Aug 02

Three Mets’ Storylines: Welcome Jay Bruce

The reception was cordial and polite – reserved actually, as if the crowd was guarded about their expectations – when Jay Bruce went to the plate for the first time Tuesday night in a Mets uniform. You might even say it was business as usual, because after all, the trade that brought him to New York from Cincinnati has been brewing for a long time.

“I feel like I’ve been getting traded to the Mets for over a year now,” Bruce told reporters in his introductory press conference prior to Tuesday’s 7-1 victory over the Yankees. “You never know what’s going to happen until it actually happens. Last year there was some crazy stuff during the deadline. I try not to jump to conclusions or assume anything. So I waited until I got the call.

“And when it happened, I was very, very excited.”

DE AZA: Home run swing. (AP)

DE AZA: Home run swing. (AP)

Bruce joins the Mets as the NL leader in RBI with 80 built on a .360 average with RISP. Conversely, the Mets are last in the majors with a .205 average with RISP. Bruce had an uneventful 0-for-4 as he flied out to left in the first; grounded out to first in the fourth; and struck out looking in the sixth and seventh.

It might have been jitters, but no worries on the night. The trade was the right move and the Mets will be beneficiaries soon enough.

“I know he was nervous, even though he’s an established star in the big leagues and is trying to fit in,” manager Terry Collins said.

As expected, Bruce’s first game was the primary storyline. Here are the other two.

DE AZA SHOULD GET SHOT IN CENTER: When the Mets signed Alejandro De Aza – prior to signing Yoenis Cespedes – they did so with the intent of platooning him with Juan Lagares. But, with Lagares on the DL – where Cespedes should be – why are the Mets still in a funk about who can play center field?

After a slow start and was on the brink of being released, De Aza started getting more playing time and since July is batting .342, including a two-run homer Tuesday night.

“I just want to keep working and help the team win,” De Aza said. “I’ve been working hard in the cages to shorten up my swing.”

THE MYSTERIOUS MIND OF COLLINS: Jacob deGrom was superb, but what I will take out of this game most – outside of Bruce’s debut – was Collins’ decision to pinch-hit Cespedes for De Aza in the seventh.

The Mets were up by five at the time, so why bat for the player who homered and is your best defensive center fielder? Cespedes’ RBI infield single was a moot point and foolish risk.

“I just wanted to get him an at-bat,” said Collins, as if Cespedes would forget how to hit before starting as the DH Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

“I felt a little discomfort running down the line,” Cespedes said. “But once I got back in the dugout it felt better.”

No, Cespedes didn’t get hurt, but what if he reinjured his strained quad? Why take that chance with the game seemingly out of reach?

Sometimes, Collins makes me scratch my head and wonder. Other times he makes my want to throw a shoe at the TV.

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May 03

Conforto Comparisons, Contract Speculation Premature

When Michael Conforto finished second to Bryce Harper for NL Player of the Month honors for April came the inevitable comparisons and with them predictable comments the Mets might be wise to consider signing him to a long-term contract.

That won’t happen anytime soon.

CONFORTO: Too soon to talk contract. (AP)

CONFORTO: Too soon to talk contract. (AP)

While the thought of securing Conforto is appealing, it’s not on the Mets’ priority list for a variety of reasons.

If the Mets sign a player to a long-term deal before declaring free-agency, they will be inclined to do so with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, although I still maintain the last one will eschew any early contract negotiations and wait until he’s on the market.

The Mets have the money to sign all four pitchers, plus Conforto, if they are inclined, but that’s not the way they do business. It’s early in all their careers and so much can happen, such as injuries and poor performance that could derail plans all together on long-term contracts.

Let’s not forget Tuesday night’s game against the Braves was the 80th of Conforto’s promising, yet still very young career. Conversely, Harper – a three-time All-Star – is in his fifth season and has played in 535 games. Putting the brakes on the comparison even further, Harper has 106 career homers while Conforto has 75 career hits.

It’s way too soon to compare Conforto to Harper or Mike Trout, or to a lot of people. Eighty games, people. That’s half a season.

I like Conforto. There’s so much about his game to like, including his potential. His career is off to a good start, but the reality of it is it’s way too soon to be talking about such things as long-term contracts.

Apr 22

Mets Wrap: Harvey Not Sharp, But Wins

The answer was an empathic NO, Matt Harvey did not find it. Regardless of how Friday night’s game would turn out, the main storyline for the Mets was going to be Harvey, and whether he could avoid hitting the wall that marked his three losses to start the season.

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

Harvey was far from sharp, but came away with his first victory, 6-3, over the Braves, whom you must remember aren’t the Braves of old who routinely tormented the Mets.

Harvey, backed by a pair of Curtis Granderson home runs, struggled but pitched well enough to temporarily take the collective fingers off the Mets’ off the panic button. Even so, Harvey was pushed and despite winning the Mets know it can’t keep going on like this for the pitcher who craves the moniker of “ace.”

Manager Terry Collins finally admitted Harvey’s light spring training workload, compounded by a bladder infection, has been a strong contributor to his career-high four-game losing streak (dating back to last year).

Harvey gave up two runs on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts in five arduous innings in which he threw 101 pitches. For that many pitches, the Mets would want at least another two innings from Harvey. His primary problem was not keeping the ball down and his slider didn’t have the bite he must have to succeed.

Staked to a 4-0 lead in the second on Granderson’s grand slam homer, Harvey labored through a 33-pitch bottom of the inning to give back two of the runs.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #15   Record: 8-7    Streak: W 1

 SUMMARY: Granderson’s two homers and five RBI carried Harvey to his first victory in a performance that can kindly be called “not a gem.”

 KEY MOMENT: Granderson’s slam.

 THUMBS UP: Yoenis Cespedes threw a runner out at the plate to end the fifth. … His RBI double in the seventh marked his seventh straight game with an extra-base hit. … Strong showings by relievers Antonio Bastardo and Addison Reed.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s short start forced the Mets bullpen to log four more innings. … David Wright struck out two more times and already has 21. … Juan Lagares was doubled off second in the ninth when another run would have helped. … Jeurys Familia got the save, but wasn’t sharp. … Cespedes aggravated his leg injury on the double.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Jacob deGrom threw a successful bullpen session in Port St. Lucie Fla. He will rejoin the team Saturday and start Sunday. Collins said deGrom could be limited to 85 pitches. DeGrom last pitched April 8 and has been away from the team when his son, Jaxon, was born with medical complications. … Collins was a passenger in a taxi involved in a minor traffic accident Thursday. There were no injuries. … Pitching coach Dan Warthen is away from the team for his mother’s funeral. … The Braves haven’t announced Sunday’s starter. … The game was delayed by rain in the bottom of the eighth inning.

QUOTEBOOK: “Matt can be a little aloof at times.” – Keith Hernandez on Harvey after the pitcher seemingly walked away from a conversation between innings with catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

 BY THE NUMBERS: 4: Granderson became the fourth player to hit grand slams for both the Mets and Yankees, joining Robin Ventura, Darryl Strawberry and Carlos Beltran.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (1-1, 7.27 ERA) attempts an encore of last Sunday’s gem in Cleveland. He’ll go against Jhoulys Chacin (0-0, 2.38).

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Mar 05

Understanding Lack Of Urgency In Signing Pitchers

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said there haven’t been any talks with their young rotation for long-term contracts, but added that doesn’t mean there can’t be negotiations later in spring training. But, if it doesn’t happen this spring there shouldn’t be a cause for great concern.

DeGROM: It's just business (GETTY)

DeGROM: It’s just business (GETTY)

I’ve long liked the idea of the Mets signing their young pitchers to long-term contracts. My thinking is the price will eventually increase so it makes sense to lock them up early for the sake of cost certainty. It makes sense, but I can also understand why Alderson hasn’t been more aggressive in that area.

It starts with a sense of urgency, and frankly there is none. Matt Harvey won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season. Jacob deGrom won’t be eligible until 2020, which is four years away, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz until 2021.

“I think that’s something that everyone needs to keep in mind,” Alderson told reporters. “There seems to be a fixation on some of our players and the brevity or length of their time with the Mets. I all of these cases, they’re going to be with us for a while. From that standpoint, is there urgency? From our standpoint, is there urgency?”

There’s time to do something and yes the price can increase. Conversely, there’s always the possibility of injuries and underperforming. That’s always the chance you take when you sign players to long-term contracts.

On the flip side, the Mets are taking a chance of alienating these pitchers if they continue to do things as they did with deGrom. Until a player becomes arbitration eligible, a team can assign a player his salary, which is what the Mets did when they issued him a $607,000 contract.

The conventional wisdom is the team holds the hammer early in a player’s career, and the athlete puts the screws to the team later on. If a team plays hardball all the time, it could come back to bite them.

For now, deGrom told reporters all is well with the team.

“That’s the business side of the game,” deGrom said. “That’s why I hired my agents. I feel like I have some of the best in the business. It was a business decision that we decided to make. We have great respect for the Mets and the system that they have, and I feel like I have a great relationship with them.

“As I’ve said before, I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.”

It’s also the business side when the player takes it to the team in the arbitration and free-agent process.

Mar 31

Quit Screwing Around With Idea Of Trading Gee

You have to wonder what Dillon Gee was thinking yesterday during Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s closed-doors meeting.

How could he possibly get swayed away in any emotional thoughts when there are reports of the Mets still wanting to trade him? How could he possibly feel a part for what they are building if they are always trying to show him the door?

GEE: Keep him. (Getty)

GEE: Keep him. (Getty)

Gee won’t make waves; he doesn’t have that type of personality. He said all the right things Monday on SNY, saying he’s only concentrating on getting ready for the season regardless of his role.

Gee, despite limited experience in that capacity, was supposed to open the season in the bullpen prior to Zack Wheeler’s season-ending elbow injury. At the time, manager Terry Collins said he would replace Wheeler.

Then all of sudden enter Rafael Montero, and Collins began backtracking. You have to wonder, considering the talk about the manager’s relationship with the general manager, if Sandy Alderson didn’t have a finger in all this.

Just wondering.

Now, we’re hearing again about Gee being shopped. Such talk won’t dissipate in the wake of Montero throwing six scoreless innings Monday. (Never mind Gee threw seven scoreless Sunday).

Gee has a 40-34 record with a 3.91 ERA in 106 appearances with the Mets. He’s shown an ability to pitch with composure and eat innings in big games. Conversely, the 24-year-old Montero has a big upside, but we don’t know what he’ll do if given the ball every fifth game.

For that, matter we don’t know what Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz could do.

Sure, they are banking on their young pitching and there’s nothing wrong with that optimism. However, they can’t operate under the assumption any of those three will immediately give the Mets what Gee has proven to give.

If Alderson is the genius he’s been portrayed to be, he should know a team could never have enough pitching. In Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he’s lost Matt Harvey, Johan Santana, Wheeler, Gee (last year) and Jon Niese at various times. Isn’t that enough of a clue?

Alderson is telling us the Mets will be competitive this year. Yet, he’s willing to go with an unproven as a fifth starter this year, and this despite also knowing they won’t have Bartolo Colon next season and Wheeler until at least June.

So, what’s this about trading Gee? Unless they are blown away – and they won’t be – it would be incredibly stupid to trade him.

And, we don’t need any more stupid things.

ON DECK:  Mets Today: What’s happening today.