Mar 08

Mets’ Top Five Questions As Opening Day Looms

Opening Day is three weeks from today and there’s more than a foot of snow outside my door. The Mets lost today and now are 5-9 this spring. Today the Nationals lit up Jeurys Familia for five runs.

Results and stats don’t matter in spring training. It’s about getting ready for the season and right now Mickey Callaway’s team isn’t ready. Far from it.

Callaway and GM Sandy Alderson have a boatload of questions that must be addressed before the Cardinals get to town.

The following are the top five:

  1. What is the rotation?

A: There are four givens – Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jason Vargas – with Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo competing for the fifth spot.

  1. What is the make-up of the front end of the bullpen?

A: Familia, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak and Jerry Blevins are the givens at the back end.  If Gsellman and Lugo don’t start, one of them could end up in the pen. So might Rafael Montero, who is out of options. Jamie Callahan, Paul Sewald, Jacob Rhame and Hansel Robles will compete for the final spot or two.

  1. Who is the leadoff hitter?

A: Brandon Nimmo is the best bet because of his on-base percentage. But, will the Mets commit to him in center field until Michael Conforto returns or will they go with a platoon of Nimmo and Juan Lagares until then? Amed Rosario has the speed, but a poor on-base percentage. It could end up being Asdrubal Cabrera, who has a passable on-base percentage and can add some pop.

  1. Is there a healthy first baseman?

A: Adrian Gonzalez has a bad back and Dominic Smith has a bum leg. Other than me, nobody ever mentions Wilmer Flores, who is destined never to get a fair shake with the Mets.

  1. How healthy is Yoenis Cespedes?

A: He played only 81 games last year with a quad injury and is having a slow spring. If the Mets are to be competitive, they need a big year from Cespedes.


Feb 27

Is Syndergaard Flaunting His Thordom?

We’re a week into spring training and already the Mets have a long list of nagging injuries. There’s no reason to be immediately concerned because it’s early in camp.

However, something I find more concerning is Noah Syndergaard topping 100 mph. in 11 of 22 pitches. Then he gave a shirtless interview. Flaunting his Thordom?

SYNDERGAARD: Radar gun waves red flag. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Radar gun waves flag. (AP)

Manager Mickey Callawaywhose resume highlights pitching – already cautioned Syndergaard about overthrowing and doing too much too soon.

We already know Syndergaard can throw 100 mph. And, we already know Syndergaard likes to do this his way, evidenced by him bulking up last winter and then tearing his lat muscle trying to blow away Bryce Harper.

“My heart might have been beating a little fast when I saw 100, 101,’’ Callaway told reporters. “But I look more at the delivery and if he’s trying to overthrow. He wasn’t doing any of that.’’

But, Syndergaard has to overthrow just once to re-injure himself.

It’s not unreasonable to wonder if Syndergaard didn’t learn from last season, and like Matt Harvey seems to be caught up in his comic book superhero persona.

I don’t want to get overwhelmed by negative thoughts this early in camp, but Mets’ history tells me Callaway would be better served by keeping a close eye on Syndergaard.

Also, concerning is Jacob deGrom, who is bothered with stiffness in his lower back. DeGrom threw today, but the Mets haven’t scheduled his next start. Callaway said today he’s not sure deGrom will be strong enough to be the Opening Day starter. We’ll know more in a week or so.

You had to figure Yoenis Cespedes’ name would pop up sooner or later on the Mets’ spring training injury list. I didn’t expect it would happen this soon.

Cespedes, who admitted to not throwing over the winter, has a sore right shoulder and is listed day-to-day.

“It gets like this because I spent the whole offseason without throwing a ball,’’ Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I am used to that so there’s no reason to be concerned.’’

It’s not unusual for a player who hasn’t thrown to come down with a sore shoulder early in camp. However, it is unusual for a player not to throw at all in the offseason.

The most serious injury is Dominic Smith’s strained right quad – an injury usually associated with Cespedes – but he’s not expected to even make the Opening Day roster.

Other injuries are Juan Lagares, who is day-to-day with a strained left hamstring, and Jay Bruce has plantar fasciitis.

The only injury that could be alarming is deGrom’s simply because it is a back and he’s their best pitcher.

However, if the Mets proceed cautiously, it’s early enough in camp for them to overcome.


Feb 23

Callaway Benches Smith; Shows Who Is Boss

Today wasn’t just a milestone day for new Mets manager Mickey Callaway simply because it was his first game, it was in that he firmly established who is in charge.

From the moment he was introduced, Callaway stressed accountability and responsibility.

It wasn’t always that way under Terry Collins, who, in all fairness, didn’t get support from GM Sandy Alderson. Obviously, Alderson wouldn’t undercut Callaway over Dominic Smith, but it was encouraging to see the rookie manager pull the prospect from the starting lineup after he showed up late to a team meeting.

Callaway doesn’t have many rules, but being on time is one of them. It’s not all that hard to show up on time, and it is head scratching for someone trying to make the roster being late for the first game of the year.

Players supposed to show up for an 8:45 a.m., meeting and Smith was late. Maybe he overslept, maybe he got stuck in traffic, maybe he didn’t set his alarm properly. Whatever the reason, it didn’t fly with Callaway, nor should it.

Smith is a professional, and while he might have a lot to learn about playing the game, he should already know how to set an alarm clock.

Perhaps it would have been more impressive if it was Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard – all who tested the limits under Collins – but Callaway wouldn’t wilt in his first disciplinary test.

Good for him.

To his credit, Smith made no excuses, was contrite and admitted he was wrong.

“I shouldn’t be cutting it close like that,’’ Smith told reporters. “I’m a professional. This is my job. This is my career. It’s my livelihood. I felt like I definitely let them down today.

“He asked me what I thought the decision should be and I agreed with him. That’s the only way it should be. They shouldn’t give me a pass or whatever. They shouldn’t give anybody a pass. That’s what he’s been preaching since Day 1 – accountability. You got to be accountable for yourself, your actions.’’

Yes, it was only a Triple-A prospect. It wasn’t Cespedes, who is erratic in his hustle and blew off treatment of a quad injury to play golf; it wasn’t Harvey, who blew off a game last year nursing a hangover; and it wasn’t Syndergaard, who refused to take an MRI and subsequently tore a lat muscle last April which basically cost the Mets their season.

Some might ask why this is a big deal, that what difference does a few minutes make.

It’s because being late shows a lack of discipline. It shows a lack of respect for the rules and your teammates. It’s because little things can grow into bad habits that can cost a team games if left unchecked.

Basically, it’s learning how to win, something the Mets don’t know how to do.

Feb 08

Mets Get Encouraging News On Smith

Of all I’ve heard about the Mets this winter the most encouraging is the positive news about Dominic Smith’s conditioning. Whether it be Adrian Gonzalez’s presence, GM Sandy Alderson’s comments or whether last season’s window was a wake-up call is irrelevant.

All three conspired to grab Smith by the scruff of his neck and shake some sense into him.

SMITH: Has lost his gut. (AP)

SMITH: Has lost his gut. (AP)

Smith, who hit for more power than anybody anticipated, is in the best shape of his career after dropping 30 pounds this winter.

“I feel more athletic than I’ve ever been,’’ Smith told The Post. “In spring training, I’ve always looked the part, but as far as my mobility and loosening up some hips and being more flexible, more agile as an athlete, I feel like this is the most advanced I’ve been for sure in my career.

“I feel the difference. I feel like my whole posture is better. The way I walk around is better. My body doesn’t hurt. I just feel more like an athlete. And that’s something that I didn’t have in the past.’’

Of course, there are stories every spring about players reporting to camp in the best shape of their careers, but just being in shape isn’t enough. Let’s hope Smith’s good feeling about his conditioning will filter down to his plate discipline and patience.

If Smith can couple his conditioning and improve his walks-to-strikeouts ratio (14-to-49 for a .262 on-base percentage and .198 batting average) it would go a long way in him becoming the player the Mets envisioned.

As far as Gonzalez goes, he would have been a great pick-up five years ago but the Mets couldn’t have afforded him. I’d rather Smith plays full time and reaches his potential and Gonzalez come off the bench.

Jan 29

Mets Need To Find Out About Smith And Not Gonzalez

Do you remember last season when the talk surrounding the Mets was why weren’t they bringing up Dominic Smith?

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

They didn’t because the Mets already had a first baseman; because they still thought they had a chance to compete; and, most importantly, they didn’t think he was ready for prime time.

Well, they traded Lucas Duda; the injuries mounted and their season spun out of control; they finally brought up Smith and GM Sandy Alderson was correct – or partially so.

Smith, supposedly a defensive wizard, was erratic in the field. He hit with more power than expected, but his average and on-base percentage were worse than expected, and his attitude and conditioning weren’t what the Mets hoped.

Based on Smith’s limited window the Mets don’t believe he’s ready. Hopefully, Smith learned from last summer and rededicated himself and this might be the year he finds his game.

But, barring a dramatic turn, it won’t be in Flushing as the Mets for the start of this season at least are committed to Adrian Gonzalez. I would have preferred the Mets opened the season with Smith and given him a shot to live up to the expectations. With the Mets not anticipated to contend this year, this would be the perfect opportunity to see what the Mets have in the prospect.

Seriously, would Gonzalez put the Mets over the top? Of course not, and neither would Smith regardless of how well he plays this year.

But, the most important thing regarding Smith is to get an idea of what the Mets have in him. And, playing Gonzalez would only set the Mets back at least a year.

Just a ridiculous decision by Alderson.