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.

 

Jul 01

What’s Mets’ Thinking About Wright?

David Wright is back at Citi Field after undergoing neck surgery and said he doesn’t expect to play again this season, but expects to return next year … and be again a viable player.

WRIGHT: What's next? (AP)

WRIGHT: What’s next? (AP)

“I’m going to be out for an extended period of time,” Wright told reporters Friday in his first public comments since undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured disk in his neck. “But I plan on coming back and being the player that I feel like I’m capable of being.”

Dr. Robert Watkins removed the damaged disk and fragments putting pressure on Wright’s spinal cord. Wright said Watkins was adamant about surgery because of fear of permanent damage.

When Wright is able to return next season is unknown. The way he spoke Friday of his concerns of losing his balance or being bumped underscores how this year is out.

Despite his optimism, and considering his recent injury history, nothing can be assumed with Wright. James Loney, who drove in three runs with a homer and double Friday, threw the Mets a lifeline in replacing Lucas Duda. The Mets haven’t been as fortunate with a replacement for Wright.

Wilmer Flores has been serviceable so far, and there is always the hope Jose Reyes will give the Mets an offensive spark, but can he play the position?

It would have been advantageous to see Wright this year as to get a feel for what he can do and what their offseason needs might be. This season will end for the Mets not knowing about Wright’s ability to play third base, or anywhere else, for that matter.

They might be forced to consider signing, or trading for, a third baseman this winter.

Of course, the hope is Wright will return in 2017 and be a productive player.

Jun 18

Mets Need Granderson To Go On A Tear

Mets manager Terry Collins spoke with tempered confidence Saturday afternoon regarding his team’s slide in the NL East over the past three weeks, going from tied to six games behind the Washington Nationals.

GRANDERSON: Need him to take control. (Getty)

GRANDERSON: Need him to take control. (Getty)

The Mets face the Nationals seven times over the next three weeks.

“We’ll be ready for it,” Collins told reporters about the two series that could determine the rest of the season for the Mets.

They might be ready, but also short-handed with David Wright likely gone for the season and Lucas Duda out indefinitely. There are performance leaders and clubhouse leaders. If you believe in the latter, who will replace Wright?

“We’re going to miss David’s presence,” Collins said. “We’ve got to pick up the slack, not just on the field but in the clubhouse.”

When a manager speaks of the need for players to step up, both on the field and in the emotional sense, it means he really doesn’t have anybody obvious he can lean on.

Yoenis Cespedes can carry a team on his back as he proved last summer. His homer Saturday night put a charge into the Mets. However, there are times he loses focus and becomes lackadaisical. Neil Walker is also capable, who carried the Mets in April? However, and this is important, just how much weight will their words and gestures carry considering both could be gone after the season?

It won’t be Lucas Duda, who is on the disabled list with no timetable for his return. And, when he does play, he’s extremely quiet.

It is essential a team leader is productive. Who listens to your words if you can’t back it up? Right now that rules out Michael Conforto, who is starting to hit some balls hard, but has been in a dreadful slump since the end of April.

It won’t be a pitcher as they play once every five games, and in the Mets’ case, are generally quiet.

The obvious candidate to me is Curtis Granderson, who is warming up after a slow start and has an outgoing personality. If the Mets are to turn it around, they need Granderson to grab this team by the scruff of the neck and shake it awake.

 

Jun 15

Surgery Might Be Wright’s Best Chance

Like everybody else, I want to see David Wright be healthy and productive for the Mets. But it won’t happen this year and there are no guarantees about the future. Wright is currently mulling over the possibility of season-ending neck surgery with Dr. Robert Watkins. Should he have it, there are no assurances of when he’ll be ready for the 2017 season.

WRIGHT: What will he do? (AP)

WRIGHT: What will he do? (AP)

Far be it for me, or anybody else for that matter, to tell somebody to have surgery, especially in an area as vital as the neck. As I found out with my surgery in 2014 for a broken arm that backfired and caused me to be hospitalized for six months and leave in a wheelchair, stuff happens.

However, Wright’s case it is far more complicated than a broken arm. What we do know is there are no guarantees with rest and rehabilitation, either. If he goes that route, comes back and is reinjured to where surgery is a must, then not only this season, but perhaps much of next year will be gone, too.

Matt Harvey faced the same dilemma in 2013 before relenting and taking the Tommy John.

Wright is 33. He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis last year and was out for nearly four months. He’s currently on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck. He was off to a sluggish start – seven homers with 14 RBI – when he was injured. He was also having a rough time in the field, most notably his throwing.

Wilmer Flores is currently the third baseman and hitting well since taking over. Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly also spent time at third.

The Mets’ offense has been non-productive for nearly six weeks, averaging less than four runs a game. There’s no immediate help in the future from the minor leagues or in a possible trade. Mike Schmidt isn’t walking through that door.

I want to see Wright play, but I would rather he be healthy. That’s why I would opt for the surgery.

 

Jun 12

Things Better Change Quickly For Mets

Last week I asked if there was a reason to be concerned with the Mets, but stopped short of saying they were in trouble. I’m not stopping short any longer. If the season ended today the Mets would make the playoffs as the second wild card, but there are more than a few reasons to believe they aren’t heading in the right direction.

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

There’s plenty of season left to turn things around, but also enough time has gone by to conclude despite their young pitching – and Bartolo Colon – that if there’s not a reversal soon the playoffs many of us took for granted on Opening Day might not happen.

Following their 15-7 April, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Milwaukee the Mets have gone 19-21. They are 4.5 games behind Washington, and one of seven teams lumped under the 4.5-game umbrella of wild-contenders.

Teams will lose, but the Mets didn’t play well during their 5-5 road trip. They weren’t just beaten, they beat themselves. On Sunday, they had breakdowns in all phases: 1) Steven Matz was roughed up in his second straight start; 2) the defense committed three errors and could have had a fourth; and 3) and their hitters struck out ten times and went 2-for-9 with RISP.

April’s storyline was the Mets’ propensity for hitting homers, but more importantly in their 62 games they have scored three or fewer runs in half (31) of them. That’s an alarming number. Overall, they are hitting .214 with RISP; and average around nine strikeouts and close to the same in runners left on base in a game.

Nine strikeouts mean in three innings they did not put the ball in play. For all those who don’t give credence to strikeouts as an important statistic, it is time to get a clue. Not putting the ball in play means no chance for hits; no chance to reach on an error; no sacrifice flies; and no productive outs to put runners in scoring position.

A positive note is Matt Harvey seems to have turned it around, but could that be offset by Matz’s two straight stinkers? And, Jacob deGrom hasn’t won in his last seven starts. The bullpen, so positive in April, is showing cracks. Closer Jeurys Familia is far from a sure thing. Their most reliable reliever is Addison Reed; with everybody else you hold your breath.

Injuries are a concern with David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list. They could get d’Arnaud back in a week or so, but he wasn’t hitting or throwing runners out on the bases before he got hurt. Michael Conforto has a sore wrist and is in a dreadful slump; Neil Walker has a tight lower back; and Juan Lagares has an injured left thumb.

The upcoming schedule is brutal as from now until the All-Star break they have three more games with Pittsburgh; two against Kanas City; three with the Marlins; four against the Cubs and seven with the Nationals. Beginning Tuesday, the Mets start a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.

Seriously, there’s a chance the trade deadline could be moot.

The Mets can get on a hot streak, turn things around and maybe add a couple of pieces just as they did last season. However, since the end of April we’ve seen precious few signs of that happening.

There’s reason for concern, and yes, they are in trouble.