May 20

Daniel Murphy Should Remain Leading Off

It doesn’t matter that Daniel Murphy hit the game-winning homer Sunday afternoon, or that he’s the Mets’ hottest hitter, he should be in the leadoff spot again Monday night at Citi Field.

Because of Murphy’s high on-base percentage, batting him leadoff is something I have advocated, and I’m glad Terry Collins was thinking outside the box enough to make the move.

MURPHY: Current leadoff choice. (MLB)

MURPHY: Current leadoff choice. (MLB)

He gets on base, because he can hit,’’ Collins told ESPN.com. “And, when he’s swinging good, he can get some walks. We’ve got to get some people on ahead of David [Wright]. That’s for sure.’’

Notice how Collins didn’t mention getting on base ahead of Ike Davis, but I guess he couldn’t say that with a straight face.

Murphy is the seventh Met to hit leadoff this young season, and of the previous six, is there one you can note with conviction will be here next year?

Ruben Tejada (12 times), Jordany Valdespin (10), Mike Baxter (eight), Collin Cowgill (seven), Justin Turner (two) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (one) have all appeared without much success at the top or the order. Mets leadoff hitters have hit a major league low .185 with a 29th ranked .255 on-base percentage.

Collins was non-committal on how long he’ll use Murphy leading off, but considering he’s a .300 hitter with a .337 on-base percentage, he doesn’t have better options.

With their leadoff hitters and Davis, the Mets have two slots in the batting order hitting less than .200, and overall they have four positions in their regular lineup hitting below .240.

Collins thought about Murphy hitting first during spring training, but then he had to come up with a center fielder and decide what to do with Tejada. Meanwhile, Murphy, because of his willingness to take a pitch, also seemed suited to hitting second.

“I thought about it in spring training, to be honest, whether or not to lead Murph off,’’ Collins said. “We’ll just see how it goes. It might be something we’ve certainly got to consider as we get deeper into the season, because he can hit.

“He gets on base. If he does that, certainly we’ve got to keep our options open with Murph being the leadoff hitter.’’

Murphy hitting first seems the way to go for now, but slotting him there doesn’t alleviate all of Collins’ concerns. Rick Ankiel can be an answer defensively in center field, but the outfield remains subpar.

The Mets now need a No. 2 hitter, but because Tejada insists on hitting fly balls, he’s not an ideal fit there.

Let’s face it, currently Murphy and Wright are the only hitters in the lineup who are reliable.

May 19

Mets Wrap, May 19: Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares Power Victory

Juan Lagares and Daniel Murphy homered to pick up Dillon Gee, and the bullpen came up with a superb effort with four perfect innings to give the Mets a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs Sunday at Wrigley Field. The victory gave the Mets their first series victory since they beat Washington, April 19-21, at Citi Field.

RECORD: 17-24, 4th NL East

ON THE MOUND: Dillon Gee gave up three runs on eight hits in five innings for the no-decision. … Scott Rice was superb in relief retiring six straight hitters. … The Mets also received a strong one-out showing from Greg Burke and Bobby Parnell worked the ninth for his sixth save. … The Mets’ bullpen retired 12 straight hitters.

AT THE PLATE: Inserted in the leadoff spot, Murphy hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth. … Lagares hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh. He had two hits in the game. … The Mets had six hits in the game and struck out seven times.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15-for-29: Murphy’s hot streak.

THEY SAID IT: “Everything comes to a head at some point.’’ – GM Sandy Alderson when asked if there was a limit to Ike Davis’ slump after saying sending him so

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum is scheduled to open the Mets’ three-game series against Cincinnati, beginning Monday at Citi Field.

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May 19

Sacking Terry Collins Now Would Be Unfair

Terry Collins will go to home plate tomorrow with the line-up card and likely get booed. Surely, he’ll hear it when he makes a pitching change.

COLLINS: Give him a fair chance.

COLLINS: Give him a fair chance.

It won’t be fair, but we know few things in baseball aren’t fair.

Collins doesn’t have a contract beyond this season, and his lame duck status rises to the surface when the Mets go into a tailspin, as they did last week when they lost a season-high six straight games, and he later blasted the fans over the Jordany Valdespin episode.

I ripped him over Valdespin with no regrets, but Collins does deserve some points for his clarification the next day. He didn’t retract, which is fine, didn’t say he was misquoted, which is commendable, but said there was room for interpretation.

Sometimes, I don’t get where Collins is coming from when he waffles – for example, I don’t think he gave Collin Cowgill a long enough opportunity in center/leadoff at the start of the season – but for the most part realize he’s dealing with a lack of depth and talent.

Assuming there’s no turnaround, this will be Collins’ third straight losing season, enough to get most managers sacked, but there is a unique scenario in Flushing.

Collins was not hired to take the Mets to the playoffs. He was hired as a caretaker and to change the culture. He is being asked to win a poker hand with five cards worth of mismatched talent. When it comes to discarding cards, Collins might keep David Wright and Matt Harvey, but that’s about it.

Sandy Alderson – also hired as a caretaker – and ownership, which is trying to stabilize its financial ship, have not given Collins a genuine opportunity to win.

Collins has not changed the culture, but he’s not had total support from Alderson in that regard. How else can you explain Valdespin’s presence on the roster? Also, Alderson’s comments yesterday about it not being imminent Ike Davis will be optioned shows a lack of changing the culture.

And, not for a second do I buy there’s no other alternative. The issue isn’t who will play first base for a month in a lost season, but why won’t they make the decision to do something to help Davis?

That falls on Alderson, not Collins.

A way you determine whether a manager is reaching his players is if they’ll still hustle for him and if he loses his clubhouse, and there’s not enough evidence of either. The captain, Wright, plays hard and is the proper example.

However, keeping Valdespin’s toxic attitude and Davis’ dysfunctional bat could gradually eat away at this team’s psyche. Collins’ lame duck status can also do the same.

If the Mets are to be financially whole after this season and show a willingness to spend to add talent, then Collins should get the opportunity to manage that team. He should get the chance to manage with some degree of talent in his dugout.

In looking at the Mets’ 25-man roster, I only see a handful of players I can say with certainty will be back next year: Wright, Harvey, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell. I can see Daniel Murphy back, but also dealt in July. I can see somebody else playing shortstop next year. Everybody else I can see gone.

That indicates no core or organizational depth, and that’s not Collins’ fault. Give Collins time with a full deck and then make a decision. It’s not fair to do so otherwise.

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May 17

May 17 Mets Wrap: Matt Harvey Does It All

Matt Harvey settled down after a rocky two-run first inning to produce one of his most impressive starts of the season in a 3-2 victory at Wrigley Field. The victory was the Mets’ second straight after losing six in a row.

HARVEY: Does it all vs. Cubs. (AP)

HARVEY: Does it all vs. Cubs. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Flirting with perfection is one thing, but pulling it together when it isn’t going well is more indicative of what he’ll normally face. Harvey gave up three hits in the first inning and only two after, at one point retiring 14 straight.. … In 7.1 innings, Harvey gave up two runs on five hits and no walks with six strikeouts. … Bobby Parnell worked the ninth for his fifth save.

AT THE PLATE: David Wright homered in the first, Daniel Murphy homered to tie the game in the fourth, and Harvey drove in the game-winner with a seventh-inning single. … Wright had three hits. He also stole his ninth base. … Ike Davis snapped a 0-for-25 slide with a single in the sixth.

IN THE FIELD: Davis missed coming up with Ruben Tejada’s one-bouncer that allowed two runs to score in the first. Amazingly, the official scorer gave Alfonso Soriano an infield hit and a throwing error to Ruben Tejada. … Marlon Byrd threw out Darwin Barney at the plate to preserve the lead in the eighth inning.

METS MATTERS: Zack Wheeler returned to Triple-A Las Vegas and resumed throwing today. He received a cortisone injection in the AC joint of his right shoulder Wednesday. … Terry Collins suggested a platoon with Justin Turner at first base and/or dropping him to fifth in the order if his problems continue.

THEY SAID IT:  “The run support has been lacking, but most of our starters can complain about run support the last couple of weeks. … Pitching, run support and defense; we got all three of those.’’ – Wright on Harvey’s performance.

BY THE NUMBERS: 18: First-pitch strikes thrown out of 27 hitters faced by Harvey.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner attempts to win for the first time in eight starts Saturday afternoon.

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May 17

Mets Must Option Ike Davis; It’s The Only Way To Save Him

The Mets’ lineup for today’s game in Chicago has Ike Davis batting clean up, just where Terry Collins promised he would. Collins said Davis will hit fourth today and tomorrow, but doesn’t know where he’ll bat – if he bats at all – Sunday against left-hander Travis Wood.

“Through this weekend,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday in St. Louis after Davis went 0-for-5, including four strikeouts. “I told him last week that this week, when we play against right-handed pitchers, he’s going to hit fourth. That’s where he belongs. And that’s where he’s supposed to hit.’’

DAVIS: We've seen this reaction a lot.

DAVIS: We’ve seen this reaction a lot.

That is, of course, if he’s hitting at all, which Davis is not. He takes a 0-for-22 slide and .157 average into today’s game. Davis already has 45 strikeouts and is on pace for 192. Here’s another way to look at things: If his strikeouts were hits, he would be batting .354.

I realize this is a different era, but Davis’ strikeouts are inexcusable. He didn’t seemed concerned about them when I spoke with him earlier this spring, telling me he’s a home run hitter, that he likes to hit home runs and strike outs are part of the package.

That’s nonsense, and in some ways, just as selfish as Jordany Valdespin’s styling after hitting a meaningless home run.

No matter how you slice it, a strike out is a wasted at-bat. So many things can happen if you put the ball in play: you can get a hit; reach on an error; drive in a run; or simply advance the runner into scoring position.

You don’t do anything when you strike out, and the worst thing about Davis now is that he doesn’t grasp that concept.

Mets hitters average just under ten strikeouts a game, which,means they aren’t putting the ball in play for a third of the game. No wonder they are losing.

Everybody in the normal starting line up but Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy are on pace for over 100 strikeouts, and the double-play combination is on pace for nearly 170, so it’s not like we’re talking that great an improvement.

I don’t know what Collins will do after this weekend, but the Mets need to move Davis, and I don’t mean to seventh in the order.

If the Mets honestly believe Davis is their future first baseman based on the 32 homers he gave them last year, then sending him to the minor leagues is their best option so he can straighten his head and shorten his swing. If the Mets don’t believe he’s their future, then sending him to the minor leagues is their best option because it will give somebody else a chance to play.

Davis said he’s been hitting the ball well during this slide, which is puzzling, and he’s not even in agreement with Collins on what’s the problem. Collins said Davis is missing off-speed and breaking pitches, but Davis says otherwise.

Collins said teams are giving Davis a steady dose of off-speed pitches. Davis said that’s only partially true. He’s missing fastballs early in the count and becomes vulnerable for the off-speed pitches with two strikes.

“It’s not the off-speed that I’m missing,’’ Davis said. “I’m missing the fastballs. When you miss the fastballs, they have pretty good off-speed pitches in the big leagues. `And when you have two strikes, you’ve got to protect [against] the fastball at 97 mph. And then there’s a good off-speed pitch. The bottom line is I need to hit the pitch earlier in the count that’s over the plate, and hit it in fair play.’’

Huh? Did you get all that? If you did you should get frequent flier miles for following him all over the map.

Overall, Davis is missing the off-speed pitch because that’s what he’s getting. There’s not reason why a pitcher would throw him a fastball. Yes, he’s missing them, too, when he gets one.

One scout told me Davis isn’t doing anything right at the plate, that he’s pull happy and doesn’t use the entire field, let alone go to left. He said Davis is in love with the home run, which is killing any chance he has to become a solid hitter.

Is it too late for Davis to live up to the expectations?

Davis can be salvaged, but not on this level. When he gets home he’ll hear the booing just as Jason Bay heard them and the pressure will only intensify.

The Mets must send him to the minor leagues and keep him there until he changes his approach. Minor league results are meaningless; the Mets must see a change in style. Davis must learn to be patient and wait for his pitch. He must eschew the low-and-away breaking stuff; he must stop trying to pull everything.

If his approach improves and he’s making consistent contact, the home runs will come. If he stays on his current approach, he’ll soon be an ex-Met. Josh Statin and Zach Lutz can be brought up, if nothing else, to see what they can give the Mets. As of now, it can’t be any less than what Davis gives  them.

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