Apr 04

This Year Will Be The Toughest Job Of Collins’ Career

If you heard Terry Collins‘ lame defense of Yoenis Cespedes‘ boneheaded error Sunday night – “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.” – then you’ll see why this will be the toughest of his managerial career.

Collins is an apologist for Cespedes’ lack of effort and for Matt Harvey questioning his authority. But there’s so much more. There’s how he’ll limit David Wright‘s playing time, or more to the point, not knowing when he’ll have the third baseman available.

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

Cespedes is also a Mets’ wildcard in nobody knows how he’ll respond to the pressure of his $27.5-million contract. If Cespedes folds then Collins is again searching for offensive help, especially if Wright doesn’t hit.

Everybody raves about the Mets’ young pitching, but none of those arms – save Bartolo Colon – have won as many as 15 games. And, please, let’s not forget about the uncertainty of the bullpen.

The Mets are also counting on a breakout years from Michael Conforto and Steven Matz and a new double-play combination.

That’s a lot of variables placed pressure squarely on Collins’ shoulders. How he handles that pressure will go a long way towards where the Mets finish. However, perhaps most importantly is Collins has never had a team this talented. He’s never had a team that went to the World Series the previous season and with as many expectations like his 2016 Mets.

In his first years with the Mets, Collins had the security of having a bad team without a willingness to spend money. Those teams had no expectations and GM Sandy Alderson wasn’t going to sacrifice Collins as he tinkered with payroll and building this rotation. Managers of rebuilding teams having low expectations don’t get fired.

However, it’s different now. That security is gone. The expectations are high as is the pressure to win. And, pressure makes managers vulnerable. That’s why this will be his toughest year.

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Mar 29

Pitching Staff Takes Shape

With Matt Harvey now cleared to start Opening Day, manager Terry Collins‘ rotation for the first week appears intact, and here’s a surprise, it’s what we thought it might be all along. Harvey, followed by Noah Syndergaard for the second game in Kansas City, and Jacob deGrom to start the home opener a week from Friday.

With the rotation set, the rest of the pitching staff is taking form.

With three days off in the first week, Bartolo Colon is available to work in relief for both games and Steven Matz possible out of the pen for the second game. These five will comprise the rotation until Zack Wheeler gets off the disabled list at mid-season. Colon should then move into the bullpen full time.

The Mets are likely to carry six relievers, with Jeurys Familia locked in as the closer and Addison Reed in the set-up role. Last year, the Mets lacked lefty relievers, but they have Antonio Bastardo and Jerry Blevins is back. They could also get Josh Edgin back by the end of May.

Hansel Robles will miss the first two games of the season while on suspension before taking on a middle relief role.

Both lefty Sean Gilmartin – a Rule 5 pick last year -and Logan Verrett made strong cases for the final spot on the staff as a long-reliever and spot starter. Gilmartin gave up a run in three innings Tuesday and Verrett pitched 3.2 scoreless innings.

The edge could go to Gilmartin who pitched effectively in that role last season. This would allow Verrett to stay in his routine as a starter at Triple-A, which would enable him to step in should an injury drop one of the starters. It should also be noted that neither Matz nor Colon have been effective this spring.

And, we should also remember Harvey’s recent medical issue stands out like a neon sign that anything can happen.

 

Mar 17

No Brainer Harvey Opening Day Starter

In a decision best described as a “no-brainer,’’ the Mets announced this morning Matt Harvey will be their Opening Day starter, April 3, at Kansas City.

So, let me be the first to say, “Harvey will be coming out for the tenth inning.’’

HARVEY: Gets Opening Day call. (AP)

HARVEY: Gets Opening Day call. (AP)

I wonder how much Harvey’s ninth-inning, Game 5 meltdown went into manager Terry Collins’ decision to go with Harvey. After all, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard were also viable options. If there was any “we want top re-establish his confidence’’ thinking – which I doubt – Collins wouldn’t admit to it. I’m sure he’ll be asked about it until the season starts.

For the past three years, the Mets have done things to project Harvey as the team’s ace, not the least of which is his $4 salary, which exceeds the combined amount of the rest of their young rotation. This excludes, of course, Bartolo Colon, who is seemingly ageless.

Based on service time, sure, Harvey has to be the one. Also playing into the decision has to be some ego. Harvey can be brash at times, but he’s also sensitive and probably would take being passed over as a slight. That’s not a bad thing, but why would Collins want to ruffle his feathers?

Harvey was thrilled with the appointment.

“It’s a huge honor,” Harvey told reporters. “A year after surgery, I’m 100 percent. It’s interesting how the schedule took place. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. It will bring back a lot of memories, but also bring out a lot of fire.”

Maybe that was part of Collins’ thinking.

There have been no issues surrounding Harvey based on protecting his surgically-repaired elbow, which is a great sign. I wrote several weeks ago Harvey should get the ball, and before that, projecting him to win 20 games this summer.

I was right on one. Hopefully, I’ll be correct on the other.

 

Mar 12

No Concerns About Colon Or Matz

On Saturday, the Cardinals took it to Bartolo Colon, and the day before the Nationals did likewise to Steven Matz. There’s no reason for the Mets to be concerned about either because there is still two weeks to go before the start of the season. There’s still plenty of time for both to get ready.

Colon gave up four runs on six hits in 3.2 innings. He’s been through this before.

“I feel healthy,” Colon told reporters through an interpreter, and isn’t that the most important thing? “Unfortunately, the way I pitched today, they gave me a little bit of a rough time and it wasn’t great. I thought I was throwing it where I wanted to, but the batters were about to get me. They took advantage”

These things happen. As long as Colon is not hurting, he’ll be fine.

Control was also the issue with Matz, as it often is the case with young pitchers early in spring training. Matz walked the first two batters he faced in the third, then gave up a single to load the bases. He threw 41 pitches in two-plus innings, but 27 were for strikes. Actually, that’s not too bad a ratio.

“I don’t think you ever care for walks,” Matz said Friday. I just got a little erratic there. It’s still early. … I felt good. I really wanted to stay in there and try to work out of that.”

The first thing pitchers want to accomplish early in spring training, and both Colon and Matz were making their second starts, is to be healthy, and that’s not an issue for either. Control, especially of breaking pitches, takes a few starts.

Healthwise, both are on schedule. There’s nothing for the Mets to be concerned about now.

 

 

Dec 18

Mets Still Have Voids To Fill

We are a week from Christmas and two months away from the start of spring training and the Mets still have two significant concerns to address:

CENTER FIELD: The Mets need a platoon with Juan Lagares, preferably a left-handed bat the equal of Yoenis Cespedes. That’s going to be tough. Making their quest even more difficult is the growing speculation they are going to do this on the cheap.

There does not seem to be sentiment to let Lagares open the season in a full time capacity, similar to what they did with Wilmer Flores.

Dexter Fowler and Denard Span are the names most frequently mentioned, however, they are lower tier options.

While neither are top drawer, they are at the point in their careers where they want the chance to play full time and won’t be anxious to enter into a platoon situation.

By the time the Mets get around talking with them, the market may be depleted, elevating them to the top of what is left – consequently probably making them too expensive to sign.

BULLPEN: Signing Bartolo Colon improves the bullpen, but you must remember that probably doesn’t happen until Zack Wheeler returns in July. Until then, things are thin. Jenrry Mejia was tendered for 2016. They are also bringing back Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins, and Tyler Clippard remains a possibility.

So, for now we really can’t say the Mets are significantly better than they were at the end of the season. And, please don’t underestimate how important this area is to the Mets. There is no return trip to the World Series, and maybe not even the playoffs without a better bullpen.