May 28

Mets Wrap: Plenty Of Deserving Fingers To Be Pointed In Syndergaard Fiasco

The Mets ignored the ancient Chinese proverb, “when pursuing revenge remember to dig two graves.”

The Mets finally chose Saturday night to seek retribution against Chase Utley for his hard take-out slide during last year’s NLDS against the Dodgers that resulted in a broken leg for their then shortstop Ruben Tejada.

SYNDERGAARD: Payback is a bitch. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Payback is a bitch. (AP)

The only grave filled was by the Mets and Noah Syndergaard.

The Mets eschewed retaliation against the Dodgers for the rest of the playoffs; during the four-game series in Los Angeles earlier this month; and Friday night. One school of thought was the Mets would continue to let Utley wonder, which would have been the best choice.

Instead, Syndergaard threw behind Utley’s back with one out in the third. Plate umpire Adam Hamari booted Syndergaard before the ball stopped rolling at the backstop. Utley calmly kept his head down and smoothed the dirt with his foot.

Utley homered in the sixth. If that wasn’t enough to rile Mets’ fans, then surely his grand slam in the seventh that sealed the Dodgers’ 9-1 blowout win should have been.

Utley maintained a stoic look throughout the game showing zero emotion. None.

Hamari had no choice but eject Syndergaard because whenever a pitcher deliberately wants to hit a batter he throws behind him, the thinking being the hitter will step back into the pitch.

Please, let’s not insult our intelligence by saying the ball got away because he had only walked nine hitters entering the game. Please, also don’t blame our intelligence, as SNY did, by saying Hamari didn’t have a handle on the situation because he is only a third-year umpire.

Since it’s all about blame these days, my finger is pointed at three parties for Syndergaard’s ejection.

First, let’s look at Syndergaard, who should be smart enough to know that after the buildup there would be no way he could go after Utley and skate. He’s young, but not naïve.

Second, there’s manager Terry Collins, who is not having the good start to this season. Collins has to understand the ramifications of losing Syndergaard. He made a big deal of wrongly justifying his poor decision to bring in Jeurys Familia in a non-save situation Friday because he wanted to win the game.

Don’t you think the Mets’ chances to win are enhanced with Syndergaard? When the teams played in Los Angeles, Collins warned his team about retaliation, saying he didn’t need to have anybody hurt or suspended. He didn’t have a similar message prior to this series.

For his efforts, Collins was also tossed. Collins said he was “surprised” Syndergaard was ejected so quickly without a warning. Seriously? Hasn’t he been paying attention?

Finally, Major League Baseball needs to take a bow for totally screwing up this whole situation. Here’s how:

* The umpires have discretion for ejecting a player they believe intentionally tried to injure a player. They did not.

* In response to the uproar from media and Mets fans about the play, MLB feared an incident at Citi Field when the NLDS moved to Citi Field. MLB suspended Utley for two games not because they judged it a dirty play, but because they feared an ugly scene. Joe Torre, who handles these decisions for MLB, should know more than most that is not the basis for a decision.

* When Utley’s appeal was heard this spring the original suspension was not upheld. MLB would say it was because of a new rule change, but the incident was committed under the old format.

* Finally, knowing the tension heading leading into the series – surely, the Commissioner’s office reads the New York papers – it would have been prudent to issue a warning.

This has been a total screw up from the beginning, and if Syndergaard is suspended – as Collins fears – it will only get worse.

METS GAME WRAP

May 28, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #48          Score:  Dodgers 9, Mets 1

Record: 28-20     Streak: L 1

Standings: First, NL East, four percentage points ahead of the Nationals.  

Runs: 187    Average:  3.87   Times 3 or less: 23

SUMMARY: Syndergaard’s retaliation attempt at Utley failed and resulted in his ejection. The Dodgers homered five times, including two by Utley, who drove in five runs.

KEY MOMENT:  Syndergaard’s ill-fated attempt to put the hammer down.

THUMBS UP:  At least they didn’t need Familia. … Juan Lagares homered for the second straight game. … Nobody got hurt. … The Nationals also lost.

THUMBS DOWN:  The whole night. … Now they have to face Clayton Kershaw. … Just three hits. … They gave up four homers. … They still don’t have a clue as to how to pitch to Utley. … The bullpen gave up nine runs and the hitters struck out ten times.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play because of pain in his neck. There exists a possibility he could be placed on the disabled list Sunday. … Wilmer Flores could be activated from the DL Sunday. … The Mets sent cash to San Diego for first baseman James Loney.

QUOTEBOOK:  “It would be fair.’’ – Collins on if he was upset with the decision to eject Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS:  34: Pitches thrown by Syndergaard.

NEXT FOR METS:  Bartolo Colon against Kershaw Sunday night.

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May 24

Mets Wrap: Time To Send Out Harvey; A Dozen Reasons Why He Stinks

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

The question regarding Matt Harvey is basic: What next?

It would be a controversial decision, but should be a very simple one for the Mets. Either the Mets stick with Harvey to let him work his way out of this – even if it means taking more lumps – or he should be sent to the minor leagues or disabled list to rediscover himself.

“We’re not going to do anything rash tonight,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We’re going to sleep on it and discuss it tomorrow.”

Harvey had nothing to say because in a bush league move he bolted after the game without speaking and left it up to Collins, catcher Kevin Plawecki and his teammates to speak for him.

Twice Plawecki told reporters, “you watched the game.”

Previously, I advocated sticking with Harvey, but after giving up three homers in Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss at Washington, I’ve gone to the replay and upon further review think a change of scenery is the best option.

Going to Las Vegas should be seriously discussed, but the Mets have always gone out of their way to massage Harvey’s fragile ego, so they could manufacture a reason to put him on the disabled list, which eliminates the stigma of the minor leagues.

Either one should be GM Sandy Alderson’s choice for a variety of reasons:

* They can send him down to Triple-A Las Vegas or Double-A Binghamton if they want a closer look and let him work on everything, from conditioning to mechanics. The disabled list accomplishes the same objective. It’s the best option in it enables him to pitch without costing the Mets games.

* Harvey’s brief outings deplete the bullpen.

* It eliminates the between-starts distraction Harvey has become. What’s wrong with him? Will he make his next start? What’s wrong with him? And, another question: What’s wrong with him?

The answer could be one of many or a combination of a several. His velocity is down and command is off, but why?

Here are my theories, which I call “Harvey’s Dirty Dozen,’’ to explain why Harvey is 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA:

* Not enough work in spring training: Collins suggested Harvey’s early sluggishness was because the Mets reduced his workload to almost half of what is considered normal for a starter. That’s on Collins and Alderson. This would partially explain Harvey’s mechanical issues.

* Innings workload in 2015: This is on Collins and Alderson for not developing a definitive workload or program. It’s also on Harvey for continually pushing the envelope. Even his agent, Scott Boras, said Harvey wanted to pitch

* He’s hurt: Harvey denies this, but considering his history of withholding physical ailments, this option can’t be ignored.

* He’s out of shape: Yes, there have been cases with Mickey Lolich and Sid Fernandez, but there’s his growing paunch. His stamina is down and his mechanics aren’t crisp, so his conditioning must be considered. How can that not be a factor in his inability to make through the middle innings?

* Overcompensation for Game 5: He continually says he has no regrets for arguing with Collins to stay in the game and imploded in the ninth. How can he not think back on that game?

* Jealousy in the rotation: In 2013 Harvey was deemed the clear cut ace, but for all the talk of this being a close knit group that thrives on the competition, how can Harvey realistically ignore he’s fifth behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon? As a competitor, how can it not eat at him he’s not “the man,’’ anymore?

* Lack of run support: He’s 2-7 this year with less getting five runs support. But, how does that explain his 6.02 ERA in those games? Bottom line, if you’re a stud pitcher, you have to suck it up and figure out a way to win those games.

* He buys into the hype: It’s not the media or fans that wrongly placed Harvey on a pedestal, but for him believing he’s a superhero beyond reproach. After Tuesday, Harvey is 28-25 lifetime so let’s go easy on calling him great.

* He’s too sensitive: Harvey has openly clashed with the media to the point where he had a snow globe of a hand extending a middle finger, unquestionably directed at the press. He also had a photo taken of him in his hospital room flashing the bird. He couldn’t handle the innings flap last year or his urinary infection this spring.

* He thinks he knows it all: From withholding his physical problems, which was the first step towards Tommy John surgery. Then there was the arguing over his rehab, and where it would take place, to him forcing his way to the mound. He’s not shy in letting it known he doesn’t trust those around him.

* Tommy John let down: Sometimes a pitcher hits a wall in the second year following Tommy John surgery. Harvey didn’t  just hit a wall, but ran into it head first.

* Supernova: I floated this idea after his last start against the Nationals and it still applies. Maybe this is a good as it will get for Harvey. Maybe Harvey is not the ace the Mets thought. Maybe that’s something we should get used to.

Harvey said the simulated game over the weekend helped, but he gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings against the Nationals. He’s given up 14 runs in his last two games. He’s not close to figuring things out.

Collins gave Harvey the option of skipping Tuesday’s start, but he wanted the ball, which is to be applauded. However, leaving the ballpark without talking was classless.

Maybe he’ll post something on The Player’s Tribune.

METS GAME WRAP

May 24, 2016, @ Washington

Game: #45           Score:  Nationals 7, Mets 4

Record: 26-19     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East 1.5 games behind Nationals. Playoffs Today: First WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 178     Average: 3.95  Times 3 or less: 21

SUMMARY:  The middle innings did in Harvey again. After opening the game with three scoreless innings to provide a glimmer of optimism, but he gave up five runs in the fourth and fifth innings, including homers by Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy.

KEY MOMENT:  Back-to-back homers by Zimmerman and Rendon in the fourth erased a brief Mets’ lead.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera’s homer in the fourth. … Two more hits from Yoenis Cespedes. … Eric Campbell’s two-run homer. … Kudos to SNY’s Nelson Figueroa and Gary Apple for taking Harvey to task for not talking after the game. Also to Ron Darling for suggesting the minor leagues was the best option. … Neil Walker’s diving stop saved Harvey a run in the second.

THUMBS DOWN:  Harvey gave up three homers and the bullpen gave up two more. … Stephen Strasburg and two relievers struck out 15 Mets. … Just five hits. … Lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo gave up a homer to lefty hitter Revere.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play, but is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. … Ty Kelly went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his major league debut.

QUOTEBOOK: “It is what it is,” Plawecki commenting on Harvey leaving him to answer questions.

BY THE NUMBERS:  15: Strikeouts by the Mets for a season high.

NEXT FOR METS:  Matz starts Wednesday afternoon for the Mets.

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May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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May 21

May 21, Mets’ Lineup Against Milwaukee

Jacob deGrom will try to give the Mets their second straight victory this afternoon against Milwaukee. He is coming off back-to-back no-decisions in his last two starts.

Here’s the lineup behind him:

Curtis Granderson – RF: Hitting .115 (3-for-26) with RISP. Career .253 hitter (22-for-87) vs. Milwaukee.

David Wright – 3B: Hitting .185 (5-for-27) with RISP. Career .261 hitter (60-for-230) vs. Milwaukee.

Michael Conforto – LF: Hitting .303 (10-for-33) with RISP. Career .500 hitter (2-for-4) vs. Milwaukee.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Hitting .270 (10-for-37) with RISP. Career .400 hitter (10-for-25) vs. Milwaukee.

Neil Walker – 2B: Hitting .320 (8-for-25) with RISP. Career .270 hitter (95-for -352) vs. Milwaukee.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Hitting .276 (8-for-29) with RISP. Career .250 hitter (1-for-4) vs. Milwaukee.

Eric Campbell – 1B: Hitting .182 (2-for-11) with RISP. Career .250 hitter (5-for-20) vs. Milwaukee.

Kevin Plawecki – C: Hitting .286 (4-for-14) with RISP. Career .333 hitter (3-for-9) vs. Milwaukee.

DeGrom – RHP: Is 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA in four career starts vs. Milwaukee.

COMMENTS:  Campbell is in the lineup because Lucas Duda has a sore back. … Jeurys Familia is 14-for-14 in save opportunities. … Cespedes is third in the NL with 33 RBI. … Nine of Conforto’s 16 career homers have either tied the game or give the Mets the lead.

May 19

Collins Must Share Blame For Wright; DL Should Be Considered

In the 20-plus-years I have written about major league baseball, there are a handful of players I admire and respect as much as David Wright.

Even so, I am still objective as to what I see and it currently isn’t good. Wright was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back, and then returned to go 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts Wednesday.

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

Wright is in persistent discomfort and needs up to two hours to get ready to play. He is not suited to pinch-hit, especially in cold weather, as he did Sunday in Colorado. Wright knows not to push it, but when asked he will play. That’s in his DNA.

Translated: Manager Terry Collins did Wright a disservice when he asked him to pinch-hit. Winning one game in mid-May isn’t as important as risking losing him for the long haul.

I know Collins wants to win, but he was wrong, selfish and shortsighted for asking Wright to pinch-hit. It isn’t the first time Collins pushed the envelope with Wright or other players. Don’t forget his panic move of labeling the eighth game of the season “must win,’’ and pushing Wright, Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia, none of whom should have played that day.

Wright would never finger-point at his manager. The bottom line is Collins should have been smart enough to not put Wright in that position.

“I don’t know,” Wright told Newsday on whether pinch-hitting took him out of Tuesday’s lineup. “Again, it’s probably not the ideal circumstances. But this is the National League, you really don’t have that much leeway especially when you’re playing with a short bench.”

That puts the onus on the manager to pay attention to what he has available.

Wright is batting .221, which is a career-low for this point in the season. He already has 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats, with four homers and eight RBI. He’s on pace to strike out 195 times, hit 17 homers and drive in 33 runs. His on-base percentage of .362 gives us glimpses of him still being a productive player.

“The back thing is just something that I’m going to have to get used to because it’s not changing,” Wright told reporters. “But I feel like I can play at a much higher level than I’m playing at right now.

“I think that there are certainly some things I’m having to make adjustments with as far as preparation, as far as playing schedule, that I’m going to have to get used to. But when I go take the field I expect to play much better than I am right now.”

Is Wright done?

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s worth sticking with him to find out, but that means staying with the plan and not deviating. That’s all on the manager.

Can Wright play Thursday night? That’s up in the air. If his availability is day-to-day and Collins doesn’t know what he has on any given night, he should go on the disabled list.

Go back to the beginning. Get re-examined and concentrate on nothing but getting stronger for the next couple of weeks. And, during this time, management should have a sit-down with Collins and tell him to get with the program and stick with it.

A lot of things must happen for this to work, including the manager being smarter than he has been.