Apr 01

Matz Putting It Together At Right Time

The one pitching Met I was most concerned with appears to have pulled it together, and that’s Steven Matz, who pitched five hitless innings in an 8-1 rout of the Cubs that snapped a 14-game winless streak.

Matz struck out six and walked two, and there were no comments after questioning his stamina or conditioning.

“This is definitely a good way to go into the season,’’ Matz told reporters. “My slider was working and it’s definitely something I’m going to be using. I’m definitely getting to where I need to be.’’

However, “getting to,’’ isn’t exactly “being there,’’ and it should be pointed out starters are expected to work at least six innings and possibly seven in their final tune-up.

Matz threw 73 pitches, which won’t do in his first start. Meanwhile, Jacob deGrom threw 71 pitches in a minor league game in Port St. Lucie.

All Mets starters operated under a reduced workload in spring training. It took awhile for Matz to come around, but Matt Harvey had a miserable spring. Manager Terry Collins said he won’t be concerned until the games count, and that will be Sunday with Harvey.

After the game, the Mets finalized their Opening Day roster with Kevin Plawecki being the last position player and relievers Jim Henderson and Logan Verrett rounding out the staff.

Feb 26

Hypothetical Terry Collins Address To Mets

By all accounts, Mets’ manager Terry Collins‘ address to his players today was positive with him stressing the expectations will be higher this season and they should embrace being the hunted. Using that information, I’ve put together a hypothetical speech Collins should have said to his team this morning prior to their first full-squad workout in Port St. Lucie.

“Good morning, gentlemen. It’s great to see all of you. Of course, most of you have been here now for several days, which tells me a lot. It tells me how serious you are about the work ahead of us, which it get back to the World Series and win it this time.

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

“I know we all remember how great it felt after we clinched in Cincinnati, and after we beat the Dodgers and Cubs. I also know how bad we all felt after we lost the World Series. I’m sure you thought about it during the winter. I want you to carry that feeling with you this summer and use it to your advantage.

“Yes, last year was great. But, last year is also last year. Last year doesn’t guarantee us anything this year. Washington will be better. The Cubs are better. The Giants are better. St. Louis is good. The Dodgers and Pirates are good. Nobody will hand us anything. We have to earn anything we get, and that begins with us taking care of our business.

“The media will say David Wright and Matt Harvey are the leaders of this team, and they will right … but only a point. To me, a leader isn’t just a player who produces in a big spot, but somebody whose teammates can rely on at all times. A leader is somebody who does his job. That means keeping your head in the game and keeping your focus at all times.

“It means knowing what to do in the field before the pitch is thrown. It means not giving away at-bats. When we weren’t hitting last year it was mostly because we gave away too many at-bats. We have to do a better job of moving up runners, we have to be more aggressive on the bases and we have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them. Remember, nobody will give us anything.

“It’s a long season and we’re going to need everybody at one time or another. So, when your name is called you have to be ready to play.

“Last season taught us a lot of things. It taught us how great winning can feel. It also told us how bad losing can feel. Above all else, last year taught us how difficult winning can be and we’ll need everybody if we’re going to achieve what we want to do.”

Collins isn’t a rah-rah type, so there wasn’t any “win it for the Gipper,” emotion. So, all this is what he might have said to his team. Collins isn’t one to single players out in a team meeting. He’ll likely meet with his players individually. Hopefully, he’ll stress to Wright the need for him to be honest about how he feels and not fight him about rest.

And, along those lines, and you knew I would get to this eventually, in speaking to Harvey they would have to relive that ninth inning of Game 5. I hope Collins made Harvey understand he went against his better judgment when he let back out for the ninth inning. But, Collins let Harvey stay in the game because he trusted him.

That being said, I hope Collins made it known Harvey would have to regain that trust. And, that would start with Harvey not fighting his decisions when it comes to taking him out of a game.

 

Dec 09

Niese Traded To Pirates For Walker

Just as the Mets quickly rebounded by getting Yoenis Cespedes when the Carlos Gomez trade fell through, they did it again as they have traded for Pirates second baseman Neil Walker the day after losing Ben Zobrist to the Cubs.

WALKER: Newest Met. (Getty)

WALKER: Newest Met. (Getty)

All it cost is Jon Niese, who wasn’t in their plans in the first place. I wrote last night I wasn’t all that broken up about Zobrist falling through because he was too pricey and there were other options. Zobrist’s 162-game averages are .265 with 17 homers and 77 RBI, while Walker hit .269 with 16 homers and 71 RBI last year. The difference is one hot weekend.

Niese was to make $9 million this year, which is the projected arbitration award for Walker.

Walker doesn’t play the outfield corners like Zobrist, but like him is a switch-hitter and is four years younger. However, with Zobrist they would have him locked up for four years. Walker could only turn out to be a rental as he’ll be a free agent after this season. That could mean the Mets could be going through this again next winter if Dilson Herrara doesn’t show them anything this year.

As for Niese, 29, he was being phased out because of the Mets’ young core of arms. Niese was projected to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list, but are now expected to go with Rafael Montero. The trade of Niese could also spur the Mets to re-sign Bartolo Colon.

 

Nov 17

Collins Deserves Manager Of Year Award

The popular choice is Joe Maddon of the Cubs, but the right choice for NL Manager of the Year has to be the Mets’ Terry Collins. Considering all he went through this summer, and the preceding four years, how can it be anybody else?

Seriously, how can it be?

COLLINS: Deserves Manager of Year Award. (AP)

COLLINS: Deserves Manager of Year Award.

In normal seasons, Maddon is a great and easy choice, but the Cubs were consistently good this summer, and he is the popular, sexy pick because of the history of his team. But, what about Collins?

The Mets kicked away an 11-game winning streak to fall below .500. With David Wright out for over four months; Travis d’Arnaud also out for an extended period; there was a patchwork bullpen; and a team last in scoring in the NL at the trade deadline; and a young rotation, including Matt Harvey coming off Tommy John surgery, there were few that had the Mets finishing .500, much less reaching the World Series.

Yet, with their season crumbling and rumors Collins’ job was in jeopardy, he held his team together. Unlike other losing teams where players don’t hustle and point fingers, Collins’ players played hard for him, which is the ultimate sign a manager has their respect.

This award is voted on prior to the playoffs, so the Mets’ sweep of the Cubs can’t be considered. All too often, this is a popularity contest, which is why I can see Maddon getting this. But, the expectations of Collins’ Mets were low. He kept his team together and playing hard. He had the Mets overachieving, if there is such a thing.

Maddon and the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny also had outstanding years and normally would be deserving. But, this year, Collins deserves it most.

 

Oct 28

Mets’ DeGrom In Must-Win Game Tonight

Nobody can say for certain what big games Jacob deGrom might have later in his career that could carve legacy, but there’s no doubt the Mets’ run during these playoffs is contingent on him showing up large in Game 2 tonight against Johnny Cueto.

No deGrom; no World Series title.

DEGROM: Poised and ready. (Getty)

DEGROM: Poised and ready. (Getty)

The Mets’ best pitcher this season must fight through fatigue for his team to take this Series back to Citi Field tied at a game apiece. The must regain the command he lost in his last two starts against the Dodgers and Cubs.

Those teams couldn’t come up with the big hit to put deGrom and the Mets away. The Mets aren’t even here without his second start against the Dodgers in which he stranded five runners in scoring position.

Such grit rarely works against the Royals, who came from behind twice last night to beat the Mets.

“One of the things we know about them is they’re never down and out. We’ve got to put them away,” manager Terry Collins said after Kansas City survived 14 innings last night, and to do so needed to overcome Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning.

That begins with scoring early and often against Cueto, and deGrom becoming overpowering again.

“They’re going to battle you,’’ deGrom said. “They’re not going to strike out a lot and they’re going to put the ball in play. I think my job is to keep the ball down.

“I always say I try to go out there and get early contact, and strikeouts just seem to happen. That’s going to be my same game plan going into this.’’

Against the fastball-hitting Cubs, deGrom said he had to temper his approach with more off-speed pitches and relied on his change-up. Much has been made of Kansas City’s ability to put fastballs in play, so that might be his formula tonight.

“There’s going to be adjustments to be made like there is in every game,’’ deGrom said. “I think it’s just seeing what’s going on out there.’’

And, recognizing it quickly because if he doesn’t the game can get away very fast.