Jul 24

The Mets Add Conforto; Deal With Braves Pending

Michael Conforto was lifting weights when his minor league manager, Pedro Lopez, approached him with a cell phone to inform him of his promotion to the Mets. Now, comes the part of trying to withstand the temptation to lift the Mets.

Of course, that’s easier said then done, especially with the numbers screaming this is a team in desperate need of help. After Friday’s 7-2 loss to the Dodgers the Mets are losers of six of their last eight games. They have the worst team batting average in the majors at .233 and next to last in runs scored with 331.

Yes, the Mets are a team in need and along with the much-anticipated promotion of Conforto, they were on the verge of swinging a deal with Atlanta for third baseman Juan Uribe and left-handed hitting utility player Kelly Johnson.

Conforto, at least, seems to have his head screwed on straight regarding expectations.

“I haven’t played in big league games,’’ Conforto said. “So really there’s no way for me to really know if I’m ready.’’

Conforto is here because Michael Cuddyer was finally placed on the disabled list with a sore knee. That decision came at least three weeks too late by GM Sandy Alderson.

Alderson, as usual, spoke legalese when it came to talking about Conforto’s expectations, saying there was thought he would “super dramatically,’’ upgrade the Mets’ production. Conforto was hitless but drove in the Mets’ first run with a groundout.

Maybe Alderson was attempting to take the pressure off Conforto, but the game’s smartest general manager, according to his auto-biography, couched everything.

Alderson said the promotion might have occurred without Cuddyer’s injury, but since it was tied to a player going on the disabled list there was no guarantee how long he would stay up here. Alderson also said the promotion was no connection as to how active the Mets will be on the trade market.

By the end of the game, the Mets hadn’t announced the trade that would send pitching prospects Michael Gant and Rob Whalen to the Braves.

Figuring it does, the Mets could play Uribe at third, move Daniel Murphy back to second and Wilmer Flores back to shortstop. Of course, that means Ruben Tejada will likely return to the bench.

Johnson, who can also play both outfield positions as well as the infield, is hitting .275 with nine homers and 34 RBI, numbers which could arguably make him the Mets’ best hitter.

Do Conforto, Uribe and Johnson make the Mets decidedly better?

Not really.

Uribe, who is hitting .272 with eight homers and 23 RBI, this year with Atlanta and the Dodgers, and Johnson, bring with them batting averages that would put them at the top of Mets, but they are essentially complementary players. And, Conforto, whom Alderson didn’t want to bring up in the first place, remains a Double-A prospect.

You could say they make the Mets better because what has been here has been so bad.

That’s not really that comforting, is it?

Surely, there has to be more. There just has to be.

Jul 12

Nieuwenhuis Powers Mets Into Break On High Note

The Mets couldn’t have asked for a better April, and couldn’t have had a better stretch heading into the All-Star break. After losing their first two games of the month to the Cubs, with their sweep of the Diamondbacks completed today the Mets cruised into the break by winning three straight series.

Who saw that coming?

NIEUWENHUIS: Who would have guessed this? (AP)

NIEUWENHUIS: Who would have guessed this? (AP)

They did it with stellar starting pitching, and believe it or not, another barrage of power. Today, it was Kirk Nieuwenhuis hitting three homers. In the first two games of the series Lucas Duda found his homer stroke.

The Mets enter the break in second place, two games behind Washington and five games over .500. I would have signed on for that in a heartbeat coming out of spring training, and I’m sure most of you would have done so also.

There are two schools of thought about the Mets’ situation heading into the second half:

1) The Mets are where they are for the most part without David Wright, little offensive production overall and an erratic first-half from Matt Harvey. Given that, the Mets are right there and should go for it by making a bold trade.

2) Since they are close, they should keep the status quo and hope for Wright and Travis d’Arnaud to come back.

Can you guess which option GM Sandy Alderson is most apt to take?

Alderson is taking a “wait and see,’’ tact regarding trades, saying the market hasn’t yet defined itself. Entering the break, there are 12 teams that are seven games or less out of first place. Subsequently, there are 12 teams – plus the six division leaders – who believe they are in contention, and that includes the Mets.

The Mets are close, but not in the money if the playoffs started coming out of the break.

By extension, these teams are considered buyers at the deadline. But, are they really? With more and more teams trying to hold out for more – and teams such the Mets who are prone to want to fleece the opposition – there could be limited activity at the end of the month.

I’m expecting the Mets not to do anything substantial at the deadline, but that would be a mistake. The Mets are close despite a myriad of injuries, but also because Washington has been crippled and not played well.

Injuries are always a wild card and we don’t know what to expect next season. Will Washington be healthy? What key Met could be injured? Will the Braves be better? We don’t know. We do know the Mets are this close in large part because they won 11 straight games in April. They can’t count on that again.

I think Alderson should go for it, because we never know what will happen in the future.

 

Jun 14

Collins Invited Six-Man Rotation Drama

No matter how the Mets phrase it, they are back to a six-man rotation, which kicks into play Sunday when Dillon Gee comes off bereavement leave to start against the Braves. Gee isn’t happy about this; actually none of the pitchers are.

HARVEY: Force behind six-man rotation. (Getty)

HARVEY: Force behind six-man rotation. (Getty)

Manager Terry Collins is getting testy talking about this, but this predicament is his own doing. His and GM Sandy Alderson. Collins said it’s not really a six-man rotation, but occasionally he’ll slot in a pitcher, as it is with Gee.

“It’s drama,” Collins told reporters. “We’re living in New York City, that’s where drama’s made. Here’s something that could create some drama, that could be blown out of proportion when it was very minor.”

Playing in New York City has nothing to do with the drama. All this drama could have been alleviated had Collins mapped out Matt Harvey‘s starts in spring training. He had the schedule in front of him. He knew when the off days were. The only thing he didn’t know were injuries and rainouts. But, neither Collins nor Alderson wanted to deal with Harvey and his mood swings.

When Collins broached the six-man rotation several weeks ago, it was met cooly by the staff, notably Harvey, who made his displeasure known.

“I didn’t like the looks of [the six-man rotation], I didn’t like the feeling in the clubhouse that was going on,” Collins said. “I didn’t like the feeling in here – I just didn’t like it. … So it’s not a six-man rotation, it’s a five-man rotation where we’re gonna slip somebody in because we think maybe a day here as an extra day will help out.”

So, it is a five-man rotation until it becomes a six-man rotation.

Collins said the objective was to scale down his pitcher’s innings so they wouldn’t have to shut them down in September.

Of course, this could have been done had the Mets opted to structure their rotation instead of playing it by ear and flying by the seat of their pants.

Collins doesn’t like the drama, but he and Alderson invited it because they walk on egg shells around Harvey.

 

Apr 29

Mets In Good Spot With Colon Today

It’s all about winning series at this point and for the Mets today they have another opportunity. You have to be happy Bartolo Colon is going for them today against the Marlins.

The Mets have the chance to go home to face the Nationals in a four-game series with at least a seven-game lead if they put away Miami today. It is why I called Miami a trap series. However, with how the Mets played the past two games it is clear they are focused. Dillon Gee was superb Monday and last night they came from behind to tie.

COLON: Workhorse goes today.

COLON: Workhorse goes today.

That doesn’t happen with teams looking ahead. However, I remain respectful and wary of the Nationals, who were down 9-1 Tuesday, but rallied to beat the Braves. Dying teams don’t do that, so obviously they are focused, also.

Should Colon win he will become the first Mets’ starter to go 5-0 since Pedro Martinez in 2006, not coincidentally, the last time they reached the playoffs. The franchise record is 7-0 by Frank Viola in 1990.

Colon is one of the Mets’ top story lines in April and his start in light of Zack Wheeler’s injury has more than stabilized the rotation. The Mets need another strong start from him on the eve of the Washington series.

Last night’s starter, Rafael Montero, was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, which was to be expected considering he threw 85 pitches working into the sixth and wouldn’t be available soon.

Replacing him on the roster will be left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich. Subsequently, the Mets will go back to a short bench until David Wright returns from the disabled, which could be as soon as this weekend. Leathersich is a strikeout pitcher, averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

It will be interesting to see what the Mets do when Wright returns and when they want to bring back Montero.

The Mets like having Montero around, but they also like deeper bench. Unfortunately, they can’t have both.

 

Apr 23

Amazing Start Changing Perception Of Mets

As special as the Mets played Wednesday, today was important for another reason. After winning their tenth straight game last night, there was tremendous letdown potential for today, but this team would have no part of such talk as it tied a franchise best with its eleventh straight victory in sweeping a ten-game home stand.

COLLINS: Revels in great start.

COLLINS: Revels in great start.

It was cold, the stands were mostly empty, and there were moments of sloppiness. Daniel Murphy blew a play in the field that lead to a pair of Atlanta runs; Wilmer Flores was picked off second; and the hitting was sporadic.

However, the offense drew eight walks; Bartolo Colon was sharp again in winning his fourth straight start; Murphy drove in four runs; and the bullpen was again in shutdown mode, keyed by another strong appearance from Buddy Carlyle and Jeurys Familia‘s eighth straight save in a 6-3 victory over the Braves.

To win despite not being sharp is another significant sign in a season that already has had so many. The starting pitching; the bullpen; winning close games; winning within the division; coming from behind; just about everything they haven’t done in previous seasons.

What the Mets are doing is changing the perception, which might be one of the hardest things to do in sports.

“That was one of our goals coming out of spring training, that we are different,” manager Terry Collins said. “There are expectations. This sends a huge message to our fans that what we said we meant.”

Previous Mets teams would not have over come the long string of injuries and adversity that has already hit them hard this season.

“It has been the resiliency,” Collins said of the one ingredient that defined the home stand. “We have been behind in a lot of the nights, but we hung in there and executed.”

The Mets had spotty moments today and will have some in the future. However, Collins vowed this team is different and will handle those moments different than from other recent Mets’ teams.

“Whether it will be in the next week, the next six weeks, the next four months, there will be no panic with this team,” Collins promised.

He sounded believable.