Sep 13

Backman Tells His Side; Could Have Helped Collins This Week

Speaking on WFAN this afternoon, deposed Las Vegas manager Wally Backman insisted the decision to leave was his, and he vehemently refuted published reports citing unnamed Mets’ sources claiming he was insubordinate.

Backman said he would have accepted a coaching position on Terry Collins‘ staff or stayed with Vegas if asked. Whether he would have fired if he didn’t leave hasn’t been reported, but based on what Backman told WFAN one can presume he would have been canned by GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: In center of Backman sacking.  (AP)

ALDERSON: In center of Backman sacking. (AP)

Backman, who managed in the Mets’ farm system for seven years, including the last five on the Triple-A level with Buffalo and Las Vegas, said he wants to pursue options to manage in the major leagues but didn’t say he had anything immediately on his radar.

“I left on my own,” Backman said. “It didn’t look like there was any future for me in New York. When you work for an organization and do everything, you want to be respected for what you do. I just felt for my time being there the respect wasn’t there. I could be wrong. They could say different.”

Backman defined respect as more than simply guiding Las Vegas to three consecutive winning seasons prior to this year. He said it should include being acknowledged by Alderson in directing the Mets to James Loney, Rene Rivera and Jose Reyes; the last coming after a two-hour conversation that acted as a screening process.

All three paid dividends this summer.

In addition, many current Mets – from Noah Syndergaard to Michael Conforto to Jacob deGrom – played under Backman. He also was instrumental in turning around Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud when they were on rehab assignments last year.

Backman was livid at reports citing unnamed sources he went rogue and disobeyed instructions on playing Conforto against left-handed pitching and batting Brandon Nimmo in the leadoff spot.

“Whoever put that out there, the source within the system, they lied,” a clearly agitated Backman said. “And that’s the part that pisses me off because I did nothing but try to help these guys.”

As for not playing Conforto against left-handers, Backman said he played in 31 of 33 games, hitting .488 (20-for-41) with three home runs against lefties. One game that Conforto didn’t play in was a day he was sent down and didn’t arrive until the fourth inning. The other came on a day prior to an off-day as to give Conforto two straight days off, which is commonplace.

Backman also said Nimmo hit first or second in 84 out of 97 games.

Backman said he got along with Collins and spoke to him frequently. Regarding his relationship Alderson, Backman took a diplomatic approach.

“I’m not going to say we never got along,” Backman said. “I thought he respected me as a baseball person. I guess I wasn’t the prototypical guy he liked.”

That became clear when the Mets bypassed Backman in favor of Dick Scott last December to be Collins’ bench coach.

We haven’t heard much about Scott this year until this past week, which hasn’t been a great one for Collins, who had three major brain cramps, all of which should have been preventable.

First, on Saturday he failed to pinch-run for Wilmer Flores, who was then subsequently thrown out at the plate, injured and hasn’t played since. On Sunday, he admitted screwing up. He said he was preoccupied talking with pitching coach Dan Warthen about setting up his pitching.

Finally, when it was apparent Rafael Montero didn’t have it Monday, Collins kept the shell-shocked starter in the game too long. He could have pulled Montero in the first or pinch-hit for him. He did neither and Montero let the game away. Would the Mets have won had Montero been pulled? Who knows, but it can’t make Collins feel any less angst.

All three events should fall under the responsibility of a bench coach, but not once did Collins point blame in his direction. That fits in with Collins’ makeup. He’s not one to throw his staff or players under the bus. For that matter, he doesn’t take shots at Alderson for leaving him shorthanded at times.

Frankly, too many times.

We don’t know what Scott said, or didn’t say. What we do know, based on reputation, Backman – no shrinking violet – wouldn’t have been shy to make a suggestion.

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Aug 17

Time To Sit Granderson

There are cold stretches, slumps and what Mets’ outfielder Curtis Granderson is currently in, which has gone on long enough.

Manager Terry Collins said if you don’t hit, you’ll sit, and Granderson hasn’t hit all season. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met around baseball, but his smile doesn’t drive in runs. Come to think about it, neither do his home runs. His 32 RBI off 18 homers is one of the most staggering statistics I’ve ever seen.

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can't. (AP)

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can’t. (AP)

So, why is he still in the lineup when Michael Conforto is in the minor leagues? Ditto for Brandon Nimmo.

Let’s look at more frightening numbers: Granderson is hitting .224 this season; is batting .127 (10-79) with RISP; and .165 (15-91) over his last 23 games.

Somehow, none on this has sunk in on Collins.

“You still look up and this guy is going to end up with over 20 homers,” Collins told reporters. “He’s not necessarily a RBI guy, so no matter where you think you should hit anybody in the order, they are going to end up coming up with guys on base at times.”

It might be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard from a manager in nearly 25 years around this game.

First of all, he has 18 homers now, so what’s two more? Secondly, and even more importantly, if you end up with runners on base your job is to drive them in. Memo to Collins: Everybody is a RBI guy.

Perhaps Granderson is spending too much time around Collins because his explanation made no sense. None.

“Initially, I was in the position where I was going to lead off and set the tone and things like that,” Granderson told reporters.

“And, I’ve mixed when to be aggressive versus when to set the tone for everybody else, so there’s been pitches I could have gone after and attacked and maybe did something with that I let go by.”

Huh?

Granderson’s responsibility as a hitter is two-fold: 1) if there’s nobody on base he’s supposed to get on base, but a .317 on-base percentage says he’s not doing it, and 2) if there are runners on base his job is to advance them or drive them in.

It’s not all that hard to understand, but obviously with Granderson this season, much harder to do.

Granderson’s job is to always be aggressive, and he hasn’t been. It’s time to get somebody in the lineup that can be.

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Aug 02

Time To DL Cespedes Now

There’s no word to Yoenis Cespedes’ availability for tonight’s Mets-Yankees game at Citi Field. The belief is manager Terry Collins is saving him for the upcoming five games in American League parks where he can be used as a designated hitter.

This makes sense on the surface, but does it really?

CESPEDES: Time to sit him. (AP)

CESPEDES: Time to sit him. (AP)

I understand wanting to get his bat in the lineup, where he might run into a pitch and give the Mets a game. I get all that, but the Mets are taking an unnecessary gamble.

Suppose Cespedes makes it through the DH games without incident, then severely reinjures his right quad to the point where he needs to go on the disabled list. That means the Mets would lose the five DH days (six if you include Tuesday) where they could have back-dated the start time of a DL stint.

If they DL Cespedes now hopefully he will come back sooner – and healed.

At the time I understood wanting to wait until after the All-Star break, but Cespedes came back no better than when he was first injured. Had Cespedes been placed on the DL after the break, his quad could be a moot point. That’s water under the bridge and nothing can be done about it now, however with the addition of Jay Bruce, and Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Nimmo, the Mets – barring further injuries – have enough outfielders to get them through the next two weeks.

What Cespedes needs is rest, which he won’t get in a DH role. If he can’t run in the outfield, he can’t run on the bases. This day-to-day stuff is paralyzing Collins in terms of making out his lineup and in-game management. If Cespedes can’t, or won’t, play center, his value to the Mets is diminished.

Frankly, I’d rather be without Cespedes for two weeks in early August than lose him for a longer period at the end of the month or worse, in September. The Mets need to DL Cespedes now to set up for the stretch drive.

The season depends on it.

Aug 01

Mets Get Bruce From Reds; Raises Questions

Updated to include quotes from Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.

You can still find Brandon Nimmo with the Mets. Nimmo had been traded to Cincinnati for Jay Bruce, but that changed when he reportedly failed his physical and had to be replaced by second base prospect Dilson Herrera. Minor league lefty prospect Max Wotell was also included in the trade.

BRUCE: Running to Mets. (AP)

  BRUCE: Running to Mets. (AP)

The Mets added Herrera after the Reds found something they didn’t like with Nimmo’s physical. Nimmo had a foot injury earlier this year.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson would not confirm it was Nimmo who had the medical issue, but that’s not hard to figure out since he was pulled and Herrera was added.

The 29-year-old Bruce is expected to offer the punch that has been severely lacking, hitting .265 with 25 homers and a league-leading 80 RBI, and perhaps most importantly, a .360 average with RISP. Bruce has been on the Mets’ radar for over a year when they offered Zack Wheeler last July before landing Yoenis Cespedes.

“We haven’t had time to talk about playing time will be broken down,” Alderson said. “He’ll provide a big presence in the middle of the lineup. … One player could have a significant impact. Somebody like Jay Bruce can be a catalyst.”

Q: What is Bruce’s contractual status?

A: Bruce is in the final months of a six-year, $51 million contract, which includes a $13 million option (or $1 million buyout) for 2017. Bruce is making $12.5 million this season. Alderson said the club option was essential.

“We would not have done the deal without the extra year of control,” Alderson said. “We would not have done the deal as a rental.”

Specifically, this gives the Mets a safety net should Cespedes opt out and leave after this season.

Q: Where will Bruce play?

A: With Cespedes insisting on playing left field, Bruce could go to right field with Curtis Granderson moving to center.

Q: How does the deal impact Cespedes and Michael Conforto?

A: If there is a time to put Cespedes (strained right quad) on the disabled list it is now (actually, it should have been three weeks ago). Having Bruce gives the Mets the flexibility of placing Cespedes on the disabled list now, which is preferable to risking an injury and losing him in September. What Bruce does is offer the Mets a safety net should Cespedes opt out after this season.

As for Conforto, he’ll stay up here if Cespedes goes on the DL. However, there’s a strong chance they’ll send him back to the minors and bring him up again in September unless there’s an injury before then.

Q: What about the long-term future with Granderson?

A: It’s all fluid now as Granderson has one more year on his contract and the Mets can choose not to bring back Bruce for 2017.

Q: Does it matter that even with Bruce the Mets don’t have a conventional outfield?

A: Not in the least, simply because the Mets don’t have a conventional outfield now. Bruce will report to the Mets tomorrow. Beginning Wednesday, the Mets will have five games in American League parks (two with the Yankees and three in Detroit), where they can buy some time with Cespedes.

Unbelievably, Collins said the Mets hope Cespedes might be able to play center field by the end of the week.

Q: What is the fallout with Herrera?

A: The sticking point in getting Lucroy from the Brewers was them not wanting to give up Herrera. This could enhance their chances of keeping Neil Walker, who can opt out if he wants after the season. Of course, that could mean giving him more money. Part of the reason why Alderson let Daniel Murphy walk was in part because of Herrera. Alderson said the Mets have some infield depth for next year with Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes.

Q: Anything else?

A: Right at the deadline, the Mets reaquired Jon Niese from Pittsburgh for lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo. Niese will be used primarily out of the bullpen – “I didn’t forget the job he did last year [in relief],” Collins said – but could be slotted in if another starter needed a day of rest.

Aug 01

FLASH: Mets Land Bruce; Deal Nimmo To Reds

With roughly three hours before the trade deadline, the Mets landed left-handed hitting corner outfielder Jay Bruce from Cincinnati for prospect Brandon Nimmo and two other minor league prospects.

Bruce, 29, is hitting .265 with 25 and 80 RBI. With Yoenis Cespedes insisting on playing left field, Bruce good slot into right field with Curtis Granderson moving over to center.

The deal is predicated on players passing their physicals.