May 13

Mets Add Rick Ankiel As Their Season Goes To The Brink

How much will Rick Ankiel help the Mets is hard to say. After all, he misses on 42 percent of his swings, which even exceeds Ike Davis’ ineptitude.

Even so, I like today’s signing because he can play better defense in center than anybody else the Mets will throw out there. Plus, he can hit the occasional home run.

I guess best of all, is it should reduce Jordany Valdespin’s playing time even more.

Ankiel was hitting .194 with five homers before being released by Houston. Ankiel will start tonight, but the plan is to platoon him with Juan Lagares.

The Mets, losers of three straight to Pittsburgh, begin a four-game series tonight in St. Louis against the Cardinals, who have the National League’s best record.

Jeremy Hefner (0-4), Dillon Gee (2-4), Shaun Marcum (0-3) and Jonathan Niese (2-4) will pitch in this series against Lance Lynn (5-1), John Gast (0-0), Shelby Miller (5-2) and Adam Wainwright (5-2) for the Cardinals. That is a combined 4-15 against 15-5, which is about as lopsided as you can get.

After St. Louis, the Mets will have three games in Wrigley Field, where they have not played well in recent years.

The Mets will then have three games each against Cincinnati and Atlanta, and four with the Yankees. That’s an imposing stretch for the Mets, who are a season-low six games below .500.

It is sad to say, but the Mets could be a dozen games or more below .500 before June. Forget about them being out of it by the All-Star break, their season could be over before we get into summer.

Yes, the Mets’ season is clearly on the brink not long after they’ve thawed out from Minnesota and Colorado. If the rest of the month plays out as expected, then there’s not much else to look forward to than more Jordany Valdespin tantrums.

Here’s tonight’s lineup in St. Louis:

Mike Baxter, RF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Rick Ankiel, CF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

May 13

Mets Better Off Without Valdespin

Two weeks ago I wondered why Jordany Valdespin wasn’t getting more playing time. Now, I’m wondering why I bothered to care.

Why should I, or anybody else for that matter – outside his immediate family – care about Valdespin, of whom GM Sandy Alderson recently said is testing his limits of tolerance?

Answer: There is no reason.

VALDESPIN: Will never be the man.

VALDESPIN: Will never be the man.

The Mets finished in fourth place last year and are in fourth now. They are a season-high six-games below .500, and after losing three of four to Pittsburgh, are about to start a stretch that could flatten them for the season.

Bottom line: They can lose with or without Valdespin.

Valdespin’s actions over the weekend illustrate he’s a me-first player. His posing after a homer in a blowout loss defined “bush league.” His post-homer comments put that assessment in bold.

“When you hit the ball, you got to enjoy your hit,’’ Valdespin said. “Every time I hit the ball, homer or something, I enjoy that. Every hit, I’m enjoying, my family’s enjoying, my friends enjoying.’’

Kind of says it all about him, doesn’t it?

Mets manager Terry Collins, thinking old school, acknowledged payback could be coming, but his response was inadequate and weak. It made me wonder why he should be manager.

“We’ve talked about this individually and as a group,’’ Collins said. “In the game today, you have to turn your head on some things. It’s done everywhere. Do I like it? I don’t know if it really matters. I can’t change the game.’’

Maybe not, but he damn sure can change his little role in it. Collins’ answer and willingness to put up with Valdespin’s histrionics, shows how dysfunctional the Mets are as an organization.

Valdespin styling after a meaningless home run was the epitome of selfishness and Collins knows it. While it might be the way of the world elsewhere, the only appropriate thing for Collins to say was: “Other managers can put up with that, but I won’t tolerate it on my team.’’

That Alderson didn’t say the same and send him down as punishment was also weak. In Alderson’s Sabremetric world, is there an adequate measure for Valdespin’s actions?

The next day Collins suggested there could be payback, and that it might be directed at David Wright was sobering. That the Pirates didn’t retaliate against Wright was a classy gesture on their part. Go after the real culprit was their reasoning.

They were right to plunk Valdespin, and I don’t want to hear any more Pollyanna crap about a fastball to the ribs wasn’t right. That’s the baseball code.

In that code you take your punishment and shut up. However, Valdespin went berserk in the dugout and slammed his helmet, drawing more attention to himself.

Wright, as captain, did an excellent soft-shoe trying to defend his teammate, although his words seemed hollow, as if deep down, he knew he didn’t believe what he was saying.

I wonder if Wright would have been so generous had the Pirates went after him in retaliation, or if Valdespin’s slammed helmet ricocheted and hit somebody in the eye?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Valdespin had no business being incensed, as he was the one who created the mess. His anger also indicates he either wasn’t aware of the circumstances or didn’t care. Valdespin doesn’t get that this is a team sport and not about him.

His actions scream “look at me,’’ as if he were a NBA diva. However, Valdespin doesn’t bring enough to the table to warrant the Mets putting up with him. They can finish fourth with or without him.

I prefer the latter.

May 09

Mets Shouldn’t Even Think Of Extending Ike Davis

During the offseason and in spring training I wrote in the interest of financial certainty, that the Mets should consider signing Ike Davis to a long-term contract as to bypass his arbitration years.

After 32 homers last season because of a strong second half, I thought Davis might be a keeper and they should do for him what they did for Jon Niese and David Wright. Lock up your investments early to keep them out of arbitration and the free-agent market is sound business. Lots of teams sign their can’t-miss youth at prices they can control in the future. In 2006, the Mets did it with Jose Reyes and Wright.

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

Only problem is Davis isn’t a can’t miss, but a swing-and-a-miss.

When he first arrived, Davis showed great power potential, but also was able to be selective and go to the opposite field. He showed an ability to act like a hitter. He did it the other night when he drew a walk in the tenth inning and scored the winning run in the Matt Harvey game.

“In that situation the pitcher knows the batter will be trying to hit it out of the park,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’ll be trying to get the batter to chase after a bad pitch, but Ike resisted.’’

It was a good piece of hitting, but one we’ve not often seen from Davis, who tries to go for the homer, even on pitches low and away.

Davis’ slow start should definitely cause the Mets to resist the temptation of signing him to a multi-year extension. Davis is hitting a paltry .170 with a .270 on-base percentage. He already has 35 strikeouts with just 17 hits and 13 walks. He has four homers and eight RBI.

None of those numbers warrant giving Davis an extension, or even thinking of it.

We know Davis has the potential to hit 32 homers because he’s already done it. However, whatever run production Davis is capable of providing isn’t worth his 186 projected strikeouts. Davis said earlier this spring that “I’m a home run hitter and strikeouts are going to happen,’’ which illustrates a refusal to work on the finer points of hitting.

That sizes up Davis in one short, compact stroke, something we don’t see from him at the plate.

Mechanically he’s a mess, with a dramatic hitch and propensity for lunging at pitches. His mental approach is much worse. You just have to watch a few at-bats to know he has no plan or patience at the plate. Davis is supposed to be a young lion, a future face of the franchise, but they are already starting to pinch-hit for him.

For this, any talk of a long-term deal is not only premature, but absurd.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 03

Mets Wrap: Late Magic Beats Braves

As it usually is for the Mets in Atlanta, things weren’t easy as they rallied to beat the Braves in the kind of game they often would lose in Turner Field. The Mets tied the game in the ninth against closer Craig Kimbrel on David Wright’s fourth homer of the season and added RBI singles from Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy to win, 7-5 in ten innings. The Mets scored the game-winner when Jordany Valdespin drew a two-out walk as a pinch-hitter, stole second and scored on Tejada’s single.

ON THE MOUND: Shaun Marcum did not come up with the quality start he hoped, giving up three runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 4.1 innings. … The bullpen was taxed again, giving up two runs in 5.2 innings. … Jeurys Familia pitched the tenth to earn his first major league save. … Overall, the Mets used seven pitchers.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets got homers from John Buck (10th of the season with 29 RBI), Lucas Duda, Marlon Byrd and Wright. … The Mets were 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Runs scored by the Mets after two were out.

THEY SAID IT: “There’s a reason why No. 5 (David Wright) is a star.’’ – Manager Terry Collins on Wright’s game-tying homer.

ON DECK: Jonathan Niese (2-2, 3.31) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 5.08), 7:10 p.m. ET.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 03

Shaun Marcum Has Chance To Make Amends

The first impression was not a good one for Shaun Marcum, but now he has the opportunity to make amends in a big way.

MARCUM: Gets the ball tonight. (AP)

MARCUM: Gets the ball tonight. (AP)

Marcum, signed to a free-agent contract last winter, did not report to spring training in good shape and tried to convince Terry Collins he only needed four exhibition starts instead of the normal six to get ready for the season. Marcum started the season on the disabled list, and his absence became a focal point as the back end of the Mets rotation became an issue.

Marcum wasn’t sparkling in his return, but with the Mets heading into a tailspin and in a marathon game Monday night in Miami, he volunteered to pitch in relief. He lost, but If nothing else, it caught the attention of his teammates. When reporters asked David Wright about pinch-hitting despite a stiff neck, he deflected the attention to Marcum.

“I would say Shaun Marcum was a much bigger situation, because you don’t see every day starting pitchers go down to the bullpen and kind of voluntarily want to do that to try to help us out,’’ Wright said. “That’s huge. All of us know how important wins are.’’

The Mets will give the ball to Marcum tonight in a place where wins have been scarce – Turner Field in Atlanta. Should he win, that would be two important outings in a week and could smooth over the poor first impression.

Marcum (0-2) said working in relief was akin to a between-starts bullpen workout, claiming the 28 pitches he threw Monday night were close to what he would have done in the bullpen.

“The bullpen was kind of running out there toward the end,’’ Marcum told reporters this week. “I told them if they needed me I was available and I’d be more than happy to go down there and give these guys whatever I had.’’

Marcum said the neck and shoulder pain that shelved him at the start of the season has dissipated, and he’s ready for tonight.

In looking at how he lost to the Marlins, Marcum said he made the pitches he wanted, but credited the hitters. That was another positive – no excuses.

“I made some pretty good pitches, especially when I went back and looked at the video,’’ Marcum said. “I guess you just tip your hat and move on.’’

The early pitching identity of the Mets has been good outings from Matt Harvey, decent starts from Jon Niese, and not much from the back end of the rotation. Jeremy Hefner’s last two starts have been good, and Dillon Gee has been erratic. It has added up to a lot of innings from the bullpen.

The Mets snapped a six-game losing streak Wednesday, but aren’t close to righting things. With Niese and Harvey working the last two games of this series, should Marcum give them a good game tonight, it could stabilize the pitching staff.

ON DECK: I’ll have a series preview against the Braves and the continuation of the Summer of 1973 Series.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos