Aug 02

Mets Languish Behind Small Market Royals And Pirates

It wasn’t that long ago when New York Mets’ fans and media criticized the team’s lack of aggressiveness in the free-agent market with the smug comment: “This is New York, we’re not the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates.’’

The Pirates are in first place in the NL Central and might be the season’s best story, while the Royals take a nine-game hitting streak into this oddly-time interleague series – Kansas City’s first trip to Queens since 2002. If the Mets and Royals were in the same division, they would be 6.5 games better than the Mets. Meanwhile, the Pirates would have a 10.5-game lead on the Mets.

The Royals are doing it with great defense, timely hitting sprinkled in amongst a few stars.

Also interesting is left fielder Alex Gordon, who switched from third base and has won a couple of Gold Gloves. My first through was if Gordon can switch position and become solid player, if not a star, then what about Wilmer Flores?

Flores’ roots are at shortstop, a position requiring athletic ability. I don’t know where he fits in, but he hits too much to languish in the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla has cooled and the organization is far from enamored with Ruben Tejada, so, what’s the harm in trying?

When a player switches positions, it is always easier to move from infield to outfield, than the other way around.

OFFENSE STAGNANT: The Mets limp home from their 3-5 trip no doubt aggravated it could have been 7-1 with some timely hitting – or any hitting at all, for that matter.

The Mets scored 11 against the Nationals in the first game of the trip, but only 15 over the next seven games. Four times they scored only one run or were shutout.

“We don’t drive runs in. There’s no secret,’’ Terry Collins said as the Mets packed up to return home. “If I knew what it was, we’d fix it. Guys don’t drive them in. We’re not driving them in. That’s pretty much the basic line.’’

Collins then went on to say something totally confusing, saying: “There’s nothing wrong with the approach. We’re just not taking good swings on the pitches we can hit.’’

Here’s a bulletin for Collins: They are missing those pitches because the approach is off, whether it be mechanical or mental. Something is not clicking.

It isn’t for Ike Davis, who only had five hits on the trip and stranded six runners Thursday. He’s hitting better than he was prior to going down to Las Vegas, but largely remains unproductive.

WRIGHT HAS TIGHT HAMMY: David Wright has been playing with tightness in his right hamstring. Collins said Wright understands himself better than anybody, but Collins needs to understand him, too.

Wright would try to play if he had an arrow shot through his thigh. This is a man who played nearly a month with a fracture in his lower back.

Wright said he can play, invoking the standard player cliché, that if this were the playoffs it wouldn’t be an issue. But, these aren’t the playoffs.

To risk losing Wright for several weeks or longer if he blows out his hamstring is just plan stupid. Sit him for a couple of games to be sure.

SIX-MAN ROTATION IN JEOPARDY: You knew the Mets weren’t going to go long with a six-man rotation cycle.

Jonathan Niese threw four shutout innings Thursday and said he needs on more start. When he’s ready they certainly won’t go to seven.

Carlos Torres is likely to move to the bullpen.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 31

Mets Stand Pat At Trade Deadline

The trade deadline passed and as expected the New York Mets did not make a move. In previous seasons when one wondered about the futures of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright for economic reasons, this time they opted not to be sellers.

With nearly $50 million coming off the books next year because of contracts to Johan Santana and Jason Bay, the Mets say they will be active in the winter, mostly in the free-agent market, but for now want to make the most of this season.

Projected to lose as many as 100 games in some circles, the Mets have their eyes on second place in the NL East and a .500 record. It is not out of line. This was exactly the right thing the Mets did.

“We’re trying to win games here,’’ Terry Collins told reporters in Miami. “We’re not just throwing the season away.’’

The Mets’ inactivity must be interpreted in the positive because their message is they believe they have a competitive core, and the pieces everybody wants from them – notably Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd – have greater value in Flushing. If the Mets really believe they can be competitive next season they will need a closer, and Byrd is a positive influence on the field and in the clubhouse. All winning teams need players like him.

Since nearly player goes on waivers during the season to gauge trade interest, it is possible something could happen in August, but for now GM Sandy Alderson’s intent is to see how good this team can be over 162 games, and from there, better formulate his shopping needs.

Pitching is always a need and they now have a positive in Jenrry Mejia, tonight’s starter in Miami, who is coming off a solid, seven-shutout inning performance in Washington last Friday.

Mejia has struggled with injuries over the past three seasons, including undergoing Tommy John surgery. It is not unreasonable to speculate Mejia’s injuries were caused by the Mets bouncing him from the rotation to the bullpen back into the rotation. This was precipitated by then manager Jerry Manuel’s insistence in bringing him north out of spring training in 2010 to work out of the pen.

Only Mejia rarely pitched and when he did was usually ineffective. He was optioned to Triple-A, where he started and eventually injured his elbow.

Mejia starts tonight and if he does well will stay in the Mets’ six-man rotation.

With Jeremy Hefner ineffective over his last three starts and Jon Niese recovering from a slight rotator cuff, there’s potential for things to get dicey in the rotation, making it imperative for Mejia to produce.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup behind Mejia tonight:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

John Buck, C

Juan Lagares, CF

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Jenrry Mejia, RHP

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 25

Mets’ Young Shows Compassion To Hudson

In an era of self-absorption and chest thumping by players in all sports, despite the painful events as the igniter, class and respect was on display Wednesday night by the New York Mets and Atlanta, with Braves pitcher Tim Hudson on the giving and receiving ends.

YOUNG and HUDSON

                                                                             YOUNG and HUDSON

By know, you’ve probably all seen the gruesome replay of the Mets’ Eric Young stepping on and fracturing Hudson’s ankle. He’ll undergo surgery in Atlanta and could be lost for the year.

What you might not have seen was Young checking on David Wright after the Mets’ third baseman’s bat snapped and cracked him on the back of the head.

The gesture did not go unnoticed in the Mets’ dugout. “The first guy when the bat broke and hit David, Tim’s standing right there to make sure he’s OK. That’s the kind of guy he is,’’ Terry Collins said.

When you extend class and courtesy, it comes back to you, and Hudson felt the warmth from the Citi Field crowd, but also compassion from Wright and Young, who both stayed by Hudson as paramedics treated him on the field.

“It sucks,’’ a saddened Wright told reporters. “I’ve gotten a chance to be around Tim at All-Star games and playing against him for so long. He’s one of the good guys in the game and to see him go down like that and know something was wrong, it’s tough to watch.’’

Outside of Hudson, the only person who felt worse was Young, who knew he got Hudson’s ankle and none of the base. Young immediately sprinted to Hudson and bent over to pat him on the back.

Young stayed with Hudson throughout the time he was being treated, and shook his hand as he was carted off the field, perhaps for the last time this season.

“You never want to injure anybody,’’ Young said told reporters after the game. “I knew I didn’t get any of the base. I know I got all of his foot. … I pretty much knew it was probably broke right as I did it. That’s why I sprinted right back to him and try to console him as much as I could and apologize.”

Covering first base is a dangerous play for a pitcher because his eyes are on the ball and not the runner or the base. The pitcher winds up “feeling’’ for the base with his foot, and Hudson’s was squarely on the middle. There was no place else for Young to run.

Young said Hudson told him an apology wasn’t necessary as they shook hands on the field. Hudson repeated those words to Young when the Mets’ outfielder checked on him in the Braves’ clubhouse.

“I obviously wasn’t trying to hurt him on the play,’’ Young said. “He just told me to keep my head up and keep playing the game the hard way, the right way. He said there was nothing I can do about it.

“That made me feel somewhat better, but still bummed that he’s going to be out for a while. I just hope he has a speedy recovery.’’

Everybody does.

Jul 20

Zack Wheeler Tries To Get Mets On-Track

Well, so much for that fast start out of the second-half gate for the New York Mets.

That great ERA Jeremy Hefner was sporting going into the game? Not so much anymore. The Phillies nailed him for eight runs on ten hits. The carnage was accumulated over 63 pitches, 38 of them in the first inning.

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

The first inning and the Phillies have not been a good mix to Hefner over the years, and before you knew it, the Mets were down 11-0.

Terry Collins tried to put a positive spin on the rout.

“I’ll tell you what, down 11-0, make it a game, pretty impressive by our guys,’’ Collins told reporters after the game, most of who had their storied written by the fifth inning.

Uh huh. Forty years in the game should know by now there are no morale victories in baseball. Few of them, anyway, and last night wasn’t one of them.

Unfortunately for the Mets, them chopping away at the lead provided the illusion there was a chance, and consequently Collins had to go to his bullpen for seven innings.

Otherwise, Collins might have left Hefner in to take his lumps for the team to save the bullpen.

Either way, it was a hot, muggy miserable night, one better spent watching The Great Escape on the Military Channel.

Nonetheless, it is only one game and the Mets have their two of their best, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, going the next two games of this series. After that, it’s four more home games at home against Atlanta before hitting the road to Washington and Miami before the trade deadline.

So, there’s plenty of time for the Mets to make a run at .500 and make the second half of this season worthy of watching. The last four years after the break effectively ended the competitive part of their season.

Was there anything good out of last night’s game?

Juan Lagares had a good at-bat and Ike Davis had a couple of hits. Kirk Nieuwenhuis looked like Mr. Magoo in center field. Other than that, not too much.

I wasn’t crazy about Collins’ managing last night. David Wright did homer in the ninth, but after a busy All-Star break, he should have been pulled and given a rest. The same goes for John Buck, who cramped up.

Here’s today’s lineup against Cole Hamels:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Josh Satin, 1B

Juan Lagares, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Zack Wheeler, RHP

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 17

Mariano Rivera’s Light Burns Bright In All-Star Game

For the New York Mets it might have been “Matt Harvey Day,’’ but Mariano Rivera stole the night. It isn’t often you can orchestrate things in Major League Baseball, but that’s what happened. While no player is bigger than the game, there are some who define it by their presence and their greatness transcends the moment.

There was Ted Williams in 1999, surrounded by both teams in the Fenway Park infield. The Team of the Century Game, you might recall. They didn’t even need the game, they would have cheered Williams all night.

RIVERA: Stands alone.

RIVERA: Stands alone.

It was that way when Cal Ripken’s streak was broken and Joe Torre’s Yankees stood at the top step of their Camden Yards dugout in a long ovation. And, how about Ripken’s last All-Star Game, when he homered in Seattle?

Great theatre and it was such when Rivera ran out for the eighth inning and took his bows with nobody else on the diamond. That was symbolic as there is nobody like Rivera. For nearly two minutes they cheered the greatest closer in history. It didn’t matter he was a Yankee; all of baseball honored him.

“I didn’t know how to act,’’ Rivera said. “At that moment, I didn’t know what to do. It almost made me cry. It was close. It was amazing. I will never forget that.’’

As he often has, Rivera set the side down in order 1-2-3, and as he jogged off the field, Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder – whose father, Cecil, won a World Series ring with Rivera – pressed the ball in the modest closer’s glove.

Justin Verlander greeted Rivera first after the eighth with a long embrace. I couldn’t help but wonder if Verlander whispered in his ear, “I wish you had been on my team all these years.’’

Then again, there’s probably not a starter in the game who hasn’t wondered the same.

American League manager Jim Leyland is as old school as they come, but did a marvelous job planning the moment. Ideally, it should have been the ninth inning, but if the National League had taken the lead Rivera wouldn’t have gotten in the game.

“I wanted to make sure I got out of here alive,’’ Leyland said.

It was interesting to see Rivera’s peers – the opponents he has tormented over the years – respond to him. The Orioles Chris Davis could be seen shooting a video of Rivera on his cell phone. David Wright would tell Rivera how proud he was of how he handled himself.

“Things like that, that come from young boys like that, it is good,’’ Rivera said. “They know why you do it. That’s great.’’

While others had a bigger role in the game’s outcome, Rivera was voted the Most Valuable Player in a gesture of appreciation and respect.

With Rivera working the eighth, it was Joe Nathan who pitched the ninth to earn his first All-Star save. The ball will never make Nathan’s mantle as he gave it to Rivera.

“It showed respect to me,’’ Rivera would say. “It was a classy thing to do.’’

Classy and respect. That’s what Rivera has always been about.

NOTE: Please accept my apologies for the erratic posting lately. My server has been down and it was unavoidable. Hopefully, the problem has been resolved.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos