Nov 15

Mets’ Pitching Plan Has Questions

On the surface, the plan the Mets are currently mulling about preventing their starters from going through the order a third time makes a lot of sense. All the numbers point to a starter losing effectiveness the longer he stays in the game. They all can’t be Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber or Jacob deGrom.

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

It is common practice during the postseason, but at that time a manager has more off days in which to rest relievers and can replace the fifth starter with a long reliever in which to plug in.

“We will not allow our guys to struggle the third time through the lineup if we can avoid it,’’ Mets manager Mikey Callaway said at the General Managers Meetings. “We want them to be the best versions of themselves and have success. There are so many factors that will come into play you just can’t simply say that you are going to leave guys in until a certain point or take them out in a certain point.’’

For that plan to work during the regular season a team needs a solid rotation, a flexible bridge to work the middle innings, and a strong back end of the bullpen.

Of the three, the Mets only have the last one.

It begins with a strong starting rotation, one which means all five starters have to consistently go at least five innings, but preferably six. The Mets have deGrom and lots of issues from two through five:

Noah Syndergaard is coming off a partially torn lat muscle and only got in a couple of innings in late summer. While he is optimistic, we simply don’t know what to expect from him. Sure, it would be nice to pencil in 30 starts and 200 innings, but …

Matt Harvey did not respond well to thoracic surgery. He was rushed back and sustained a stress injury. The best thing the Mets can hope for is a strong first half to draw trade interest at the deadline. There’s no more talk about winning 20 games, winning the Cy Young or being signed to a long-term contract.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are both coming off surgery and nobody knows what to expect, let alone them averaging five innings over 30 starts.

Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero and Chris Flexen all made starts, but none have defined roles entering spring training. If the projected rotation performs, then any of them can be slotted in to work multiple innings several times a week, but we don’t know if they can do it in back-to-back games.

These four can also be inserted into the rotation if any of the projected five starters struggle, but if not they could work out of the pen. The questions in the middle of the game and possibility of the anticipated starters breaking down is why GM Sandy Alderson traded for relievers last July.

Granted Alderson added quantity and is open to reacquiring Joe Smith and signing Bryan Shaw. But, how much is he willing to spend? Mets’ history dictates he won’t do it; four relievers making $7 million or more is just not in their DNA.

For this plan to work the Mets need all three facets of their pitching staff to perform, but there are too many questions and issues working against them.

Jul 09

Collins Expresses Hope At The Break

Today’s Mets’ buzzword is “energy.’’ Mets manager Terry Collins, in talking about his team’s poor first half, bemoaned their lack of energy.

“We have to get energy back,’’ Collins said. “We aren’t playing with energy. We have to put a streak together, starting Friday.’’

COLLINS: Still has hope. (AP)

COLLINS: Still has hope. (AP)

At the break, the Mets are eight games under .500, 12 games behind Washington in the NL East, and 10 games behind the second wild-card Colorado with six teams to jump.

The Mets have been a string of bad optics from spring training until today. But, they are still alive.

I look at a potential pennant race from two angles. One, for a team to be in a race it has to be playing .500 ball and the Mets are eight games under. Secondly, there is enough time remaining with them being 12 games behind with 12 weeks remaining. As long as they can pick up one game a week it can be done. Mathematically, they are alive, but can they make a run? Have they demonstrated any signs of turning around their season?

So far, they have not.

There have been numerous times when they were on the cusp of making a move but stepped back. That trend started in April when after winning five straight, they lost 10 of 11.

They came out of that slide by winning the first two games of a three-game series in Washington and had Noah Syndergaard going in the final game. The Mets still had a chance with their ace gong.

However, that was the day Syndergaard, after refusing an MRI, tore his lat muscle and the Mets were routed 23-5. That was the singular most important moment of the first half.

From there, the Mets showed the resilience that marked their playoff pushes in the past two years. They went on to win six of eight to get back to .500 and give the perception anything was possible.

However, one of those two losses came when Matt Harvey was suspended and spot starter Adam Wilk was shelled by Miami. Syndergaard’s injury and Harvey’s suspension were two watershed moments from the first half.

However, the underlying theme of the first half was injuries, beginning with losing David Wright. Also going down were Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Juan Lagares, Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, Harvey and Yoenis Cespedes.

Considering all that, it’s amazing they aren’t 20 games back.

“Well, pretty much the record speaks for itself,’’ said Collins. “No matter if you said, ‘Geez, we played without a lot of big pieces.’ We are not happy with where we are, certainly, so we’ve got to use this time to reassess what we’ve got to do in the second half and hopefully we start getting some of the pieces back.’’

Both the starters and bullpen have ERAs north of five, and there are no guarantees when, or if, they’ll get Syndergaard and Harvey back, and if so, how well they’ll perform. The same applies to Familia.

The Mets will be forced to decide if they’ll be sellers or buyers at the trade deadline. However, before that, they have to figure if they’ll get Syndergaard and Harvey back.

If they believe they’ll be back this season, then they have to be buyers. If they don’t, and GM Sandy Alderson has already decided his positions on Jay Bruce, Addison Reed, Duda, Walker and others for 2018, then they have to be sellers.

The key players are their best offensive player, Bruce, and their closer, Reed. If either is dealt, Alderson would have surrendered on the season.

“If you want to talk about what we saw the last few months, I’ll go back to what we saw in the last 12 months,’’ Collins said when asked if the Mets had it in them. “We saw a team, last year, that when they were challenged they rose up. So, I think it’s in their DNA that they can do it again. We’ll find out.’’

The Mets open the second half with a ten-game homestand against the Rockies, Cardinals and Oakland.

May 19

Collins Must Share Blame For Wright; DL Should Be Considered

In the 20-plus-years I have written about major league baseball, there are a handful of players I admire and respect as much as David Wright.

Even so, I am still objective as to what I see and it currently isn’t good. Wright was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back, and then returned to go 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts Wednesday.

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

Wright is in persistent discomfort and needs up to two hours to get ready to play. He is not suited to pinch-hit, especially in cold weather, as he did Sunday in Colorado. Wright knows not to push it, but when asked he will play. That’s in his DNA.

Translated: Manager Terry Collins did Wright a disservice when he asked him to pinch-hit. Winning one game in mid-May isn’t as important as risking losing him for the long haul.

I know Collins wants to win, but he was wrong, selfish and shortsighted for asking Wright to pinch-hit. It isn’t the first time Collins pushed the envelope with Wright or other players. Don’t forget his panic move of labeling the eighth game of the season “must win,’’ and pushing Wright, Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia, none of whom should have played that day.

Wright would never finger-point at his manager. The bottom line is Collins should have been smart enough to not put Wright in that position.

“I don’t know,” Wright told Newsday on whether pinch-hitting took him out of Tuesday’s lineup. “Again, it’s probably not the ideal circumstances. But this is the National League, you really don’t have that much leeway especially when you’re playing with a short bench.”

That puts the onus on the manager to pay attention to what he has available.

Wright is batting .221, which is a career-low for this point in the season. He already has 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats, with four homers and eight RBI. He’s on pace to strike out 195 times, hit 17 homers and drive in 33 runs. His on-base percentage of .362 gives us glimpses of him still being a productive player.

“The back thing is just something that I’m going to have to get used to because it’s not changing,” Wright told reporters. “But I feel like I can play at a much higher level than I’m playing at right now.

“I think that there are certainly some things I’m having to make adjustments with as far as preparation, as far as playing schedule, that I’m going to have to get used to. But when I go take the field I expect to play much better than I am right now.”

Is Wright done?

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s worth sticking with him to find out, but that means staying with the plan and not deviating. That’s all on the manager.

Can Wright play Thursday night? That’s up in the air. If his availability is day-to-day and Collins doesn’t know what he has on any given night, he should go on the disabled list.

Go back to the beginning. Get re-examined and concentrate on nothing but getting stronger for the next couple of weeks. And, during this time, management should have a sit-down with Collins and tell him to get with the program and stick with it.

A lot of things must happen for this to work, including the manager being smarter than he has been.

 

Oct 21

Mets’ Fans And Murphy Should Cherish The Moment

Daniel Murphy has no explanation why he has homered in six straight games during this incredible playoff run by the Mets. He did it again Wednesday night and was named NLCS MVP.

“If I knew, I would have done it six years ago,’’ said Murphy, whose first inclination when asked is to credit his teammates. “I can’t explain it. I’m just going to ride this.”

He’ll ride it into the Mets’ fifth World Series appearance in their history, which begins Tuesday in either Kansas City or Toronto. Nobody really cares where, just that their season will continue.

MURPHY:  Enjoying the moment. (Getty)

MURPHY: Enjoying the moment. (Getty)

I wrote the other day how much I admired Murphy’s attitude, but said it was time he he took a bow after all the static he’s taken for his defense. He deserves this moment in the sun.

With Murphy’s unconscious streak comes the inevitable talk of whether the Mets will sign him long-term or to a qualifying offer. I’ve written it also, but on second thought, what does it matter?

Eventually, I’ll write it again. And, about bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and how he hurt his left shoulder and had to leave the game last night. Or, what’s going on with David Wright’s back. And, what workload the Mets’ starters might have next season. Or, what GM Sandy Alderson will do about rebuilding his bullpen.

There are a lot of things to review about this season, including whether Terry Collins will be named manager of the year. (He should). You guys know me, you know I’ll address them. But, at least for today I don’t want to hear them. I don’t care about next season.

This is a moment to be savored, to be cherished. It is a moment that prompted somebody online to write how he wished he was five-years-old again so he can grow up to be a Mets fan. How precious is that?

“This city deserves it,” said an exuberant Wright, who trusted Alderson and Jeff Wilpon, who promised him good times were within reach.

“This organization deserves it. The players deserve this. … I can’t describe the emotions that are going through me right now.”

The offseason news can wait a few more weeks. The topics will still be there; they aren’t going anywhere.

The last time the Mets were in the World Series was 2000. Before that, it was 1986. Before that, it was 1973 and 1969. Do you sense a trend here?

Wright said this team was a combination of the 1969 Miracle Mets and 1973 Tug McGraw, “Ya Gotta Believe,” team.

When Wright went to the playoffs in 2006, he thought it would be that way every year. However, he learned how fleeting a moment this can be. As Mets followers, we understand that.

We follow the Mets because we love that team. The reasons why, don’t matter. We just do. It is in our DNA.

However, despite the Mets’ young pitching, nothing is a given. Nothing. We don’t know about the future. None of us do.

So, let’s not worry about something beyond our control. Let’s enjoy this, as this is a rare and precious time.

It could be our best time.

 

 

Jun 23

Disappointed Gee Not Claimed

Part of my DNA is a penchant for rooting in most part for the underdog, which is why I was a little disappointed Dillon Gee cleared waivers and will be assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas. Most likely there were no takers because there is $3.1 million remaining on his contract.

That’s also why there was no interest in the trade market. It is also why Gee did not refuse the assignment outright and declare free-agency.

I was hoping Gee would have hooked on with another team and pitched it into the playoffs, but that’s because he’s a good guy and I want good things to happen to good people. With little more than half a season remaining, most any other player would have done the same. Gee’s best option is to suck it up and pitch as well as he can in hope of attracting a team.

Hopefully, it won’t be the Mets because he won’t get a real chance here.