May 20

Mets Must Develop Consistency In Batting Order

Constructing a major league batting order is a tricky enough task for a manager in the best of times, let alone with the limited and non-productive options in front of Terry Collins.

It was good to see Daniel Murphy back at leadoff Monday against Cincinnati, but somewhat surprised at first to see Rick Ankiel at second. Then again, Murphy won’t be doing a lot of stealing, so there’s not much of a need for him to work the count.

Then again, working the count might not be such a bad idea if it helps Ankiel get a better pitch and cuts down on his strikeouts. You also have to wonder if having a hot David Wright behind him will have pitchers challenge him by throwing more fastballs inside the zone, which theoretically is the theory of hitters protecting each other in the batting order.

Murphy is on a 14-for-28 tear over his last seven games and Ankiel has two homers since the Mets picked him up last week, so there’s life at the top of the order. Wright has also been swinging a hot bat.

Moving Lucas Duda to cleanup and dropping Ike Davis to sixth seems the best option, although I would drop Davis lower – to Triple-A Las Vegas. But, if he stays, let him stick at seventh. Sixth can be a RBI spot in the order, so why keep Davis there when he’s not producing? Until Davis shows he can produce, and he erroneously has said he needs to hit on this level and not in the minor leagues.

What Davis doesn’t get is this isn’t about the majors vs. the minors, but for him addressing his mechanics and approach. Staying in the majors won’t shake him of his bad habits and approach. That will take diligent work in the minors.

Assuming a full season for Ankiel, from him at second, and including Wright, Duda, Marlon Byrd, Davis and John Buck, the Mets have six straight hitters on pace for over 100 strikeouts. Five Mets who normally start are hitting lower than .240. Overall, the Mets have scored three or fewer runs in 10 of their last 13 games and 15 of their last 22.

In spring training Collins said he wanted consistency in the batting order, but realistically hasn’t had many options. One thing he could do is keep Ruben Tejada eighth, which is prudent considering his .219 average.

Collins has waffled before, but if there’s no replacement for Davis – and general manager Sandy Alderson said that is not imminent – here’s hoping he sticks with this indefinitely.There might be minor tweaking depending on specific match-ups and working others into the lineup, but overall hopefully nothing dramatic.

Look at it this way, there’s nothing working with all the juggling. The Mets have used seven different hitters batting leadoff, fifth and eighth; eight number six hitters; and 11 at seventh.

There’s nothing stable there, and that must change.

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

May 19

Sacking Terry Collins Now Would Be Unfair

Terry Collins will go to home plate tomorrow with the line-up card and likely get booed. Surely, he’ll hear it when he makes a pitching change.

COLLINS: Give him a fair chance.

COLLINS: Give him a fair chance.

It won’t be fair, but we know few things in baseball aren’t fair.

Collins doesn’t have a contract beyond this season, and his lame duck status rises to the surface when the Mets go into a tailspin, as they did last week when they lost a season-high six straight games, and he later blasted the fans over the Jordany Valdespin episode.

I ripped him over Valdespin with no regrets, but Collins does deserve some points for his clarification the next day. He didn’t retract, which is fine, didn’t say he was misquoted, which is commendable, but said there was room for interpretation.

Sometimes, I don’t get where Collins is coming from when he waffles – for example, I don’t think he gave Collin Cowgill a long enough opportunity in center/leadoff at the start of the season – but for the most part realize he’s dealing with a lack of depth and talent.

Assuming there’s no turnaround, this will be Collins’ third straight losing season, enough to get most managers sacked, but there is a unique scenario in Flushing.

Collins was not hired to take the Mets to the playoffs. He was hired as a caretaker and to change the culture. He is being asked to win a poker hand with five cards worth of mismatched talent. When it comes to discarding cards, Collins might keep David Wright and Matt Harvey, but that’s about it.

Sandy Alderson – also hired as a caretaker – and ownership, which is trying to stabilize its financial ship, have not given Collins a genuine opportunity to win.

Collins has not changed the culture, but he’s not had total support from Alderson in that regard. How else can you explain Valdespin’s presence on the roster? Also, Alderson’s comments yesterday about it not being imminent Ike Davis will be optioned shows a lack of changing the culture.

And, not for a second do I buy there’s no other alternative. The issue isn’t who will play first base for a month in a lost season, but why won’t they make the decision to do something to help Davis?

That falls on Alderson, not Collins.

A way you determine whether a manager is reaching his players is if they’ll still hustle for him and if he loses his clubhouse, and there’s not enough evidence of either. The captain, Wright, plays hard and is the proper example.

However, keeping Valdespin’s toxic attitude and Davis’ dysfunctional bat could gradually eat away at this team’s psyche. Collins’ lame duck status can also do the same.

If the Mets are to be financially whole after this season and show a willingness to spend to add talent, then Collins should get the opportunity to manage that team. He should get the chance to manage with some degree of talent in his dugout.

In looking at the Mets’ 25-man roster, I only see a handful of players I can say with certainty will be back next year: Wright, Harvey, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell. I can see Daniel Murphy back, but also dealt in July. I can see somebody else playing shortstop next year. Everybody else I can see gone.

That indicates no core or organizational depth, and that’s not Collins’ fault. Give Collins time with a full deck and then make a decision. It’s not fair to do so otherwise.

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

May 16

Mets Wrap: Jon Niese Shines In Win Over Cards

Four more strikeouts from Ike Davis, another boneheaded play from Jordany Valdespin, and another lumbering Met thrown out trying to steal, and yet The Boys From Flushing beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-2, today to snap a six-game losing streak. The reasons were mostly Jon Niese’s strong performance of working into the eighth inning and four hits from Daniel Murphy.

NIESE: Breaks slide.

NIESE: Breaks slide.

ON THE MOUND: Niese was superb, and it didn’t have anything to do with the color of his wife’s panties. Niese threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 29 hitters and registered 14 groundball outs. … He gave up two runs in 6.2 innings. … Bobby Parnell earned his fourth save.

AT THE PLATE: Murphy went 4-for-4. … David Wright drove in two runs. … Davis’ four strikeouts upped his total to 45 and put him on pace for 192. Here’s another way to look at things: If his strikeouts were hits, he would be batting .354. … Unbelievably, with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh, Valdespin bunted on his own. … Mets hitters struck out 11 more times.

THEY SAID IT: “Today was an awful day. I can’t really say anything else. Just really bad.’’ – Davis after going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts Thursday.

BY THE NUMBERS:  22: Consecutive hitless at-bats by Davis.

ON DECK: Matt Harvey will attempt to break his string of four straight no-decisions Friday at Wrigley Field.

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May 16

Found: Guts In Mets Clubhouse

Finally, guts.

LaTroy Hawkins has been around a long time. He has forgotten more about clubhouse protocol than most Mets will ever know.

Yes, we’re talking again about Jordany Valdespin, this time Hawkins’ take on the matter to national baseball writer Bob Nightengale.

Nightengale has been around a long time. He knows the ropes, and after years of living in Minneapolis developed a relationship of trust with Hawkins, a long-time Twin.

“What were we supposed to do there? We were down six runs, he hits a home run and he acts like it’s a walk-off,’’ Nightengale said of Valdespin’s posing after a meaningless home run.

“This isn’t Little League. What, now we’re supposed to get into a fight for that? We’re supposed to throw at somebody because he did a bonehead thing? Now, if they throw at him for no reason, that’s a different story. We protect our team. But to do what he did put us in a bad spot, a real bad spot.

“He showed absolutely no respect. If you’re going to pimp it, you’re going to suffer the consequences. I have no problem defending my teammates, but some things, you just can’t defend against. He’s created a lot of unnecessary tension around here.’’

Earlier today, I listed several action steps for Sandy Alderson. I wonder if he’s taken the temperature in his clubhouse. I wonder if he’s spoken to a veteran like Hawkins.

I don’t expect a general manager to act on the basis of one quote, but I do expect him to know the sentiments of his players.

Perhaps the Mets will wise up and get rid of Valdespin soon, but for now he’s in the starting line-up as the leadoff hitter in right field.

Here’s today’s line-up as the Mets attempt in St. Louis to avoid a seventh straight defeat:

Jordany Valdespin, RF: Whatever he does today, let’s hope he’s quiet about it.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Broke out of slump with seven hits in last four games.

David Wright, 3B: Coming off his worst game of the season with a costly run-generating error and three strikeouts. Is batting .419 with runners in scoring position.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitless in 11 at-bats in the three games so far against Cardinals. Overall, one hit in last 20 at-bats and hitting .164.

Lucas Duda, LF: Hitless in ten at-bats in the series. Is .143 (3-21) with runners in scoring position.

John Buck, C: Thrown out twice at second Wednesday night. Why was he trying to steal?

Rick Ankiel, CF: Homered last night.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Batting .174 for month of May.

Jonathan Niese, LHP: Hasn’t won in five starts. Has to try to do it with this line-up.

May 15

Mets Wrap: Losing Streak Reaches Six Straight

The Mets received a strong outing from Shaun Marcum and Rick Ankiel hit a two-run homer, but that was the extent of the highlights as the Cardinals scored the game-winning run in the seventh inning on Scott Rice’s run-producing wild pitch in the 4-2 loss. John Buck was doubled off second base and was caught stealing, and David Wright dropped the ball attempting to tag John Jay, who eventually scored. The Mets dropped to 14-23 with their sixth straight loss.

ANKIEL: Homered to tie game. (AP)

ANKIEL: Homered to tie game. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Marcum had his best moment with the Mets, giving up three runs on five hits in 6.2 innings. Marcum walked one, but as fate would have it for the Mets, Daniel Descalso came around to score the go-ahead run on Rice’s wild pitch.

AT THE PLATE: Ankiel had two hits, including a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh. … Seven more strikeouts by Mets hitters, including three by Wright. … Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are hitting .164 and .205, respectively.

METS MATTERS: Zack Wheeler took a cortisone injection to his right shoulder and will resume throwing in 48 hours. He will miss at least one start.

THEY SAID IT: “Oh boy,’’ sighed Keith Hernandez when Cardinals went ahead in seventh on run-scoring wild pitch from Scott Rice.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Number of Mets in tonight’s lineup hitting less than .240.

ON DECK: Jon Niese (2-4) tries to win for the first time in six starts Thursday afternoon against Adam Wainwright.

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