Jun 03

Callaway: Mets Need To Get Back To Work

Mets manager Mickey Callaway said his team isn’t focused and maybe it’s time to spend less time before games taking batting practice and more time revisiting spring training fundamental drills.

Callaway was upset when the Mets gifted the Cubs the only runs they needed in today’s 2-0 loss that enabled Chicago to finish its four-game sweep and extend the losing skid to nine of the last 11 games. In particular, he said Steven Matz was slow to first base on a pickoff attempt which enabled Javier Baez to steal home.

This came after Baez faked a steal on the previous pitch.

That was followed by Jay Bruce letting up on a pop-up to short right and letting inexperienced second baseman Luis Guillorme to make the play and allow Willson Contreras – who caught all 13 innings Saturday night – tagged up and score.

Clearly, the Mets didn’t anticipate on either play, which is a fundamental part of playing defense.

“I think we need to shift our focus,’’ Callaway said. “We are not focusing on that part of the game very well. If we have to go out and work on cutoffs and relays and pop-ups and PFP [pitcher’s fielding practice], that is what we will do instead of being on the field and hitting. I guess we need to make some adjustments on what we are focusing on.

“We go out there and do defensive work every day and we go out there and hit, maybe we need to shift our focus to make it more stuff like just ground balls and throwing to bags to be more fundamentals specific. I think it’s focus.’’

Matz said he was being cautious with a runner on third.

“I am not trying to snap a throw [to first] and throw it away,’’ said Matz, but conceded he has to throw the ball harder on the pickoff attempt. “It just caught me off guard. In the future, I’ll be more mindful of the throw. I wasn’t thinking about it.”

There’s no excuse for a left-handed pitcher to be surprised on that play.

As for Bruce, he said he thought Guillorme was already camped to make the catch. Even so, he later admitted that the outfielder has to take charge. He also conceded what we already knew: “I haven’t been good this year. That’s just the bottom line.”

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets are off Monday, then open interleague play with two games against Baltimore. … They have lost six straight home games and are 12-17 at Citi Field this season. … The Mets have been shut out four times, all at home. … The Mets’ offense has scored one run in its last 24 innings. The Mets have scored two or fewer runs 21 times this season. … Brandon Nimmo lead off to start the game and has reached base safely in 14 of 29 leadoff appearances with a .483 on-base percentage in the first inning.

 

May 30

They Are The Mets, So Things Can Always Get Worse

They are the Mets, so when it comes to injuries, of course, things can get worse. Expect it. The team that began the season boasting about its pitching depth is now scrounging for healthy arms. Forget productive arms for now, the Mets just need somebody to get the ball across the plate.

Strikes would be nice, but manager Mickey Callaway will take what he can get for now.

MATZ: Will he go on the DL? (AP)

MATZ: Will he go on the DL? (AP)

On Tuesday, Noah Syndergaard went on the disabled list with a strained ligament in his right index finger. Later that day, Steven Matz left at the start of the fourth inning with a bone bruise to his left middle finger.

This came after he doubled in the top of the inning.

X-Rays were negative, but an MRI today could determine if he joins Syndergaard on the DL.

“When I was standing on second base [the finger] was starting to throb a little bit out there,’’ Matz said after the Mets lost 7-6 loss in Atlanta. “I threw a couple of [warmup] pitches and felt it.”

Matz said the pain in the knuckle.

Jason Vargas will start in place of Syndergaard tonight, and Seth Lugo will get the start Thursday against the Cubs at Citi Field.

Currently, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Vargas are the only projected starters still in the rotation. Vargas, who will start on three-days rest, is pitching as if he were injured with a 1-3 record and 10.62 ERA in five starts.

“He won’t be that limited,” Callaway said. “We will really just have to see how he does and gets through the game fatigue-wise.”

Injuries helped derail the Mets last season, and are threatening to do so again this year. The Mets were fortunate to have deGrom miss only one start because of a hyperextended elbow. Not so lucky are Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, Wilmer Flores, Anthony Swarzak, Juan Lagares, AJ Ramos, Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud.

Asdrubal Cabrera is also playing with a sore knee.

Nov 03

Mets Sign Cabrera, Blevins

As expected, the Mets picked up the one-year, $8.5-million option on Asdrubal Cabrera, an indication of their lack of confidence on David Wright making a successful return from the disabled list.

Signing Cabrera also is clear indication the Mets won’t make a run at free-agent Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier.

“Asdrubal can help us all around the infield,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “The season didn’t end the way we wanted but that didn’t stop him from playing hard right to the very last out of the season. Asdrubal is a great tutor to our younger players and a leader in the clubhouse. We’re happy to have him back.’’

Cabrera, the Mets’ Opening Day shortstop last year, will play third and fill in at second. Cabrera, who asked to be traded last year after manager Terry Collins asked him to play second, has done an about-face.

Being injured, losing a step and your starting job, not to mention getting older will often cause a player re-evaluate his position. The Mets’ inability to trade Cabrera at the deadline also gave him an indication of what the free-agent market could be for him.

“I want to come back here because I feel this team is going to be in the playoffs again really soon,’’ Cabrera told reporters at the end of the season. “We’ve got talent.’’

Despite several stints on the disabled list last season (ligament damage in his right thumb), Cabrera hit .280 with 14 homers in 135 games.

Signing Cabrera doesn’t necessarily preclude the Mets not bringing back Jose Reyes, who is a free agent and can also play second and third, but is a better choice to back-up Rosario.

The Mets also picked up the one-year, $7-million option on lefty reliever Jerry Blevins.

“Jerry always takes the ball,’’ said Alderson. “He was a stable force in our bullpen all year long. With Jerry, the addition of AJ Ramos and having Jeurys Familia for the entire season, we feel we have the nucleus for a much-improved pen. Getting Jerry back makes me a lot more confident about the late innings as we go forward in 2018.’’

Despite the potential of the Mets’ pen, Blevins endorsed bringing back Addison Reed, who was traded to Boston in July but is a free-agent.

“I’d like to see them maybe go out and sign Addison Reed,’’ Blevins said. “We’re going to need some steady, solid arms in the bullpen next year.’’

VEGAS LIKES METS: At least one Las Vegas oddsmaker is banking on the Mets battered pitching staff being healthy next season. Bovada has the Mets at 22-1 to win the World Series, ahead of three 2017 playoff teams: Arizona (28-1), Colorado (40-1) and Minnesota (66-1).

The Mets are listed eighth, behind Houston (5-1), the Dodgers (11-2), Cleveland (15-2), Washington (10-1), Boston, the Cubs and Yankees, all at (11-1).

Oct 07

Mets’ Dismal Managerial Search

A show of hands please, who is exactly blown away by the Mets’ managerial search?

“Right now, we have a very long list,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said this week. “We will have it shortened after we have had internal discussions, and then talks with people outside the organization to make sure we have a list that is all inclusive and go from there.’’

GIRARDI: Mets should be so lucky. (AP)

GIRARDI: Mets should be so lucky. (AP)

The Mets’ current list stands at seven, which really means there’s no top candidate. Seriously, if you have seven choices you really have none. The list includes Robin Ventura, Kevin Long, Alex Cora, Joe McEwing, Sandy Alomar Jr.,, Bob Geren and Chip Hale.

From that group, who blows you away?

When Alderson said after the season those minor leaguers promoted at the end of the season – notably Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith – had holes in their game, had to make one wonder why they won’t consider Wally Backman.

Alderson’s first managerial search after the 2010 season which resulted in the hiring of Terry Collins lasted three weeks and there’s no reason to believe this one will last any shorter.

From that above group, only Ventura has had any success, and it was minimal at best, going 375-435 (.463) in five seasons with the Chicago White Sox (2012-2016). He had only one winning year, going 85-77 in his first season.

Of course, things can change, but there’s nothing on Ventura’s resume that suggests that will happen.

YANKEES FANS BACK TO NORMAL: By all accounts, the Yankees exceeded all expectations this season to reach the AL playoffs as a wild-card.

It’s premature to say the Yankees are back, but their fan base was in championship entitlement form this morning after listening to the radio call-in shows this morning, many calling for the manager’s head.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was roasted for several decisions, beginning with pulling C.C. Sabathia after 77 pitches, but most notably for not using a challenge in the bottom of the sixth when plate umpire Dan Iassogna ruled Chad Green’s pitch clipped hitter Lonnie Chisenhall’s hand and not the bat knob as television replays did.

Chisenhall went to first to load the bases and set up Francisco Lindor’s grandslam, which pulled the Indians within 8-7.

After the game, Girardi said he didn’t challenge because he didn’t want to disrupt Green’s rhythm. It was clearly a panic response, one Girardi retracted today at Yankee Stadium.

“I screwed up,’’ Girardi told reporters today. “It’s a hard day for me, but I’ve got to move forward. … I feel horrible. Does it change the complexion of the game? Sure, it could have. … It’s a tough loss, a tough situation.’’

Girardi, of course, was ripped on social media, which was to be expected because Twitter and Instagram are the wild, wild west. However, what Girardi shouldn’t have had to endure was to get roasted by one of his own players.

Aroldis Chapman, who last year criticized how Cubs manager Joe Maddon used him in the World Series, liked an Instagram post that read: “Let’s hope Joe Girardi’s contract is not renewed after this season. He is a complete imbecile.’’

Chapman, of course, is blessed with the million-dollar arm but a 10-cent head. Here’s hoping the Yankees have the guts to fine him. The Yankees will bring back Girardi, who is a Manager of the Year candidate, but if they don’t the Mets should jump on him.

Chapman reportedly apologized, but what does it matter if it is already out there?

Reportedly, lost in all this is had Girardi challenged, it wouldn’t have been a called third strike, but the pitch would have to be replayed.

 

Aug 14

A Good Game, But Still Interleague Play

It was well played, but tonight’s Mets-Yankees game was still interleague, so it only gets a half-hearted thumbs-up. I make no apologies, I can’t stand interleague play.

If it is a true rivalry game, then I’d rather see the Mets play the Nationals, the Braves, or even the Phillies. Then again, it would be nice to see a dozen more games in Citizens Bank Park.

Hell, I’d rather see them play another four games with the Dodgers than four with the Yankees this week.

There are so many reasons why interleague play doesn’t make it for me:

No integrity to schedule: Interleague play coupled with the unbalanced schedule means teams in the same league don’t travel the same course to the playoffs. That’s not an issue when everybody plays the same schedule, home and away.

I’m sorry, but 19 games a year against the Nationals, Braves, Phillies and Marlins is just too damn much.

Speaking of the schedule, does it make sense for the Angels to play three games at Citi Field while the Yankees are only in for two? Or the Mets in Seattle for three games, but only two games in the Bronx?

There are so many complications with the current schedule, such as teams playing out of their leagues and divisions in April, when the schedule is prone to rainouts. That the Yankees had to wait out a three-hour-plus rain delay because the Tigers made only one trip to New York is simply the epitome of arrogance and taking their fans for granted.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, like Bud Selig before him, is so hell bent on cutting three minutes from the time of game – and selling T-shirts in China and Europe, that he ignores the basic structure that served the sport well for over a century.

Regarding the Mets and Yankees, the two teams are competing for different objectives, so what’s the point of these games? It has been said a baseball season is a marathon, but with different schedules how fair is it for one team to run 26 miles while another runs only 25?

Attendance and original premise are irrelevant: There are only four teams playing in antiquated stadiums – Boston, the Cubs, Tampa Bay and Oakland – with the Athletics and Rays hurting at the gate.

Interleague play was introduced as a gimmick to boost attendance, with some critics of Selig saying it was to have the Cubs play in Milwaukee. But, with nearly everybody playing in new stadiums, attendance is rarely an issue.

Another selling point for tearing the fabric of the game was for the fan in Cleveland to watch the Padres. But, with cable TV and the various MLB packages, viewers in Wyoming can see most any team at most any time.

Different rules: Can you imagine an AFC team getting to use a two-point conversion with NFC teams not being able to? There’s simply no good reason why the NL doesn’t have the DH while the AL teams do. It is ridiculous this still goes on, especially in the World Series.

It doesn’t work everywhere: I can appreciate the premise in New York, Chicago and maybe Los Angeles. Weak arguments can be made for Cleveland-Cincinnati, Baltimore-Washington, St. Louis-Kansas City and San Francisco-Oakland. But, who are the “natural interleague rivals’’ for Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Arizona, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Diego? Or, Minnesota and Detroit?

Unless a player is returning to face his former team – or the teams in question are having outstanding seasons, what’s the appeal of Twins-Pirates, or Mets-Mariners, or Marlins-Tigers?

I’m old school: Call me what you will, but I grew up watching baseball a certain way. I respect and appreciate, but I have yet to hear an argument interleague play is for the betterment of the game.

The 2000 World Series was special, it was an event. but everything since just didn’t do it for me. I mean other than Shawn Estes throwing behind Roger Clemens. Yeah, that was interesting.

MONTERO SHARP: Rafael Montero was as good tonight as we’ve ever seen him, giving up two runs in six innings, which by every stretch was a quality start.

Montero gave up five hits and two walks with six strikeouts, so he was adept at pitching out of trouble. What was most impressive about him was how he challenged Yankee hitters inside with his fastball, including Aaron Judge, whom he struck out in the first.

Judge did get a measure of revenge with a game-tying homer in the sixth.