Apr 04

This Year Will Be The Toughest Job Of Collins’ Career

If you heard Terry Collins‘ lame defense of Yoenis Cespedes‘ boneheaded error Sunday night – “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.” – then you’ll see why this will be the toughest of his managerial career.

Collins is an apologist for Cespedes’ lack of effort and for Matt Harvey questioning his authority. But there’s so much more. There’s how he’ll limit David Wright‘s playing time, or more to the point, not knowing when he’ll have the third baseman available.

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

Cespedes is also a Mets’ wildcard in nobody knows how he’ll respond to the pressure of his $27.5-million contract. If Cespedes folds then Collins is again searching for offensive help, especially if Wright doesn’t hit.

Everybody raves about the Mets’ young pitching, but none of those arms – save Bartolo Colon – have won as many as 15 games. And, please, let’s not forget about the uncertainty of the bullpen.

The Mets are also counting on a breakout years from Michael Conforto and Steven Matz and a new double-play combination.

That’s a lot of variables placed pressure squarely on Collins’ shoulders. How he handles that pressure will go a long way towards where the Mets finish. However, perhaps most importantly is Collins has never had a team this talented. He’s never had a team that went to the World Series the previous season and with as many expectations like his 2016 Mets.

In his first years with the Mets, Collins had the security of having a bad team without a willingness to spend money. Those teams had no expectations and GM Sandy Alderson wasn’t going to sacrifice Collins as he tinkered with payroll and building this rotation. Managers of rebuilding teams having low expectations don’t get fired.

However, it’s different now. That security is gone. The expectations are high as is the pressure to win. And, pressure makes managers vulnerable. That’s why this will be his toughest year.

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Apr 03

Mets’ Roster With Thumbnail Reports

Like it or not, Mets manager Terry Collins has selected the 25-man roster that will open the 2016 season Sunday in Kansas City. Most of the selections were obvious, with nothing considered a major surprise.

Introducing the 2016 New York Mets:


Matt Harvey: He’s not talking, but most babies can’t. That’s all right as long as his pitching gives us something to talk about. It hasn’t so far this spring, but he gets a clean slate starting tonight.

Noah Syndergaard:  Will start the season’s second game. There’s talk of retaliation, but that’s ludicrous. He just might have the highest ceiling of any of the Mets’ young arms.

Jacob deGrom: Will get the ball for the home opener Friday. Is carving a reputation as the Mets’ best big-game pitcher.

Steven Matz: Roughed up early in spring training, but closed strong. Still hasn’t been determined when he’ll get first start.

Bartolo Colon: Has been an invaluable addition. Could work out of the bullpen for the games in Kansas City. Will be the fifth starter until Zack Wheeler is ready to pitch.


Jeurys Familia: Had great regular season, but struggled in the World Series. He might have won job by default, but he controls his own destiny.

Addison Reed: The designated set-up reliever, but is capable of closing if needed.

Antonio Bastardo: Lefty specialist. Had a rough spring training.

Jerry Blevins: Lefty is back after missing most of last year with a broken arm.

Logan Verrett: Capable of working in long relief and as spot starter. Started over Harvey last year to give Mets vital victory.

Jim Henderson: Former Brewers closer won spot.

Hansel Robles: Will serve two-game suspension to start season. Has reputation for quick-pitching and losing his composure.


Travis d’Arnaud: His health and throwing are two biggest concerns. Scouts believe if he stays healthy he could have 20-homer capability.

Kevin Plawecki: Thought he might open season in Triple-A. One of Collins’ challenges is to get him enough at-bats to stay sharp.


Lucas Duda: Has hit 57 homers over the past two years. Needs to cut strikeouts and use the entire field more than he does.

Neil Walker: A Daniel Murphy duplicate? Says he feels at home. Considered an upgrade defensively and has more power potential than Murphy.

Asdrubal Cabrera: Missed much of spring training with a strained knee but will start tonight. Considered a defensive upgrade.

David Wright: His back will always be a question. It’s anybody’s guess as to how many games he’ll play this season.

Wilmer Flores: Scheduled to back up each of the infield positions, which could turn out to be his niche. Are 20 homers a possibility?

Eric Campbell: Can also play in the outfield. Could be the first choice to back up Wright.


Michael Conforto: Just let him play against left-handers so we can see what he’s all about. It could be a breakout year for him if they give him the at-bats.

Yoenis Cespedes: They are tied into him for $27.5 million this year. Should play left instead of center. Mind and hustle have tendency to wander.

Curtis Granderson: Surprised a lot of people last year at the leadoff spot. I’d love to see another 90-plus walks with 30 homers.

Juan Lagares: The team’s best defensive player won Gold Glove award two years ago. Is seemingly healthy. When he plays it should be in center with Cespedes moving to left.

Alejandro De Aza: Was signed as the reserve outfielder before Cespedes was brought back. Could be available in a trade.

ON DECK:  Mets’ over/unders for 2016.

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Mar 27

Mets’ Issues With A Week To Go

The Mets begin defense of their National League title a week from today, but will do so a team not without its issues.

Let’s go position-by-position to see how they stack up:

STARTING PITCHING: One issue was Jacob deGrom’s dip in velocity, but he was back in the mid-90s in Saturday’s start. Steven Matz gave up one run Sunday, but also walked four and later said he was gassed. He only gets one more start and doesn’t look sharp. There are no questions with Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, and Bartolo Colon has not pitched well.

MATZ: Not ready. (AP)

MATZ: Not ready. (AP)

BULLPEN: Jim Henderson, Erik Goeddel, Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett are competing for the last bullpen spot. With three days off in the first week, the Mets shouldn’t have a problem not having Hansel Robles for the first two games as he serves a suspension.

CATCHER: Travis d’Arnaud is penciled in as the starter, but took a .200 batting average and .275 on-base percentage into Sunday’s game against the Nationals. The original plan was for Kevin Plawecki to be the back-up, and as of today they are leaning in that direction. However, with a heavy dose of days off in April – meaning he wouldn’t play much – and the prospect of saving a few bucks because of his Super 2 status, why not go with Johnny Monell and give Plawecki at-bats.

FIRST BASE: Lucas Duda hit 27 homers with 73 RBI last season and 30-92 in 2014. However, he had nearly a 2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks-ratio in both seasons. He’s extremely streaky, capable of ten homers in one month and two in another. Five drives a month would be add consistency to his make-up. Wilmer Flores is the projected back-up.

SECOND BASE: Neil Walker is not having a good spring, but his track record shows he’s not a .171 hitter. There’s no indication his lack of production is because of any injury. It’s just a slow start.

SHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera has missed much of the spring with a strained left knee. There’s a chance he’ll be ready by Opening Day, but there’s no sense in pushing things. If not Cabrera, then Flores could get the start.

THIRD BASE: David Wright’s back seems fine, but he’s been bothered by tightness in his legs. He won’t get the at-bats he prefers but will have to make the best of it. I still think the best decision would be for him to be the DH in the first two games at Kansas City.

LEFT FIELD: Michael Conforto didn’t play Saturday because of a back issue, but was in the lineup Sunday. The Mets ideally want to play Conforto against lefties, but hasn’t had a good spring, which might temper those plans. In that case, we could see more of Juan Lagares (.316 this spring).

CENTERFIELD: The Mets’ best left fielder is center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, whose .394 average and .429 on-base percentage, not to mention the pig roast he hosted, would combine to push his brain cramp to the back burner. The Mets figure to bat him third behind Wright.

RIGHT FIELD: Curtis Granderson is hitting .324. A walking machine last year, he has drawn only one this spring.

Mar 22

Wondering If Wright Will Be Ready

David Wright says he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but who can’t see somebody else being the Mets’ third baseman that day that night in Kansas City?

That’s the consensus I get from most Mets’ fans, who on a recent poll I conducted on Twitter responded with Wright’s health (57 percent), followed by the pressure on free-agent Yoenis Cespedes (22 percent), the defense up the middle, which includes playing Cespedes out of position (14 percent) and the bullpen (7 percent) being the most pressing Mets’ issues.

WRIGHT: Will he be ready? (Getty)

WRIGHT: Will he be ready? (Getty)

Wright, who won’t play Tuesday against the Yankees, has three hits in nine at-bats in three exhibition games. With only a week remaining, he won’t play in the dozen or so exhibition games originally projected he’d play.

Wright says he’s on pace for Opening Day, but admits there are days when the spinal stenosis doesn’t respond to his exercise program. There are times when he simply hurts. There are days when he wakes up feeling 60.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s out of my control,’’ Wright told reporters. “I learned a long time ago: You can control the things that you can control. And this is something that I can’t.

“I can give myself every opportunity to put myself in a position to play, and give my back every chance possible. But there are going to be some days where it’s just not possible.’’

Between now and Opening Day, Wright can accumulate another 40 or so at-bats, but most of them could come against minor-league pitchers. And, it wouldn’t entail getting much rest between games, which is a test he doesn’t need to take now. Is that really going to get him ready?

The ultimate test will come on defense, which features bending, stretching, diving and quick responses under game conditions. Those can’t be simulated.

Wright is known for being notoriously optimistic, and his desire to be ready Opening Day might be a stretch.

I’m thinking this might be one of those times.


Mar 14

Mets Handling Wright Correctly

The Mets continue to handle David Wright with kid gloves, which is the only way to go. Wright, who has yet to play in an exhibition game this spring, singled in five at-bats in a minor-league intrasquad game today. Wright didn’t play in the field.

As of now, the plan is to get Wright into a dozen exhibition games, and there’s no idea as to how many games he’ll play this season.

Wright will play in minor league games Tuesday and Thursday, and possibly getting in a regular season game for the first time on Friday.

“You don’t know what to expect your first time taking at-bats as far as timing and stuff, and that was really secondary to going out there, simulating some at-bats in a game-like situation,” Wright told TCPalm.com. “Taking some swings, trying to run to first base, run the bases a little bit – I thought it went great. Obviously, the biggest thing now is try to get some timing, but I feel mechanically health-wise, I thought it worked out great. Now it’s just a matter of doing it over and over again.”

Wright does up to 90 minutes of stretching and exercising prior to each game, so even if he’s not playing his body is taking a toll.

So, even if you don’t notice Wright’s name in a box score, understand he’s still working and his body is being taxed. Hopefully, it will pay off.