May 24

Mets At Crossroads

After his Mets were swept out of Pittsburgh, manager Terry Collins insisted his team was not at a “critical juncture,’’ in the season – which I said they were several days ago – and wasn’t “dead in the water.’’

COLLINS: What's he really thinking? (AP)

COLLINS: What’s he really thinking? (AP)

It’s still May and they are 2.5 games behind Washington – after being ahead by eight – so dead might be stretching things. However, “critical juncture,’’ still applies after scoring four runs while hitting .211 with 36 strikeouts in the Pirates’ series.

Truth is, the Mets are closer to third place than first. They are also closer to being the team they are now than the one that won 11 straight games. Not too long ago, the Mets’ run-differential was plus-25. Today it is minus-one. Instead of being ten games over .500, they are only three.

Collins can talk all he wants about not panicking, not quitting and, of course, that his team plays hard. “Effort isn’t a problem,’’ Collins said this afternoon.

Talent, however, or lack of it, is the problem.

They were outscored by a composite 21-4 score by the Pirates, with their two best pitchers losing. Matt Harvey had the worst outing of his career Saturday, just a few hours after the team said David Wright would remain on the disabled list.

This team isn’t hitting; the pitching has struggled; the defense has been poor; and there’s no consistency in the batting order. Compounding matters, they don’t have imminent help coming from the minor leagues and aren’t close to making a trade.

Collins has been in this business for a long time. He knows when a team is playing well and when it isn’t. He’s not about to admit it publicly this is a critical time for the Mets.

But, he’s a smart guy. He knows it is.

He also knows the team the Mets have now is the one that will have to turn things around.

May 23

Will We See Wright Again This Year?

At the beginning of spring training I wrote the position player the Mets could least afford to lose was third baseman David Wright. We can now assume that to be the case with reports out Pittsburgh are Wright’s lower-back pain has resurfaced and he’s been shut down again.

The 32-year-old Wright went on the disabled list April 15 with a pulled right hamstring, and the initial projection was he’d be out two weeks. Of course, we know how such projections have been in the past. Wright now has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and they are first prescribing rest followed by strengthening his core. As far as we know, surgery has not yet been discussed, but that can be a future option.

WRIGHT: Return delayed and uncertain. (AP)

WRIGHT: Return delayed and uncertain. (AP)

The back pain began as Wright’s hamstring healed. The Mets are now saying he will be out for at least another week, but how do they really know that will be what it takes?

Wright’s importance to the Mets comes in his, 1) production at the plate, 2) steadying influence in the field and in the clubhouse, and 3) what he represents to the stability of the franchise and the sense things will be all right.

And, naturally, with Wright gone comes the whispers the Mets made a poor decision when they signed him through the 2020 season, including $20 million through 2018. Undeniably, Wright’s contract will preclude the Mets from diving deep into the free-agent market, and their dollars will be spent on retaining their young pitching.

You might recall Wright was out for two months in 2011 with a stress fracture in his lower back, an injury the Mets’ medical staff said he has not had a reoccurrence. However, what is reoccurring is Wright’s inability to stay in the lineup as he has averaged 126 games a year from 2011 through 2014, and will be lucky to reach that this season.

Extenuating circumstances involved prompted the Mets to offer Wright such a large contract. We can argue whether they were right or wrong all day, but this much is certain: The Mets’ offense is in trouble and they have to be preparing for the idea we might not see Wright again this year.

May 21

Is Panic In The Mets’ DNA?

Sometimes, Mets manager Terry Collins sounds like a man who is trying to convince himself of something he’s not sure of, when he said, or vowed, his team would not panic.

As somebody who has been in on hundreds of such press briefings, I know why the topic of panic was raised. Believe me, it’s not because it’s New York and the media is prying. The question would be the same in Pittsburgh or Cleveland or even laid back San Diego. When you lose seven of ten games and nine games in the standings to your main division rival, nerves get frayed, no matter how loudly or vociferously, Collins denies it.

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

“There’s a lot – a lot – of baseball left,’’ Collins said last night. “There’s no sense of urgency here. We have things we have to continue to try to do. We have to continue to try to watch the workload of some guys. We need to continue to try to get healthy. But there’s no panic here, believe me. Not in the clubhouse. Not anyplace else.”

This is what Collins believes and I don’t doubt he thinks that way. He would be a fool to admit otherwise. That’s why I don’t get why some in my profession would even pose the question. They already know the answer.

I raised the issue yesterday the Mets are at a critical point to their season, and I did so because I’ve seen them fold before. Do you remember September of 2007 when they lost a seven-game lead to the Phillies with 17 games remaining?

Of course you do.

It has been in the Mets’ DNA to go into long, dry spells. That’s where they are now. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors. Reporters ask questions to find out.

The Mets’ primary issue now is a stagnant offense that has scored three or fewer runs in 16 of their past 22 games. Not surprisingly, they are 10-15 since their 11-game winning streak.

GM Sandy Alderson already said not to expect help from the outside, that the plan is to wait for David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud to return from the disabled list. There are other options, such as juggling the lineup, but that smacks of panic unless the move is justifiable, which it would be when Wright and d’Arnaud to come back.

The Mets don’t have a good bench, so benching somebody isn’t a great option. Plus, the guy they always look to sit is Wilmer Flores, who is their best home run hitter. Just who in their minor league system is an answer?

The Mets’ best option, as distasteful as this sounds because that’s been Alderson’s mantra, is to wait this out. Slumps happen in a 162-game schedule and that’s what’s going on with the Mets.

Getting out of a slump takes time, and I don’t know how patient the Mets will be. Unfortunately, neither does Collins.

However, when the story of this season is written, this period will be the watershed moment.


May 20

Mets Facing Critical Juncture To Season

Every season has its critical juncture and for the Mets it is now after Bartolo Colon‘s 41-year-old arm was mauled tonight by major league’s best team in St. Louis. The Mets’ 11-game winning streak and eight-game lead over Washington has faded from euphoria to the cusp of panic after Colon was ripped.

We’ve seen hot streaks from the Mets morph into inescapable slides before. The Mets’ 9-0 loss coupled with the Nationals beating the Yankees, 3-2, tonight, leaves Washington in sole possession of first place in the National League East and begs the question: Can manager Terry Collins‘ team recover?

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

After a 13-3 start, the Mets are 10-15, including 3-7 over their last ten games. They aren’t hitting. Their starting pitching has faltered recently with Colon, Jon Niese and Thursday’s starter, Jacob deGrom. They haven’t won behind Matt Harvey in three starts and blew 1-0 leads in his last two. Their defense has been poor.

In two respects, the Mets’ hopes to regroup are tied to two gambles by GM Sandy Alderson: 1) the signing of Colon, whom they hoped would stem the tide tonight, and 2) the decision to see how David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud come back from the disabled list before attempting to trade for a hitter to aid their faltering offense.

The estimate on their returns is at least two weeks, and nobody knows where the Mets will be in the standings by then. Don’t forget, they lost eight games in the standings to the Nationals in a little over three weeks. Bryce Harper is hot; Stephen Strasburg is back.

It is possible the Mets could respond from tonight’s mugging and win another 11 in a row. Then again, they could continue their funk. They have another game with the Cardinals Thursday, then three in Pittsburgh before playing the Phillies, who are now playing well.

In many ways Colon personifies Alderson’s patchwork approach in building this team. Colon was signed as a stopgap after Harvey was injured. They eschewed going after a big name free-agent in favor of Colon, who was signed to eat innings and win about a dozen games. Colon won 15 games last season and sought his seventh tonight. Colon gave up five homers in splitting his previous four starts, and was hammered tonight, giving up nine runs on 11 hits – including two homers – and a pair of walks in 4.1 innings.

Meanwhile, for all the talk about the Mets’ ailing offense, it wouldn’t have mattered tonight against Colon and Tuesday against Niese, who is also proving not to be an answer.

Lately, there have been more questions than answers for the Mets, including this big one: Can they pull it together?


May 18

Mets Game Wrap: Harvey Comes Up Empty, But Mets Win

In his last start, the Mets’ bullpen coughed it up in Chicago and Matt Harvey got a no-decision in a loss to the Cubs. Tonight, Jeurys Familia blew his first save opportunity of the season, but the Mets regrouped to win, 2-1, in 14 innings.

Tonight was the third straight start in which Harvey failed to win his sixth game.

The Mets, playing in their first extra-innings game of the season, won it when the struggling John Mayberry Jr., drove in Eric Campbell on a bases-loaded, pinch-hit infield single. By this time, Harvey was long time gone with an ice-pack on his valuable right arm.

Familia, who had been perfect, was shaky in the ninth. The Cardinals put runners on the corners on Yadier Molina‘s hit-and-run single and Jason Heyward followed with a sacrifice fly to right.

The Mets had a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth, but Michael Cuddyer struck out to end the inning with two runners on.


Yes, Familia was off, but overall the Mets’ bullpen still got five scoreless innings from Hansel Robles, Erik Goeddel, Alex Torres and Carlos Torres.


Harvey came out for the eighth inning despite throwing 97 pitches. This is how it should be with Harvey. If the game is close late, this is when you push the envelope with Harvey, who was greatly aided by double plays in the fourth and seventh innings.

Wilmer Flores started an inning-ending double play in the fourth when he made a diving, back-handed stab of a sinking line drive. Flores also took part in a double play in the seventh.

Take away those two plays and Harvey would have been forced to pitch to at least another two hitters. That would have pushed him over 100 pitches and he would have been out of the game.

Harvey struck out nine for the second straight game.


Sometimes the Cardinals are too smart for their own good. With Curtis Granderson on third and Lucas Duda at the plate, the Cardinals put on shift that almost defied belief as they had the third baseman hold the runner and put everybody else on the first base side of the infield.

However, if you’re going to employ that shift, you have to pitch inside but John Lackey left the ball out over the plate and Duda grounded it up the middle. With a normal shift, the shortstop would have been in position to field the ball.


Cuddyer saved the Mets a run in the top of the first when he cut off Jhonny Peralta’s double from going all the way to the left field wall. Had Cuddyer not cut off the ball, Matt Holliday, who reached on an error by third baseman Eric Campbell, would surely have scored.

Lackey put down the Mets, 1-2-3, in the bottom of the first.

By the way, Milwaukee centerfielder Carlos Gomez, who was hit in the head by a Noah Syndergaard fastball Sunday, homered in his first at-bat tonight in Detroit.


The Mets got some positive injury news today regarding David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud. Wright, on the DL with a pulled right hamstring, was on the field today resuming baseball activities.

“The big thing now is to see how he [feels when he] wakes up tomorrow,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters prior to Monday’s game.

D’Arnaud, on the DL with a fractured finger, swung the bat today for the first time.

Collins did not speculate on when they will return, and also offered no timetable for relievers Bobby Parnell and Vic Black, who are on rehab assignments at Single-A St. Lucie.