May 31

Mets Must Do More To Stay Relevant

Shaun Marcum is pitching to extend the Mets’ winning streak to six games tonight in Miami. The Mets surprised some people this week, perhaps even the Phillies and Nationals, whom they trail by one and two games, respectively, in the lost column.

The Mets have three with the Marlins before heading to Washington. It sure would add some spice to the spring if the Mets were to close the gap on the Nationals before getting to DC.

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP_

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP)

They obviously became relevant to the Yankees this week, but there are several things that must happen for that relevance to carry over to the National League East.

It begins with pitching, and the Mets have been superb in not giving up a walk for three straight games. That’s something they hadn’t done since 1994, and almost incomprehensible.

The time is rapidly approaching when Zack Wheeler could be ready, but they should ride Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee – both coming off strong starts – for as long as they can. Marcum will stay in the rotation by virtue of making $4 million this year.

Mets starters are on a roll with a 2.91 ERA in over their last nine starts. The bullpen is also producing, giving up just two runs in its last 13.2 innings. The Mets bullpen has seven victories, but that can be misleading as it indicates blown saves by the middle-inning pitchers and entering the game with the starter either tied or behind.

Should the pitching continue the Mets could find themselves in an interesting summer. Stranger things have happened.

The Mets’ offense collapsed in the second half last year, and save David Wright and Daniel Murphy, there’s been little consistent production.

That must change, and fast.

Marlon Byrd came through Thursday night and Lucas Duda the night before, but more is needed from Duda and Ike Davis.

How bad has Davis been? Consider this, he has 13 RBI for the season. In contrast, Cubs pitchers have 19 in May.

Davis is batting eighth tonight and those whispers of going back to the minors are getting louder. As long as the Mets are winning, Davis is likely to stay. But, eventually he needs to get this straightened out.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against Miami starter Jacob Turner:

Omar Quintanilla, SS: The eighth Met to hit in the leadoff spot.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has hit safely in 14 of his last 18 games, including nine doubles, two homers and 10 RBI.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting just .189  (7-37) in his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has hit in 11 of last 13 games (.308), including game-ending run Tuesday against Mariano Rivera.

John Buck, C: Hitting .350 (14-40) with RISP.

Rick Ankiel, CF: Has two homers and seven RBI in 15 games with Mets.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has 14 RBI in 19 games in May.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting .141 on the road with no homers.

Shaun Marcum, RHP: Coming off 12-strikeout performance in no-decision against Braves.

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

May 31

Terry Collins Threw His Team Under The Bus

There are times I don’t get Terry Collins, for example his admission his clubhouse was beginning to lose hope.

“Due to what we’ve gone through in the last three weeks, the hardest thing I’ve done is try to keep these guys positive,’’ Collins told reporters after Thursday night’s win over the Yankees. “That’s the biggest part of this job. It wasn’t about changing stances or shuffling bullpens. It was about trying to keep the guys in the clubhouse positive.’’

COLLINS: Questioned his team's character.

COLLINS: Questioned his team’s character.

I understand where he’s coming from, as certainly that was everybody’s impression.

While I applaud his candor, but I don’t understand why he would go in that direction. One of the first things a manager is graded on is his ability to have his players go to the mat for him. Basically, Collins admitted he was losing his team.

Terry Francona admitted that in Boston and is now managing the Indians.

Even if it were true, never admit it because that’s ammunition to be used against you. Never admit it, because once it is out there the perception won’t go away and will surface during the next losing streak. Never admit it, because it is a sign of weakness.

Collins then threw his players under the bus. Whether he meant to or not, he did because it opens the door for finger-pointing. Who quit?

“Look, you’ve got to work your way out of it. Everybody goes through some bad times. You’ve got to work your way out of it,’’ Collins said.

With that, he should have stopped, but like the guy in the seat next to you on a plane, he wouldn’t shut up.

“That was the hardest part of this, because you could sense there was tremendous frustration,’’ he continued. “Guys were down. You heard some of those guys that I had been with for three years now start to say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t do it anymore.’ You can’t listen to that, because it’s a long, hard season.’’

OK, who said that? Who was on the verge of quitting? Did anybody dog it? If David Wright is the captain of this team, shouldn’t have he done something?

And, if you’re a player in that clubhouse, you have to wonder: Is he talking about me?

Basically, Collins left it up to the media to find and expose those who were giving up or were pressing. Collins is telling us his team is not of strong character or will.

Then came the threat of demotions for Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada. The appearance is he used the minor leagues as a punishment. Was this a threat to just Davis and Tejada or a message to everybody?

If it was intended for everybody, then it shouldn’t have come in late May, but during spring training. Collins should have said: “This team will hustle. This team will play fundamental baseball. This team will concentrate. This team will not draw undue attention to itself.’’

Simple messages, all, which should come with a simple qualifier: Do these things or we’ll get somebody who can.

I don’t like that Davis is stubborn about his hitting approach and the concept of going to the minor leagues to improve. I don’t like Jordany Valdespin’s attitude and me-first nature. And, I thought Collin McHugh’s tweet the other night was amateurish and out-of-line.

McHugh tweeted: “You can call us the NYC Sanitation Dept. because we just SWEPT the Yankees from Queens to the Bronx.’’

Is he serious? Let McHugh do something, maybe win a few games before he trashes an opposition that with the exception of this week and a few other times, has pretty much had its way with the Mets.

A tweet like that shows Collins doesn’t have control over his clubhouse. An admission there were players thinking, “I can’t do this anymore,’’ suggests the same.

The Mets have won five straight and head to Miami this weekend to play a team they should beat. But, what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse last night in the Bronx is something that would have stayed in a smart clubhouse. It is something that makes you wonder whether their mind is able to focus enough to continue this run.

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum and the lineups.

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

 

 

May 30

Dillon Gee Pitching For Rotation Spot; Jon Niese Scratched

At one time, the Mets could count on Dillon Gee giving them five innings. They weren’t always pretty, but at least there was length.

Not so much anymore.

In ten starts this spring, he’s produced one quality start and only three times worked into the sixth or longer.

At 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA, and Jeremy Hefner pitching well and Shaun Marcum too expensive to option, Gee is pitching for his spot in the rotation as Zack Wheeler casts a shadow over the back end of the rotation.

“I’m always pitching for my job,’’ Gee said. “Nothing is guaranteed here. I know I haven’t pitched well. I have to turn things around and give us a chance to win.’’

That’s something he hasn’t done this spring as he has given up at least four runs in six starts and has given up eight homers in 49.2 innings. Gee holds a NL-high 1.73 WHIP, which is staggering when you come to think about it.

Gee will be trying to extend the Mets’ winning streak to four over the Yankees and five overall, before the team heads to Miami for the start of a three-game series beginning Friday night.

While there’s pressure on Gee, he might have caught a temporary break as Jon Niese was scratched this afternoon with tendinitis in his left shoulder. The Mets waited this long, so they won’t bring up Wheeler now, so the option is Collin McHugh to start Saturday at Miami.

The timetable for Niese is at least ten days, which could translate into a retroactive DL assignment.

Here’s the Mets’ batting order tonight against left-hander Vidal Nuno:

Justin Turner, 1B: Ike Davis’ two hits Wednesday evidently didn’t make that great of an impression as he’s sitting tonight. Bottom line: If Davis is going to play on this level, he has to hit lefties. Turner is one of seven hitters the Mets have used to lead off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Leads team with 18 multi-hit games. He’s hitting .386 on the road.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .378 (17-45) with RISP. Has nine career homers against the Yankees, most ever by a Met.

John Buck, DH: Cooled considerably after hot start. Hit the ball hard on a line twice Wednesday night. Hit nine homers in April but only two since.

Lucas Duda, LF: Had key two-run double Wednesday night. Hitting .167 (6-36) with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting just .161 (5-31) over his last ten games.

Anthony Recker, C: Hitless in 21 at-bats with RISP in his career.

Juan Lagares, CF: Has good glove, but hasn’t shown anything offensively.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Recalled this afternoon when Ruben Tejada was placed on the disabled list with a strained right quad.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Is 0-1 lifetime against Yankees.

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

May 28

David Wright Proves Captaincy Every Day

There was no other choice but David Wright to be Mets’ captain, and throughout this disappointing season showed again Monday night why he is special and the best position player they ever produced.

Daniel Murphy drove in the game-winner and Jon Niese was superb in a bounce-back start, but the Mets don’t win – period – without Wright.

WRIGHT: Proves worth daily.

              WRIGHT: Proves worth daily.

With the life sucked out of the Mets the previous inning on Brett Gardner’s homer-robbing catch of Murphy’s drive and Mariano Rivera looming for the Yankees, Wright drilled a Phil Hughes pitch for a game-tying homer in the seventh. And, with the Yankees threatening the following inning, he made a scintillating play to start a 5-4-3 double play.

“Big players make big plays,’’ manager Terry Collins would later say. “ That’s what he is. That’s why he’s the captain. It’s amazing how many times those guys come through for you.’’

However, Wright comes through in other ways.

With the fan base showing absolutely no faith in ownership, and despite knowing he could have gotten more money elsewhere – not to mention being able to produce better numbers in another park – Wright opted to stay with the Mets.

Yes, he’ll get $138 million over the next eight years, but it will come with more headaches and definitely more losing. The Mets are on their way to a fifth straight losing season, and there will likely be a lot more before they are on the north side of .500, let alone seeing October again.

As the losing continues, Wright is the spokesman for his teammates. That’s the price of being captain.

“Well, we’re not playing good baseball,’’ said Wright. “That’s easy to see. But it’s a resilient group. And you have to understand that we know there’s going to be tough times over the course of this season. … It’s not time to hold your heads down and mope around. We’ve got to find a way to compete, find ways to execute.’’

It gets tiring night after night to speak for and take the heat off his frequently over-matched teammates. Wright is stand-up. When the team implodes, or is stung with disappointment, it is Wright who gives the analysis.

Surely, there are times he’d much rather soak in the whirlpool or stretch out in the player’s lounge munching on fresh fruit, if not savoring a cold one, but giving answers comes with being a captain, of which Wright still insists, “it is an honor.’’

His responsibilities also include offering support for Ike Davis after one of his several multi-strikeout games. Wright does this willingly because Davis is a good guy with a pleasant demeanor despite being lost at the plate.

However, it also means acting as a buffer for the unpopular and polarizing Jordany Valdespin. Like everybody else in his clubhouse, Wright didn’t agree with Valdespin’s styling after a meaningless home run, but he is a teammate, and Wright had to speak on his behalf.

Even now, Wright will be delicate in how he handles Valdespin and other delicate topics. When managers Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel were fired, Wright properly said the onus should be on the players.

Earlier in his career, when veterans such as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez surrounded Wright, he was the voice of this franchise.

When Jose Reyes was injured and wanted to stay in a game, Wright rightfully told his manager because the team came first. It is Wright who goes to the mound and settles a pitcher, which he frequently did with Mike Pelfrey. It is Wright who pulls a player aside, as with Lastings Milledge and Fernando Martinez, to tell them in a stern, yet not embarrassing way, to show up on time or run out a ball.

Murphy calls Wright “a professional,’’ and it might be one of the best descriptors for the Mets’ captain, a player who personifies what is good about his team.

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

May 26

From One Miserable Week To Another For Mets

It was a rough week for your Mets and the upcoming week doesn’t figure to get any easier.

Whatever good feelings developed at Wrigley Field quickly evaporated when they returned home to be swept by Cincinnati. They followed that with losing their first two against the Braves, with once again Dillon Gee running into that one buzz saw inning that shredded him. They conclude their series at Citi Field with Atlanta today behind 0-5 Shaun Marcum on the mound.

No, he’s not one to inspire Matt Harvey-like confidence.

If there was a Game of the Week, it was Harvey’s no-decision Wednesday, in which they took him off the hook to keep him unbeaten.

The Met most in focus this week was Ike Davis, whose .148 average has him on the verge of being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas since before the Pittsburgh series. Davis can’t hit the high heat or low-and-slow breaking pitches. He’s lost at the plate and carried his funk out to the field.

Pitchers on this level give no quarter, and despite Davis’ proclamation he needs to learn to hit on this level, it is obvious this isn’t the place, not with quality arms against him and the cascading boos. That the Mets have waited this long is indication of their thin minor league system and lack of faith in those players down below.

The Mets escape the National League this week for the Subway Series, this time under the new format of two games each in Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are always a formidable obstacle for the Mets, but despite a bulk of their multi-million dollar talent on the disabled list, the Yankees are sizzling. It is sobering the Yankees’ minor leaguers and retreads are better than the Mets’ starters.

Jon Niese and Harvey start Monday and Tuesday, respectively, at Citi Field, where tickets – and plenty of them – are available. They can also be had at Yankee Stadium, an indication the interleague gimmick is cooling.

Interleague play has never appealed to me, but since it isn’t going away, this is a better Mets-Yankees format. Have the games dominate the week and be done with them. Four games are right while six is too many.

Everywhere he goes in his farewell tour Future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera visits with a selected group of fans and honored by the opposition. When the Yankees were in Cleveland, the home of Rock ‘n Roll, the Indians presented him a framed gold record of “Enter Sandman’’ his take-the-mound music as a gift. The Mets presented Chipper Jones with artwork of Shea Stadium.

The Mets will honor Rivera on Tuesday.

Noted for breaking bats with his fierce cutter, one of the best gift ideas I heard speculated was to presented him an autographed cracked bat from the opposition. It is such a novel idea.

I hope he gets one from David Wright. It is piling on, but I can’t help it, he won’t get one from Davis as that would mean making contact.

Yes, yes, that’s cruel. However, there is an element of truth to it, right?

The week ends in Miami for a series against the anonymous Marlins, whose lone reason for watching, Giancarlo Stanton, was injured when the teams last played.

Niese and Harvey are scheduled to go Saturday and Sunday.

Then comes June, but the good news is they can’t swoon any more than they already have.

Can they?