Nov 30

Mets’ Smith Responds To Criticism About Weight

If there has been a positive to the Mets’ uneventful offseason, it has been Dominic Smith’s response to criticism he was out of shape this summer. Reportedly, Smith has lost 12 pounds, admitted he underperformed and said he was determined to get better.

SMITH: Watching his weight. (AP)

SMITH: Watching his weight. (AP)

All positive developments. Now, it doesn’t mean the Mets won’t consider other options, but perhaps it will make them think twice before they leap. If you’re looking to save money, which the Mets are, a platoon of Smith and Wilmer Flores makes more sense than going after Carlos Santana, who’ll cost plenty but won’t put them back into the playoffs.

“This is something I want to get under control and never make an issue again,’’ Smith told The Post about his weight. “I would rather go through this at 22 than go through this in my prime.

“They drafted me in the first round, so they expect me to be a first-round type player. They expect me to be a star in New York City. Of course, I didn’t live up to the expectations, and I am not going to take that and am upset about that. I know my capabilities and what I’m able to do. I am just going to put it all together and I am going to show the world.

“I definitely have a different mindset coming into next season. I am working my butt off every day continuously and I’m just working. I learned a lot. I got up there for six weeks and I learned from that and I am not taking anything for granted. It’s an honor and pleasure. Every day I get to wake up and play for the New York Mets, it’s an honor and pleasure. You know that you have to work hard. You have to be realistic with a lot of situations, so I definitely am.’’

Other than his nine homers in 49 games last summer, Smith did little to distinguish himself. Even so, the Mets finished 22 games below .500 last year and have a myriad of holes that Santana or Logan Morrison or Adam Lind or Jay Bruce won’t be able to fill.

Forty-nine games is not a big enough window to draw any definitive conclusions on whether Smith will be able to become a viable player, let alone be a star. As much as I’d like to see the Mets be a contender next season, I don’t think they will. There are just too many unanswered questions, of which Smith is one.

However, Smith can stop being a question if he’s given a chance to prove himself over a wider window.

Nov 20

Mets Trying To Light A Fire Under Smith

Dominic Smith is done with the Mets if they are able to sign – and each one of these guys will get at least three years – Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Logan Morrison or Adam Lind, then where does that leave Smith?

Certainly not on the fast track to Flushing.

SMITH: Mets trying to motivate Smith. (Getty)

SMITH: Mets trying to motivate Smith. (Getty)

Smith did not distinguish himself last summer – but did hit nine homers in 183 plate appearances – and GM Sandy Alderson indicated as much, saying he “didn’t win [the job] in September.’’

Smith was the Mets’ second-ranked prospect at the time of his promotion, but despite the surprise in his power, he was a disappointment in his plate discipline and on-base percentage, and defense, which was supposed to be his strong suit. In addition, Alderson was upset, and rightfully so, about Smith’s conditioning.

“Dominic’s going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years, if not throughout his career,’’ Alderson said at the GM Meetings last week. “He was in excellent shape coming into Spring Training. … As happens with any long season, fitness dissipates and he’s put on some weight.’’

If the Mets surprise us all and sign a free-agent, Smith will undoubtedly open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. That’s fine for 2018, but what about the following two years?

Barring an injury, that would leave Smith stuck in the minor or a reserve, because for the money the Mets would pay a free-agent, he’d have to be above Smith. And considering his play last season, Smith would have to tear it up in the minor leagues in 2018 to build up his trade value.

Smith hit .198 with a .262 on-base percentage and struck out 49 times [with only 14 walks] in 49 games. Those are lousy numbers that don’t merit coming into spring training with a job waiting for him.

So, what are the Mets’ first base options?

There’s signing a free-agent, of course, which seems a long shot because the Mets don’t want to spend the money. They could go into next season with a platoon of Smith and Wilmer Flores, which probably is how they’ll go, or they could stick with Smith.

I think the free-agent talk, coupled with the criticism about his weight, is designed to light a fire under Smith.

Nov 16

Backman Gets Minor League Managing Gig

It isn’t what Wally Backman totally wanted, but for now, it is what he needs. Claiming Mets general manager Sandy Alderson blackballed out of baseball following his messy firing as Las Vegas’ manager in 2016, Backman was hired today as manager of New Britain (Conn.) of the Atlantic League.

Since the league is independent, with no affiliation to Major League Baseball, Backman’s charge could be true. We can presume Alderson didn’t give Backman a recommendation.

After leaving the 51s, Backman went to Mexico and managed Acereros de Monclova last year as was fired after 42 games. Instead of leaving, Backman became bench coach of Pericos de Puebla.

It is clear Backman is doing whatever it takes to get a chance to manage in the majors. If Yankees GM Brian Cashman really wants to think outside the box – and stick it to the Mets in the process – I’m sure the Bees would let Backman out of his contract.

BACKMAN: Managing again. (AP)

BACKMAN: Managing again. (AP)

“I’m excited to get going in New Britain,’’ Backman said. “Atlantic League teams care about winning and helping players careers grow. Those are two things I am very passionate about. I look forward to working with everyone there. Our team will play the game with passion and give their best effort every day. We are going to put a great product on the field that fans will be proud of.’’

A firebrand as a player for the 1986 champion Mets, Backman has proven to be a teacher as a minor league manager. He’s helped numerous Mets who were sent down to regain their hitting strokes and learn the nuances of playing in the majors.

Although Alderson wouldn’t give Backman props, he admitted as much late this season when he said Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario weren’t as prepared as he hoped they would be when they were brought up.

“Wally Backman is a proven winner,’’ Bees GM Brad Smith said in a statement. “His ability to instill a winning atmosphere and put an entertaining club on the field are two significant factors in bringing him aboard. We look forward to a successful 2018 season working with Wally and hope everyone joins us in welcoming him to the Central Connecticut community.’’

Nov 09

Is There A Fit Between Bruce And Mets?

Published reports say the Mets are encouraged because they hear free-agent Jay Bruce is willing to play first base. However, they can’t be thrilled Bruce is seeking an extension of at least $90 million over four years.

Perhaps that’s like screening your calls. Throw out a figure that you know GM Sandy Alderson won’t meet.

BRUCE: Where's the fit? (AP)

BRUCE: Where’s the fit? (AP)

If the Mets are sincerely interested in Bruce it says several things: 1) they aren’t enamored with prospect Dominic Smith, and/or, 2) they aren’t encouraged about the physical health of Michael Conforto (left shoulder) or Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring).

Assuming neither Conforto nor Cespedes are ready by Opening Day, the Mets will have an outfield of Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares and Nori Aoki. Ooops, I forgot, they let Aoki go.

I advocated bringing back Bruce last summer while he was still a Met. Who knows? Doing so might have cost less. Generally, if you show some love to your own players they might return the favor with a home-team discount.

However, after trying him at first base on the fly last summer because they were reluctant to bring up Smith, then trading him, Bruce has no loyalties to the Mets.

This could be Bruce’s last contract, so he’ll want to go where: 1) he’ll be paid, 2) he’ll be appreciated, and 3) he has a chance to win.

Do you see any of that happening with the Mets?

 

Oct 02

How About Collins Overseeing Mets’ Minor League System?

GM Sandy Alderson said Terry Collins is best suited to work in player development. If that is the case, and Alderson is telling the truth that he believes Collins has a lot to offer and he wants to continue working with him, then there is one role for him, and that is to oversee the minor league system with the goal of implementing a “Mets Way.’’

Both Alderson and Collins suggested a need for such a program in recent weeks. Collins did in a roundabout way several weeks ago when commenting about Amed Rosario’s habit of tapping his glove with the ball before throwing to first. That habit cost the Mets a game and Collins wondered why it wasn’t addressed in Las Vegas.

Alderson more conceded the need for such an instructor when he noted several of the Mets’ rookies came to New York with a multitude of bad habits.

Rosario’s habit and Dominic Smith’s brain cramps are just two of the most prevalent. There are others, beginning with pitchers’ inability to throw strikes, and including hitters’ plate discipline, atrocious base running and defensive fundamentals, such as hitting the cutoff man.

Situational hitting and improving on-base percentage also must be improved.

The idea is to teach, beginning with the rookie leagues the same things are expected from the major leaguers.

That way there are no surprises.

However, for this to work Alderson must first implement organizational philosophies on offense and pitching. The pitchers have to be taught to throw inside, the way Rafael Montero was when he was on his hot streak.

Too many of the Mets’ hitters are preoccupied with hitting home runs. Sure, home runs are great, but consider this, the Mets tied Milwaukee for the NL lead with 224 homers, but neither are in the playoffs.