a bad elbow, and then all of a sudden your shoulder [hurts],’’ Collins said. “And I know one thing, I don’t like to hear shoulder problems. Those scare me more than anything.’’

Lugo was 5-3 with a 4.85 ERA in 11 starts and one relief appearance, but 0-1 with a 7.31 ERA in his last three appearances. Lugo believes his elbow is fine, and that surgery isn’t an option for either his shoulder or elbow.

“The doctors said this is an inoperable situation,’’ Lugo said. “Rest is just going to make it better. Surgery’s not even a thought.’’

ABOUT TIME: The Mets requested unconditional release waivers on reliever Fernando Salas, who has a 6.00 ERA in 48 appearances this season. Salas was designated for assignment last week, and barring the unlikely scenario at team claims him, the Mets will be on the hook for the balance of his $3 million salary.

The Mets should also DFA Hansel Robles, who doesn’t fit into their plans for 2018.

METS ACQUIRE OUTFIELDER: Travis Snider, formerly of Toronto and Pittsburgh, was purchased from Texas for cash. Snider, 29, was Baseball America’s sixth-ranked prospect in 2009.

Unless Curtis Granderson is traded, don’t expect to see Snider until the rosters are expanded Sept. 1.

PITCHING REHABS: Closer Jeurys Familia will make his first rehab appearance today. He is recovering from arterial surgery, May 12, to remove a blood clot in his right shoulder. … Matt Harvey will make his second rehab start today for Class A Brooklyn.

 

 

Jul 27

Mets Do As Well As Can Be Expected In Duda Trade

Since they weren’t going to bring back Lucas Duda anyway, the Mets did about as well as could be expected in today’s trade to Tampa Bay for Triple-A pitching prospect Drew Smith.

Duda had been linked to the Yankees and Seattle, and with the Rays, he has a chance to make the playoffs for a third straight season.

DUDA: Traded to Rays. (AP)

DUDA: Traded to Rays. (AP)

It wasn’t too long ago that the Mets chose Duda over Ike Davis, both high-strikeout first basemen with plenty of power. Duda ranks seventh on the Mets all-time homer list with 125. While it is unfair, Duda’s Mets’ legacy will be his wild throw to the plate in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.

“I’m excited to join the Rays. They’re in the hunt,’’ Duda told reporters in San Diego. “Kind of mixed emotions. There are guys here I’ve grown pretty close to, and [the Mets] are a first-class organization. I was very proud to be a New York Met, and I’m gonna be very proud to be on the Tampa Bay Rays.’’

With his power, Duda would fit in well with the Rays, who have the DH in the American League. He is hitting .246 with 17 homers and 37 RBI.

Trading Duda opens the door for Dominic Smith’s promotion to the Mets from Triple-A Las Vegas, but until he gets here they have other options, namely Jay Bruce, who is in the lineup tonight in San Diego, T.J. Rivera, Wilmer Flores and even Neil Walker. Playing Bruce at first also enables the Mets to play Curtis Granderson in center, until they trade him.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Dom,’’ the ever classy Duda said. “I hope he becomes a 10-year All-Star.’’

Duda will be a free agent this winter.

In Smith, 23, the Mets will add to their bullpen, which will be important especially if the Mets are successful in dealing Addison Reed. Smith was a third-round pick by Detroit in 2015 and traded to Tampa Bay in April. He has pitched for four minor league teams in the Rays’ organization and compiled a 1-2 record with a 1.60 ERA and seven saves in 31 games.

 

Jul 10

Something Not Right With Cespedes

In analyzing the Mets’ first half, manager Terry Collins said what many of us speculated all along – that Yoenis Cespedes is not playing at full strength.

Was he rushed off the disabled list following his hamstring injury? That seems to be the case as Cespedes looks stagnant at the plate with little to no leg drive, and I’ve forgotten the last time he ran full steam.

CESPEDES: Something isn't right.  (AP)

CESPEDES: Something isn’t right. (AP)

“He is just not getting the barrel to the ball,’’ Collins said. “I can’t explain it. I think it tells you: You miss a lot of time, this is a hard game, especially when everybody else is in shape and you’re trying to get there.

“It tells you the importance of rehabs and all the at-bats, which you try to accumulate on the side, which he had a bunch of in Florida. I tip my hat to him, he couldn’t run, but yet he got at-bats.

“He’s just not hitting. You have to stay healthy. You cannot play this game at 75 percent. The league is too good.’’

There’s so much wrong in what Collins said. One, if Cespedes can’t run, he shouldn’t have been taking at-bats in Florida. So much of hitting is with the legs and if you’re not strong enough to run you’re not strong enough to hit.

And, if Cespedes is only at 75 percent, why isn’t he on the disabled list, or at least rested more often?

Since Cespedes isn’t talking these days, one can only guess what is going on.

I’m thinking he feels obligated to play because of the contract. He pushed himself because with all the time he missed he would feel guilty asking for time off.

Cespedes was hitting the first ten days after coming off the DL, but in his past 11 games is hitting .133 with no extra-base hits over a stretch of 46 plate appearances. Overall, he’s batting .265 with nine homers and only 19 RBI, 17 extra-base hits and only 13 walks with 27 strikeouts. His OPS has steadily declined from .942 in 2015 to .884 last year to .822 this season.

He’s certainly not living up to the $110-million contract the Mets will pay him through 2020.

Cespedes’ build is tightly wound, making him susceptible to muscle pulls and the Mets have not treated him properly. When he was initially injured in late April, instead of going on the 10-day disabled list, he missed three games, then was hurried back to play two games against Atlanta only to blow out the hamstring in the second game.

Cespedes finally went on the DL, April 28 until June 10. When he came back the Mets said they would periodically rest him, but that rest came roughly once a week, which probably wasn’t enough.

But, as the Mets were struggling, what was Cespedes to do, tell Collins he couldn’t play? And, Collins, of course, instead of being proactive, took Cespedes at his word he was fine.

Only he isn’t, and neither are the Mets.