Aug 10

Cuddyer Back With A Lot To Give

Michael Cuddyer was signed to be a significant offensive piece for the Mets, but as often is the case in the twisting and winding turns of a baseball season, things changed. Cuddyer now finds himself as a role player.

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

A former All-Star and batting champion is hanging on to his career, but still has value. There could be times between now and October when lightning strikes his bat. Times when he’ll make a veteran play that means the difference between a win and loss.

While his playing times will come in drips and drabs, what defines him most – that he’s a good teammate – is what will be on display. He might pull aside a slumping player to give him a tip on that night’s pitcher. Or to calm him down, as was the case on the botched Wilmer Flores trade.

Pennants are won on talent, but what Cuddyer can offer is invaluable. There have been few playoff teams that don’t have a settling, veteran influence. To accept a change of roles with grace and class is something that can’t adequately be measured. It might turn out to be his biggest contribution to the Mets.

Make no mistake, his two-year, $21-million contract is why he’s still here, otherwise he could have been cast aside. That’s often the case with 36-year-old, non-hitting players with aching knees. He’s hitting .250 with eight homers and a .303 on-base percentage, not good in manager Terry Collins’ “hit or sit,’’ edict. Of course, it should have been that way all along, but for the longest time nobody – major league or minor league levels – was hitting.

Cuddyer’s injury opened the way for Michael Conforto, and he’s not going back down. To make room for Cuddyer, Eric Campbell – no surprise there – was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Conforto represents the Mets’ future, and because of their pitching that has been fast-tracked. Cuddyer is a veteran presence essential for a young, contending team, but his days as a starter are over, and to his credit he readily accepts his role.

“I just want to win,’’ Cuddyer said. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what’s in it for me. I want to win baseball games. Whatever the manager feels like is the best lineup to put out there, I’m all for it.’’

Cuddyer started the season in left field, but that position now belongs to Yoenis Cespedes. Cuddyer will give an occasional breather to Curtis Granderson in right field and Lucas Duda at first base.

But, no matter what he does on the field, he won’t get rattled, and as the Mets drive down the stretch, they need to see what Cuddyer still brings to the table.

 

Jul 26

Mets’ Mojo Has Changed

Did the Mets turn around their karma in the last two games of the Dodgers’ series? Considering what was projected from them coming out of the break, it’s entirely possible because their chemistry has been significantly altered with the additions made Friday night after they were stuffed by Clayton Kershaw.

Rookie Michael Conforto and trade acquisitions Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe have already made an impact. Johnson and Conforto jumpstarted an offensive explosion, and Conforto and Uribe drove in runs in today’s 10-inning, 3-2 victory over the Dodgers.

DE GROM: Would have left him in. (AP)

DE GROM: Would have left him in. (AP)

Uribe not only drove in the game winner, but for the second straight game made an outstanding defensive play at third.

The Mets scored 15 runs Saturday, but that was an aberration. It was going to be different today against Zack Greinke, we all knew that to be the case. The Mets grabbed a 2-0 lead against Greinke, and Jacob deGrom was coasting.

Personally, I would have liked to see deGrom try to win it himself, but I can’t really argue with Jeurys Familia because of his success.

However, after Familia coughed up the lead, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the game get totally away from the Mets. But, it didn’t happen that way.

Curtis Granderson lead off the tenth with a double and scored on Uribe’s drive off the center field wall. With the win, the Mets are two games behind Washington with the call-it-a-season San Diego Padres coming to town Tuesday.

There’s still a lot of the season to go, but for the first time in several weeks there’s not a feeling of despair around the Mets. There’s a sense they can still make something of this season.

And, that’s what I wanted all along.

Jul 23

Mets’ Lineup, July 23, Dodgers

Here’s the Mets’ starting lineup tonight against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw.

Curtis Granderson – RF

Ruben Tejada – SS

Wilmer Flores – 2B

John Mayberry Jr. – LF

Eric Campbell – 3B

Lucas Duda – 1B

Juan Lagares – CF

Anthony Recker – C

Bartolo Colon – RHP

 COMMENTS: John Mayberry Jr., he of the .170 batting average is hitting clean-up says it all for the Mets. … But, in case you wanted more: 1) if Tejada is batting second he might as well hit leadoff and have Granderson dropped in the order; 2) four starters are hitting .255 or lower, while another three are hitting below .200.

By the way, just wondering, but if an average is below .200 can you really call it “hitting?”

Jun 27

More Head Scratching From Alderson

The more the Mets Sandy – the game’s smartest general manager – Alderson speaks, the more frustrating he becomes.

ALDERSON: What's he seeing?  (AP)

ALDERSON: What’s he seeing? (AP)

After doing little outside acquiring Michael Cuddyer in the offseason, he now says he’s willing to “overpay’’ to get hitting help. All along, the said the asking price for free-agents was too high, and he isn’t willing to trade their young pitching.

“I would characterize it as somewhat aggressive,’’ Alderson said Friday of the Mets’ approach to get a hitter. “Are we prepared to overpay? Me personally, yeah, I’m prepared to overpay. But there has to be something to overpay for.”

You mean, like Curtis Granderson?

When the sticker price for a car is $30,000, you’re not going to tell the dealer, “look, I’m willing to pay 35,000 for this car.”

But, that’s pretty much what Alderson did. Alderson’s rep is that he asks for too much, or isn’t willing to give up much, to make a deal. Now, he’s willing to overpay.

Makes no sense. Then again, what does?

Jun 25

Collins Must Manage From His Gut Even If Alderson Doesn’t Like It

All the goodwill the Mets fostered during their 11-game winning streak is gone, vanished like a possible Jacob deGrom victory because of a faulty bullpen and no hitting. It faded along with the Mets’ eight-game lead over the Nationals, which is now a 3.5-game deficit.

Sure, the Mets could regroup but what are their chances, but what are the odds?

COLLINS: Where's that smile now? (Mets)

COLLINS: Where’s that smile now? (Mets)

The way I see it, manager Terry Collins is on his own; a life raft in rough waters. Ownership did nothing over the winter to bring in the offensive talent needed, and he’s received no help from GM Sandy Alderson, whose contribution was Michael Cuddyer.

Collins, because of his contract situation, is a lame duck and managing for his job. Because Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – ripped him in a book, it is clear he doesn’t have any support.

That says it in spades, as if Alderson’s failure to build a quality bullpen and procure the needed hitting to sustain the young starting pitching wasn’t enough.

It is clear the Mets aren’t playing with fire anymore, and part of that is because Collins isn’t showing any himself. It appears he’s been beaten down and frustrated by a front office and ownership that isn’t supportive.

Collins is a long-time baseball man. He knows the right thing to do. He has no control over injuries, but does have over the talent he sends out every night. He also has control in the dugout after the first pitch. Collins must be aggressive and manage the Mets like this is his last chance, because he’s gone after this year. Deep down he has to know that.

I want to see him go out kicking and not meekly collecting a paycheck. Here’s what he needs to do to give the Mets their best chance of winning:

Goodbye pitch counts: Since it is clear there was no plan to begin with, let’s cut the crap. Matt Harvey has twice been pulled late with a 1-0 lead and went on to lose. That’s happened to deGrom once. Give those horses the extra inning.

Curtis Granderson: He’s finally showing some pop, so drop him in the order. Third, fourth, fifth, I don’t care. He’s being wasted hitting leadoff. I advocated this after seeing the Opening Day lineup. It worked for a while, but is failing now.

The answer? I don’t know. I wanted Juan Lagares, but his on-base percentage is dreadful. There is no real solution, but since he’s in the line-up I’m inclined to go with Ruben Tejada, who has decent speed, but I confess is too streaky.

Speaking of Granderson, the best outfield alignment is him in left field and Cuddyer in right. Why that wasn’t done in the first place is ridiculous.

The infield: Eventually we would get to this, but the best solution defensively is to move Wilmer Flores to third base and Tejada to shortstop. The Mets don’t want to because they are afraid of how Flores might react mentally.

If Flores’ ego is that fragile to where he couldn’t handle a switch then maybe he’s not tough enough to play in the major leagues. When Daniel Murphy returns move him to third and Flores to second.

What about David Wright, you ask? The Mets are foolish if they even think he’ll be back anytime soon, and if he does if he’ll play to any resemblance of his former self. It is more and more looking as if the issue of what to do with Wright will be addressed next spring – with another manager.

These are some of the things Collins can do with the 25 players he currently has on his roster. Since he’s not getting any help, he has to go down showing the same fight he wants from his team.

And, if Alderson doesn’t like it, then tell the game’s smartest general manager to fire him, because what the hell, it will happen soon enough.