Sep 27

Mets Matters: The Home Season Finale Today

There’s always a twinge of sadness prior to the last home game of the season. It represents finality and dreams lost.
There was little optimism coming out of spring training, but the Mets created interest, relevancy and excitement for the better part of three months. More importantly, they created optimism for a fan base that had none.
I don’t know why, but the off button was hit in the last series of the first half when they lost two of three to the Cubs, including getting pasted that last Sunday. Something just happened that was more than injuries to Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. It was as if a cloud of listlessness consumed them.
Sandy Alderson rattled off a bunch of numbers the other night. The one that was most important to me was pitches faced per at-bat. The Mets were no longer patient, no longer hitting with two outs, no longer using the whole field. They were consumed, top to bottom, with poor fundamentals.
Then the starting pitching became spotty for awhile and the bullpen imploded. As you watched July burn into August you could see on a daily basis the season slipping away. The low point? Perhaps that extra inning loss at Washington when they came from behind only to lose two leads late. By the time of the 16-1 Philly debacle, the competitive part of the season was long gone.
Once they dipped a couple of games below .500 I didn’t think they could recover. And, doing nothing at the trade deadline was another definite sign. Alderson wanted to wait and see, and what he saw was a team in decline. By then, it was too late.
The rest has been hell to watch, and I don’t need any statistics to know I was watching bad baseball. Really bad baseball.
Well, there are six games on the road after today, and it’s for Mets junkies only, much like the second half.
The Mets had a feel-good moment last night with a strong effort from Jeremy Hefner, who gave up seven runs in his previous outing. At least he leaves this season with a better taste in his mouth.
David Wright has the club hit record and today R.A. Dickey goes for 20. Wright, who had a great first half struggled in the second and is righting himself before winter. Dickey, except for a string of a few starts has been the most consistent player the team has had.
We’ll be watching today rooting for Dickey, but wondering how aggressive the Mets will be in bringing them back. If the Mets had a sense of theatre, they’d announce extensions for both today.
They won’t.
Sep 26

Alderson On Wright And Dickey

Listening to Sandy Alderson last night on SNY gave me little hope the contract extensions for David Wright and R.A. Dickey will reached any time soon, but he did say there’s more a sense of urgency with the latter.

“R.A.’s situation is a little bit different in the sense that there is more immediacy there,’’ Alderson said. “Here’s a guy that’s 37 years old and is pitching and presumably doesn’t have the same horizon that a David Wright might.

“So at the end of the season we’ll talk with R.A. and see what he’s thinking and try to have him back. He’s been a great story this year. He’s been a great asset over the last three years, really.’’

Dickey has been solid since getting here, but this season has been a breakout one for him as he’s on the cusp of winning 20 games. While Wright has already had one payday, this will be Dickey’s only chance.

Dickey said he’d like to stay, but also realizes what’s at stake. Just last week he said it would take more than one piece to make the Mets a legitimate contender. He and Wright are two of those pieces, but the team needs more, including the bullpen, the outfield and catcher.

Based on published reports, the Mets aren’t going to splurge in the free-agent market, with their resources earmarked for these two. Subsequently, you can’t expect 2013 to be much different than this year. The hope for improvement is from within and injured starters Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming back.

Both players said they’d wait until the offseason, which is now a little more than a week away. Both have stated a preference of staying with the Mets, but also acknowledged the economics of the sport.

“Our intent is to work hard to try to keep them both,’’ Alderson said. “They’ve both been great for us this year. David has been here and is the face of the franchise — has been. We’d very much like him to stay. I think he wants to stay. I’m sure he wants to know where we’re headed and the things that we intend to do to make it a winner. We’ll have that conversation at some point.’’

That last comment is in response to Wright saying last week there are no moral victories in finishing strong and it is all about making the playoffs.

If a deal can’t get done, Alderson said trading becomes an issue.

“If we felt that there absolutely wasn’t any way that we were going to get something done, then we would probably approach something,’’ Alderson said. “But I think we tend to be optimistic and see where it takes us.’’

 

Sep 25

What If David Wright Doesn’t Want To Stay?

I keep hearing, “Will the Mets re-sign David Wright?” and “What will it take to keep David Wright?” and “How can the Mets not afford to bring back David Wright?”

All very good, pointed and legitimate questions. Here’s some more: “What if David Wright wants to leave?” and “What’s keeping David Wright tied to the Mets?”

Unquestionably, Wright is the face of this franchise, he’s the most popular, he’s their best player. And, he’s still young enough where the team can build around him. But, what if Wright doesn’t want them to build around him anymore?

Seriously. Mull that over for a moment.

Jose Reyes is gone and so is Carlos Beltran, the latter whom is having a great season. Those were the position-player building blocks the team had around Wright. They are gone and if published reports are to be believed, might Ike Davis be next? Afterall, outside of their young pitching Davis figures to bring back the most in return.

Sandy Alderson has already said not to expect a winter spending spree, so realistically, the 2013 Mets will be vastly similar to this year’s second-half collapse model, with the hope being improvement from within, notably a strong first full season from Matt Harvey. Even so, the Mets are probably two or three years away from serious playoff contention.

Wright will be 33 in three years and perhaps nine years removed from his last playoff appearance (2006). Don’t you think he might be tired of being pitched around, losing and making public relations appearances for a team not going anywhere?

By that time, if not traded or having left as free agents, what will the 2015 Mets look like?

Just last week Wright said there are no moral victories and it is all about making the playoffs. At the same time, R.A. Dickey said “you’re kidding yourself if you think we’re more than one piece away.”

Wright said he wants to remain a Met, but hasn’t said he can’t say he’ll stay a Met regardless. He’d be crazy to say such a thing because it would limit his bargaining power. As it is, Wright won’t come close to hitting 30 homers, a milestone he’s reached several times, most recently in 2008. It has been part injuries, part Citi Field, part being pitched around and part bad habits that have led to Wright’s drop in power.

Wright has an option for next season which the team will undoubtedly pick us as to not risk heading into the ticket-selling offseason without their key player. If the Mets fail to sign him to an extension and then aren’t able to trade him as they didn’t Reyes, Wright will be a free agent and his phone will ring.

And, if the Mets don’t add some pieces around him soon, he’ll listen. He’d be a fool not to.

 

 

Sep 25

Davis Reaches Milestone; Can He Do More?

Ike Davis reached the 30 homer milestone. If R.A. Dickey wins his twentieth on Thursday we can put a wrap on the summer and start thinking about Christmas.

Thirty homers from Davis is impressive, especially considering his first half when he hit 12, but his average was .220. Had he hit at least .250 in the first half that would have been enough contact to raise his homer and run production totals.

Terry Collins and the Mets need to be applauded for sticking with Davis, although it must be conceded they didn’t have many other options considering Lucas Duda wasn’t hitting, either, and there was nobody down below worth bringing up.

The last Mets to hit 30 homers were David Wright – which brings up another issue, we’ll discuss later – and Carlos Delgado in 2008. Home run totals have gone down since MLB started cracking down on PED’s, but Davis is strong enough to where he doesn’t need them.

“It’s a cool milestone, I guess,” Davis told reporters last night. “It’s something you can always tell your kids — you hit 30 homers in the big leagues. But, obviously, if I would have hit 29 this year I still would have been happy with the power numbers, for sure.”

Despite his success, there are still holes in Davis’ offensive game, notably the inability to put two halves together and inconsistency against lefties (only eight of his homers were against left-handers). Davis understands that in order to become a real star he needs to be more consistent throughout the season, and last night was nearly apologetic about his first half.

“The difference is I’m just not awful. The first two and a half months I was terrible,” Davis said. “I felt like I had never played baseball before. I kept saying I’m not going to play this bad forever. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to do that. You guys can pick up a stick and do better than I did. But I told you there’s better things to come.

“I don’t know if I’ve had the greatest season of all time, but I definitely made myself feel a little better about this season working through stuff and grinding and seeing you can come from pretty far behind and still have a pretty good year.

“I guess everyone kind of goes through something like that. I’m glad, I guess, that I did. It definitely made me a better baseball player. It was mental strength, for sure. But hopefully I don’t do that again.”

There were published reports earlier having the Mets shopping Davis in the offseason. The club is unwilling to comment on them, but two things are for sure: One, considering what the Mets have, he’d be attractive in the trade market, and two, Davis is worth holding on to and building around.

 

Sep 21

Terry Collins Throws Mets Under Bus; Himself, Too.

Terry Collins wouldn’t come out and say it, but his clipped answers to pointed questions strongly suggest he believes his team has quit.

As he said several times during the Mets’ second-half collapse, “it’s all about perception.’’

After being blown out 16-1 by the Phillies before published estimates of around 1,000 fans at Citi Field, an exasperated and visibly upset Collins gave short, terse answers to the questions everybody who bothered to watch were asking: Do you think your team has quit?

There’s no more biting question to ask a major league manager.

Collins gave his team the benefit of doubt after more than a few dismal performances this summer. Not last night. Last night, with his words and their tone, Collins threw his team under the bus, and deservedly so.

Asked if the Mets quit, Collins said: “You’ll have to ask them. I have my own opinion. I’m not going to express it publicly.’’

He might as well have screamed “YES.’’

In addition to the score, Collins said, “I saw some things tonight that were unacceptable.’’

When asked to specify, Collins refused, and when pressed if he thought his players were embarrassed, he abruptly said: “You have to ask them. I’m not inside their heads.’’

Normally, when a coach or manager says such a thing, the first reaction is how can he not know what his team is thinking? Doesn’t he have the pulse of this team?

Collins does, but didn’t want to attach his name to the actual quotes. Maybe he thinks by doing so he won’t be able to work with them next year. At least, with those who will be left.

Or, maybe he wouldn’t say they quit because by doing so would be a reflection on him. After all, when a team quits, it means the manager lost the clubhouse. That’s the perception Collins wants to mask.

The Mets have gone 16 straight games having scored three or fewer runs at home. One would think they’d score four by accident. If they didn’t quit, then they are playing uninspired, listless baseball. Collins said letdowns are to be expected, but this is more than a letdown.

“We’ve had a huge letdown in the second half,’’ Collins said. “People paid money to see us tonight. Our fans, not that we wouldn’t have lost 16-1, but not the way we lost. This is the big leagues.

“It’s all about perception. And the perception is tonight after we’re down 8-0 the game was over. No disrespect to Tyler Cloyd. None whatsoever. But three hits? Please. We’re better than that.’’

Well, not lately.

David Wright and Ike Davis refuted the notion the players quit. Both spoke in cliché, saying this is their job and the players work hard in preparation.

Neither was convincing. The only thing convincing about last night were all the empty seats.