May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda


Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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Apr 20

Mets Must Leave Conforto Hitting Third

It won’t be long before the Mets  face a dominating left-hander such as Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw or Gio Gonzalez. When they do, I hope Terry Collins resists the temptation to move Michael Conforto out of the No. 3 hole. I also hope he resists moving him if Conforto has a couple of 0-for-4 nights.

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

The Mets are sizzling since moving Conforto to the third spot and scoring close to six runs a game during that span. It’s not all Conforto, but he certainly deserves some credit. What the Mets have had during this span is something they haven’t for a long time, and definitely not last year, and that’s a consistent batting order.

“I think that is where he’s going to end up hitting one of these days full time,” Collins told reporters. “We thought he was swinging the bat good, so we thought it was time to put him there and see if he can springboard the offense.”

That he’s done. This is easily the Mets’ best lineup since 2006, when they had Jose Reyes leading off and David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado lumped in the middle. However, this lineup is potentially better because it is strong 1-through-9. The additions of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker have made this lineup incredibly long.

Conforto in the three hole gives the Mets’ order a sense of stability. Curtis Granderson is a fixture leading off because the Mets don’t have a traditional No. 1 hitter the way Reyes once was. The Mets don’t have to count on Wright for power, so he’s fine batting second. Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda offer a right-left combination at Nos. 4 and 5, with both having 30-homer potential. Walker, Cabrera and Travis d’Arnaud are Nos. 6-7-8, with all having the potential of 15 homers.

Few lineups can match this potential.

Things might cool off at the bottom of the order. For example, I don’t expect Walker to continue this pace and hit 40 or more homers. But, what I do expect is Conforto to develop into a star. Another Carl Yastrzemski? Another Ted Williams? That’s dreaming. But, he can become a star and for that to happen he needs to stay in the lineup against left-handers.

The Mets are committed with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, but Collins seems to have hedged his bets with Conforto by saying he’ll sit, or move lower in the order, against lefties. Please NO. The only way Conforto will become the player the Mets hope is for him to hit lefties, and for this to happen he must bat against them.

Conforto said he’s comfortable hitting third because he’s always hit there.

“I never had any nervousness about it,” Conforto told reporters. “It just kind of felt natural, where I have been in college and through the minor leagues, so I felt pretty good there.”

Collins attributed part of Conforto’s success hitting third to batting ahead of Cespedes, who offers protection. Pitchers don’t want to walk Conforto because they don’t want to face Cespedes with men on base. Consequently, he’s getting better pitches and isn’t being worked around.

And, when pitchers make a mistake Conforto doesn’t miss.

Let’s hope Collins doesn’t become the man at the grill who can’t resist poking at the embers. Things are good now. Don’t fool with it.

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Nov 20

Today In Mets History: Tom Seaver Win Rookie Of Year Award

In 1967, New York Mets’ icon Tom Seaver began his journey on becoming “The Franchise,’’ when he was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year, an award he said he cherished more than his All-Star appearance that summer.

SEAVER: Begins journey to greatness.

SEAVER: Begins journey to greatness.

“This is a bigger thrill to me than being named to the All-Star team,’’ Seaver said at the time. “You only get one chance to be Rookie of the Year. If you’re good you can make the All-Star team several times in your career.’’

Seaver made it a dozen times.

In winning the award, Seaver became the first Met to win a postseason honor and the first ever player from a last-place team.

The Mets lost 101 games in 1967, but the addition of Seaver was the key move in the franchise becoming a winner.

That season, Seaver set franchise at the time with 16 wins, 18 complete games, 170 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA.

In the All-Star Game that year, won 2-1 by the National League in 15 innings, Seaver retired Tony Conigliaro on a fly ball, walked Carl Yastrzemski, got Bill Freehan on a fly ball and struck out Ken Berry.

Seaver won three Cy Young Awards and finished second two other times in a career that featured winning 311 games with a 2.86 ERA and an incomprehensible 231 complete games and 61 shutouts. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 with a record 98.8 percent of the vote.

LATER THIS MORNING: How the free agent market is shaping up.



Nov 15

Cabrera, Trout And Posey Top MVP Candidates


The Major League postseason awards conclude today with the granddaddy of them all – the Most Valuable Player Awards.

San Francisco catcher Buster Posey and Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera competing against the Angels’ Mike Trout are considered the frontrunners. Throw a blanket over Cabrera and Trout in the American League.

Let’s look at the American League race first because of the potential closeness of the voting.

The award has been shared before, the National League in 1979 between the Cardinals’ Keith Hernandez and the Pirates’ Willie Stargell. It is possible to have co-winners in these awards because they are done on a point system: x number of points for first place, y number of points for second place and so on.

Clearly, Trout had a MVP season, especially impressive had he not missed the first month of the season. Had he played a full season, it is possible he might have prevented Cabrera from winning the Triple Crown, one of baseball’s rarest achievements last done in 1967 by Carl Yastrzemski.

There is no criteria set by the Baseball Writers Association of America, which is why relief pitchers have won (Rollie Fingers, 1981), Willie Hernandez (1984) and Dennis Eckersley (1992). Also, players from teams with losing records (Cal Ripken, 1991) and Ernie Banks (1958-59) have been honored, as well as starting pitchers (Justin Verlander, 2011), Denny McLain and Bob Gibson (1968), and Sandy Koufax (1963).

The voting for all postseason awards must be in on the last day of the regular season, so playoff performances are not counted. However, traditionally, many of the winners – if not most – come from teams in the postseason.

The arguments for Cabrera and Trout are equally compelling, if not convincing.

Cabrera won the Triple Crown which is rare and impressive, and led the American League in OPS; his team made the playoffs and he moved to a different position. All strong arguments for Cabrera.

However, Trout led the majors in runs scored – 20 more than Cabrera; accomplished what he did in fewer games; and his team had a better record than Cabrera’s; and he might have saved at least 20 more runs with his defense. All strong arguments for Trout.

I have no complaint for either, but if forced to choose between the two I would take Cabrera because of the Triple Crown. It is such a rare achievement I can’t overlook.

The National League is easy for me. The best players are Posey, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, last year’s winner, St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, and Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.

Beltran and Molina will take votes from each other; McCutchen will be penalized by the Pirates’ late season collapse; and Braun will suffer from last year’s drug test controversy.

Posey, coming off a serious injury, hit .336 with over 100 RBI, and caught one of the game’s best staffs.

Oct 02

This Day in Baseball History …. Bucky Clears the Wall.

Yanks beat Sox in playoff game.

Yanks beat Sox in playoff game.

I knew exactly where I was on this day in 1978. I cut classes that day and was in my college apartment where I watched the Yankees complete their overtaking of the Boston Red Sox when Bucky Dent cleared the Green Monster in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park.

What a lot of people forget, is the Yankees not only erased a 14-game deficit, but actually moved ahead of Boston and it was the Red Sox who needed to come back to force the playoff. That only happened on the last day of the season when Cleveland’s Rick Waits beat New York at Yankee Stadium.

Dent’s homer came off Mike Torrez and Ron Guidry won his 25th game of the season. The game ends when Goose Gossage gets Carl Yastrzemski to pop out to third with two on.

Does anybody remember watching that game and what they were feeling that day?