Aug 31

Walker’s Season Likely Over; What Of Career With Mets?

UPDATED: Walker facing surgery.

Before leaving the podium, Mets manager Terry Collins dropped the other shoe. After all, they wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t encore good news with bad. This time, it was the sobering news Neil Walker was facing having season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

“This is a big disappointment,” said a dejected Collins. “He’s had a big year for us.”

The announcement came moments after Kelly Johnson‘s three-run double in the eighth inning proved the difference in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Miami. The other two runs came on Wilmer Flores‘ two-run homer. Ironically, Johnson and Flores figure to get the lion’s share of the time at second base with Walker gone.

WALKER: Status unknown. (AP)

WALKER: Facing surgery. (AP)

With the victory, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games to climb back into the wild-card race. They are in it, also in large part, because of what Walker gave them in April with nine homers and 19 RBI and his hot streak in early August.

In April, there were numerous reports about the need to bring Walker back for 2017, because with Yoenis Cespedes expected to opt out, the Mets couldn’t afford to lose both.

With Walker’s season over, one must wonder if the same can be said of his Mets’ career. Walker can leave as a free agent this winter, but the injury takes away whatever leverage he had because a bad back represents a terrible credit report.

As good as Walker played, perhaps an even longer-lasting impression is David Wright. Looking at how long Wright struggled might have been a deciding factor in Walker’s decision. After all, having surgery now might enhance his chances of playing next season considering a six-month recovery time.

Somebody will sign Walker, but it will likely be a one-year deal with incentives based on games played. Considering what they’ve gone through with Wright, I’m not sure they’ll go in that direction with Walker.

Walker was having a tremendous season, hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. In 23 games since July 27, Walker was batting .440 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored. That’s a significant loss for a team in a pennant race.

For the short term, the Mets are in decent position at second base with Flores and Johnson.

When Daniel Murphy left, there was speculation Flores could inherit second base, but that notion was quickly dashed when the Mets signed Walker. Then, when Wright went down, Flores was to play third, but that changed when Jose Reyes was signed.

Now, with Walker gone, Flores might finally be getting his chance.

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Aug 29

Mets Have One Less Question With Reyes At Third

Jose Reyes has lived up to all expectations since he was signed. He’s provided an offensive spark, he’s been far more than adequate replacing David Wright at third base, and Reyes being Reyes, he’s also been hurt with a strained muscle.

REYES: Has answered questions. (AP)

REYES: Has answered questions. (AP)

The Mets signed Reyes to a minor league contract in late June after he served a 52-game suspension stemming from a domestic abuse incident. Reyes expressed remorse in his initial statement with the Mets and has been a good soldier since.

He’s been great in the clubhouse and also in dealing with the media and public. In that regard, the Mets couldn’t have asked for more. There were some negative articles written at the time he was signed, but nothing since.

Offensively, Reyes has provided spark and energy at the top of the order. He’s hitting .285 with a .333 on-base percentage, with 14 extra-base hits, including four homers. It took awhile, but he’s starting to run more and has six steals.

I think the biggest surprise is how he’s taken to the position defensively. It’s one thing for Reyes to pick Wright’s brain, but there’s been nothing glaring about how he’s played.

The ball comes to him a lot quicker at third, but he’s been adept and hasn’t been handcuffed. He’s also shown he can handle the bare-handed pick-up and throw.

Is Reyes polished at third? No, that’s premature to say, but he’s by far not a liability. Is he the second coming of Wright in his prime? Nope, but in case Wright doesn’t come back full strength next season, the Mets will be in good hands with Reyes.

Since it is clear the Mets won’t give Wilmer Flores a shot at the job full time, they have one less question facing them this winter.

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Aug 09

No Need To Rush Wright

When it comes to recovering from injuries, David Wright has often been his worst enemy. Too often he tried to play through pain to stay on the field for the Mets.

He missed over four months last year dealing with spinal stenosis. He will miss the rest this year following surgery, June 16, to repair a herniated disk in his neck. I know this drives him crazy, but knowing he won’t come back is a good thing because he can’t force the issue.

WRIGHT: Take it slow. (AP)

WRIGHT: Take it slow. (AP)

Wright, speaking to children at the Coleman Country Day Camp Monday, said he’s been making steady improvement. Although, his reply of “I hope not,” when asked if his playing career could be over, spoke volumes about the seriousness of the injury and its possible ramifications.

“I’m feeling very good,” Wright said. “Now it’s just a matter of time taking its course and allowing the bone to heal. It’s been explained to me like a broken bone, it just takes time to heal. I feel good. I still don’t have the range of motion that I did before the surgery, but that’s why it takes three, four months for a full recovery.

“Now it’s just a matter of being patient and allowing the screws and the plate to [get in] place and fuse together so that hopefully there’s no more problems in the future.

“Hopefully” is a big word. So is “patient.”

The agreement Alex Rodriguez reached with the Mets Sunday reminds us of the fragility of careers and how quickly they could end.

Wright is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. I’m sure a lot is going through his mind, especially at two in the morning when he’s up feeding daughter, Olivia Shea, or changing diapers. Wright is a genuine guy who does real things, and I’m betting he lets wife, Molly, sleep.

Of all the athletes I have covered, Wright is one of my favorite. I miss seeing him play and believe he’ll come back. I really do.

But, there’s no rush to see him, so it doesn’t matter if he’s ready for Opening Day 2017, or needs another month or two.

Wright is a family man now. He doesn’t need the money. As much as he wants to play, he also knows he’ll be playing with house money the rest of his career.

Hopefully, he’ll finish healthy and walk away on his own terms, something Rodriguez will not do.

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Aug 04

Cespedes Golf Issue Shows Disconnect Between Alderson And Collins

In listening to the contrasting versions of the Yoenis Cespedes injury/golf issue between Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins illustrates the gap and lack of communication in their working relationship and how ultimately things won’t end well for the latter.

CESPEDES:  Laughing at Mets.  (AP)

CESPEDES: Laughing at Mets. (AP)

Collins spoke first Thursday afternoon and initially seemed composed in his press conference, but quickly became testy and controversial, interrupted questions and getting angry with reporters.

Collins’ ears perked up when the word “golf’’ was mentioned.

“Don’t go there,” said Collins, cutting off the question before it was asked. “Golf had nothing to do with it. He’s a baseball player.”

When the question was rerouted to being about perception, Collins went off, and frankly said some things that were embarrassing.

“I don’t care about perception,” Collins snapped. “I care about reality. The reality is, he was OK. He was OK to play [Wednesday] night. The reality is, he came up after his last at-bat and said, ‘My leg’s bothering me again.’

“It happened from when he got on base. He ran the bases. It didn’t hurt him in the fourth inning; it didn’t hurt him in the sixth inning. It hurt him in the ninth inning. That’s reality. That’s what we have to deal with. We can’t worry about what happened at 12 in the afternoon. We’ve got to worry about what happened at 10 o’clock [Wednesday] night. That’s when he hurt his leg.”

Collins was so far off, just as he was when asked why Cespedes wasn’t placed on the disabled list the first week of July.

“Because he wasn’t hurt that bad,” Collins said. “He didn’t complain about it.”

Listening to Alderson later, it was as if he heard Collins and then said the opposite.

“Let’s face it,” Alderson said. “Playing golf during the day and then going out and getting injured in the evening, it’s a bad visual. I think [Cespedes] recognizes it at this point and we’ll go from there.”

What Alderson said next clearly undercut Collins’ earlier comments.It’s been a trying month or so with Yoenis and the injury and in retrospect, we probably should have just put him on the DL in the beginning of this episode,” Alderson said. “On the other hand, he wanted to try to play through it.’’

“It’s been a trying month or so with Yoenis and the injury and in retrospect, we probably should have just put him on the DL in the beginning of this episode,” Alderson said. “On the other hand, he wanted to try to play through it.”

I don’t have a problem with not putting Cespedes on the DL immediately. He was hurt before the All-Star break and it made sense to take the calculated gamble of seeing if the rest during the break could have helped him.

But, was Cespedes getting any rest if he was on the golf course every day. There are reports he likes to play four or five times a week. However, whether he used a cart or not doesn’t matter. There’s still a lot of standing and walking, and Bobby Valentine made an interesting comment when he compared the muscle movements and torque of the baseball swing.

It might not be as taxing as playing basketball, but there is a strain which is compounded when it’s hot. Neither Alderson nor Collins said it, but when Cespedes is on the golf course for three hours, he’s not getting treatment, is he?

I wonder how David Wright, who used to spend up to two hours getting ready to play, feels about this.

All that is the reality Collins wanted to deal in.

The reality is Cespedes was not getting as much treatment as he should have been getting.

The reality is if Collins was trying to preserve Cespedes for these games in AL parks when he could have used the DH, then he shouldn’t have used him as a pinch-hitter when the Mets held a five-run lead.

The reality is if Cespedes tweaked his quad Tuesday night as a pinch-hitter, he shouldn’t have been on a golf course Wednesday afternoon.

The reality is if Cespedes takes fewer swings before a game, then he shouldn’t be taking more and more golf swings.

The reality is if Cespedes can’t play left field to preserve his legs he shouldn’t be playing 18 rounds several times a week.

The reality is when Alderson said he conferred with Cespedes’ representatives about not playing golf when on the DL, he’s admitting no control over his player.

Collins is right about one thing, and that is Cespedes is a baseball player. And, the reality is he’s being paid $27 million to play for the Mets and isn’t giving his employer his best effort.

The reality is there is a disconnect between Alderson and Collins and this won’t end well for the manager.

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Jul 11

Top Ten First-Half Positives For Mets

As tempting as it might be to want to throw the first half of the Mets’ season into the dumpster because injuries and Daniel Murphy are forcing them in that direction, not everything has been a negative.

Since I’ve always been a beacon of positive thoughts when it comes to the Mets, I thought I’d open the break with the ten things that went right in the first half.

CESPEDES: First half Mets' MVP. (AP)

CESPEDES: First half Mets’ MVP. (AP)

1. It could be worse: That’s probably the biggest positive. They trail the Nationals by six games, but Washington also had its bumps to keep the Mets within spitting distance. From June 18-25, while the Nationals lost seven straight, the Mets won four of seven.

2. Replacing Murphy: Despite Murphy’s gaudy numbers, especially against the Mets, let’s not forget the power Neil Walker provided at second base with nine homers and 19 in April. Walker can leave after the season, but has been a reliable and productive bat.

3. Plugging the shortstop hole: Perhaps the Mets’ most important offseason acquisition has been the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year, $18.5-million contract. Nobody expected 12 homers and 29 RBI in the first half.

4. Resiliency: One of the Mets’ most important characteristics last season was their ability to adjust on the fly, especially with all their injuries. There have been no shortage of injuries this year, but the Mets plugged with Rene Rivera (for Travis d’Arnaud), James Loney (for Lucas Duda) and Wilmer Flores (for David Wright). The Mets also inserted Logan Verrett into their rotation and added Jose Reyes and Kelly Johnson, both of whom have already paid dividends.

5. A strong closer: Jeurys Familia has been spotty at times, but converted all 31 of his save opportunities. Addison Reed has also been a reliable bridge to Familia.

6. Bringing back Cespedes: Where would the Mets be without Yoenis Cespedes? Perhaps in a double-digit hole behind the Nationals. Cespedes has 21 of the Mets’ 122 homers, but pulled out of the All-Star Game with a strained right quad. Cespedes has had several brain cramps, but the Mets are contenders because of him.

7. Jacob deGrom finding it: It was a rough start for deGrom, which included ten straight winless starts. However, he’s back in a groove, which is imperative considering the loss of Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard’s health status entering the second half. Of course, Syndergaard’s All-Star first half was a positive.

8. Bartolo Colon never losing it: The 43-year-old Colon was named as a replacement to the NL All-Star team, and it is well deserved. The plan was to move him to the bullpen when Zack Wheeler is promoted. However, that won’t be until mid-August.

9. Promising young outfielders: Michael Conforto dazzled us in April, but sputtered and was sent to the minors. However, instead of sulking he appears to have regained his stroke. When Conforto was optioned Brandon Nimmo was promoted and excited us with his enthusiasm. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t see them together in the second-half outfield, but they will be paired soon enough.

10. Battling the Central Division: Last season the Mets were swept by both the Pirates and Cubs, but this season they are 3-3 against Pittsburgh and 4-0 so far against the Cubs. And, for good measure, they won two of three in Cleveland.