Jul 31

Mets Stand Pat At Trade Deadline

The trade deadline passed and as expected the New York Mets did not make a move. In previous seasons when one wondered about the futures of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright for economic reasons, this time they opted not to be sellers.

With nearly $50 million coming off the books next year because of contracts to Johan Santana and Jason Bay, the Mets say they will be active in the winter, mostly in the free-agent market, but for now want to make the most of this season.

Projected to lose as many as 100 games in some circles, the Mets have their eyes on second place in the NL East and a .500 record. It is not out of line. This was exactly the right thing the Mets did.

“We’re trying to win games here,’’ Terry Collins told reporters in Miami. “We’re not just throwing the season away.’’

The Mets’ inactivity must be interpreted in the positive because their message is they believe they have a competitive core, and the pieces everybody wants from them – notably Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd – have greater value in Flushing. If the Mets really believe they can be competitive next season they will need a closer, and Byrd is a positive influence on the field and in the clubhouse. All winning teams need players like him.

Since nearly player goes on waivers during the season to gauge trade interest, it is possible something could happen in August, but for now GM Sandy Alderson’s intent is to see how good this team can be over 162 games, and from there, better formulate his shopping needs.

Pitching is always a need and they now have a positive in Jenrry Mejia, tonight’s starter in Miami, who is coming off a solid, seven-shutout inning performance in Washington last Friday.

Mejia has struggled with injuries over the past three seasons, including undergoing Tommy John surgery. It is not unreasonable to speculate Mejia’s injuries were caused by the Mets bouncing him from the rotation to the bullpen back into the rotation. This was precipitated by then manager Jerry Manuel’s insistence in bringing him north out of spring training in 2010 to work out of the pen.

Only Mejia rarely pitched and when he did was usually ineffective. He was optioned to Triple-A, where he started and eventually injured his elbow.

Mejia starts tonight and if he does well will stay in the Mets’ six-man rotation.

With Jeremy Hefner ineffective over his last three starts and Jon Niese recovering from a slight rotator cuff, there’s potential for things to get dicey in the rotation, making it imperative for Mejia to produce.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup behind Mejia tonight:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

John Buck, C

Juan Lagares, CF

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Jenrry Mejia, RHP

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 29

Could Juan Lagares And Eric Young Be A Viable One-Two?

As the enthusiasm for a strong finish by the New York Mets might have fizzled in Washington, a bright spot continues to be Juan Lagares, raising the possibility of a speedy tandem at the top of the order with Eric Young.

Of course, he needs to show more offensively, but that part of his game is improving and the power might develop as he gets stronger and learns the pitchers better. It must be remembered development also includes adjusting to the pitching when it adjusts to him.

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

Lagares’ opportunity came from the collective ineptness of the Mets’ outfield. Currently, he and Young are the only outfielders that could be considered starters heading into spring training.

Lucas Duda might end up at first if he’s still on the team; Marlon Byrd might not be re-signed; Kirk Nieuwenhuis has his moments, but they are sparse.

Lagares is outstanding defensively, and his diving catch where he lost the ball and re-caught it might be one of the best of the season by an outfielder.

The objectives over the next two months for Lagares and Young are to show GM Sandy Alderson his outfield needs aren’t so severe.

Lagares’ average is slowly rising, but his 47-to-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must close, and if it does his .299 on-base percentage and .699 OPS would rise. His number projected over 162 games would be 121 strikeouts, 18 walks and 39 doubles.

The number that stands out most with Lagares are 15 doubles in 175 at-bats. Give him 600 at-bats and he would be pushing 45 doubles. If his strikeouts and walk numbers improved, the Mets would have themselves a solid center fielder.

Meanwhile, despite cooling since his hot debut, Young is still a catalyst at the top of the order with a .275 average and .357 on-base percentage in 138 at-bats.

Since the rest of the season is for finding answers, I would like to see if Young and Lagares can complement each other at the top of the order. What is currently preventing that is Daniel Murphy’s ability to work the count and protect Young as a base stealer.

Should Lagares develop in that area, it might be intriguing, and could allow for Murphy to be lowered in the order to give him more favorable RBI opportunities.

That would be important to know if the Mets don’t bring back Byrd, which I see as unlikely. I figure, as with Scott Hairston after last season, the Mets won’t give the player two years.

Jul 25

Mets’ Young Shows Compassion To Hudson

In an era of self-absorption and chest thumping by players in all sports, despite the painful events as the igniter, class and respect was on display Wednesday night by the New York Mets and Atlanta, with Braves pitcher Tim Hudson on the giving and receiving ends.

YOUNG and HUDSON

                                                                             YOUNG and HUDSON

By know, you’ve probably all seen the gruesome replay of the Mets’ Eric Young stepping on and fracturing Hudson’s ankle. He’ll undergo surgery in Atlanta and could be lost for the year.

What you might not have seen was Young checking on David Wright after the Mets’ third baseman’s bat snapped and cracked him on the back of the head.

The gesture did not go unnoticed in the Mets’ dugout. “The first guy when the bat broke and hit David, Tim’s standing right there to make sure he’s OK. That’s the kind of guy he is,’’ Terry Collins said.

When you extend class and courtesy, it comes back to you, and Hudson felt the warmth from the Citi Field crowd, but also compassion from Wright and Young, who both stayed by Hudson as paramedics treated him on the field.

“It sucks,’’ a saddened Wright told reporters. “I’ve gotten a chance to be around Tim at All-Star games and playing against him for so long. He’s one of the good guys in the game and to see him go down like that and know something was wrong, it’s tough to watch.’’

Outside of Hudson, the only person who felt worse was Young, who knew he got Hudson’s ankle and none of the base. Young immediately sprinted to Hudson and bent over to pat him on the back.

Young stayed with Hudson throughout the time he was being treated, and shook his hand as he was carted off the field, perhaps for the last time this season.

“You never want to injure anybody,’’ Young said told reporters after the game. “I knew I didn’t get any of the base. I know I got all of his foot. … I pretty much knew it was probably broke right as I did it. That’s why I sprinted right back to him and try to console him as much as I could and apologize.”

Covering first base is a dangerous play for a pitcher because his eyes are on the ball and not the runner or the base. The pitcher winds up “feeling’’ for the base with his foot, and Hudson’s was squarely on the middle. There was no place else for Young to run.

Young said Hudson told him an apology wasn’t necessary as they shook hands on the field. Hudson repeated those words to Young when the Mets’ outfielder checked on him in the Braves’ clubhouse.

“I obviously wasn’t trying to hurt him on the play,’’ Young said. “He just told me to keep my head up and keep playing the game the hard way, the right way. He said there was nothing I can do about it.

“That made me feel somewhat better, but still bummed that he’s going to be out for a while. I just hope he has a speedy recovery.’’

Everybody does.

Jul 20

Zack Wheeler Tries To Get Mets On-Track

Well, so much for that fast start out of the second-half gate for the New York Mets.

That great ERA Jeremy Hefner was sporting going into the game? Not so much anymore. The Phillies nailed him for eight runs on ten hits. The carnage was accumulated over 63 pitches, 38 of them in the first inning.

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

The first inning and the Phillies have not been a good mix to Hefner over the years, and before you knew it, the Mets were down 11-0.

Terry Collins tried to put a positive spin on the rout.

“I’ll tell you what, down 11-0, make it a game, pretty impressive by our guys,’’ Collins told reporters after the game, most of who had their storied written by the fifth inning.

Uh huh. Forty years in the game should know by now there are no morale victories in baseball. Few of them, anyway, and last night wasn’t one of them.

Unfortunately for the Mets, them chopping away at the lead provided the illusion there was a chance, and consequently Collins had to go to his bullpen for seven innings.

Otherwise, Collins might have left Hefner in to take his lumps for the team to save the bullpen.

Either way, it was a hot, muggy miserable night, one better spent watching The Great Escape on the Military Channel.

Nonetheless, it is only one game and the Mets have their two of their best, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, going the next two games of this series. After that, it’s four more home games at home against Atlanta before hitting the road to Washington and Miami before the trade deadline.

So, there’s plenty of time for the Mets to make a run at .500 and make the second half of this season worthy of watching. The last four years after the break effectively ended the competitive part of their season.

Was there anything good out of last night’s game?

Juan Lagares had a good at-bat and Ike Davis had a couple of hits. Kirk Nieuwenhuis looked like Mr. Magoo in center field. Other than that, not too much.

I wasn’t crazy about Collins’ managing last night. David Wright did homer in the ninth, but after a busy All-Star break, he should have been pulled and given a rest. The same goes for John Buck, who cramped up.

Here’s today’s lineup against Cole Hamels:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Josh Satin, 1B

Juan Lagares, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Zack Wheeler, RHP

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 18

Many Questions Loom For Mets In Second Half

Although the New York Mets closed the first half on an up-note, it’s too soon to say they have turned things around. The wildcard would take a near historic run, but .500 is not out of the question.

On this date in 1973, a year they went to the World Series, they were 40-50, so there is precedence. No, I have not forgotten that team had Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but the rest of the team weren’t all shining lights, either.

It can be done. To finish .500 they have to be at least three games over each month, and they are already 8-5 in July. When it is broken down into little pieces it’s much easier to grasp.

Even so, for it to happen the following questions must be answered in the positive:

Q: Will the Mets keep the status quo and not blow up this team?

A: GM Sandy Alderson said the plan is to maintain the present team and not be sellers. Then again, he’s changed his mind before. The first ten games of the second half are key. If the Mets unravel in that span, there are no guarantees.

Q: Can Matt Harvey continue his run?

A: Harvey had a great first half highlighted by starting the All-Star Game. He also had ten no-decisions. He’s going to need more offensive and bullpen help, but there are times he’ll have to bear down even more as great pitchers find a way. But, that might be difficult if they are cutting his innings.

Q: What can they get out of Zack Wheeler?

A: He has pitched well at times since his promotion, but not as good as his 3-1 record would indicate. Wheeler needs to focus more on fastball command. That’s the first step.

Q: Can Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee continue to pitch well?

A: Arguably, they might be two of the biggest factors to the Mets showing turnaround signs. Remember, each started slowly but something clicked. Also, remember neither have pitched well for a complete season.

Q: Can Bobby Parnell keep grasping the brass ring?

A: Parnell is finally taking to the closer role. But, there are two halves. If they don’t trade him, and management said they won’t, he has to keep mixing in that fastball with his knuckle-curve.

Q: Can they stay healthy, especially in the rotation?

A: Gone are Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum, three-fifths of the projected rotation entering spring training. Niese is expected back by mid-August, but the others will never play for the Mets again.

Q: What do we make of the bullpen?

A: It has been good at times, bad at times and atrocious at times. It’s been good over the past three weeks, but there’s still not an overwhelming feeling of comfort. Also, they must avoid burning out Scott Rice?

Q: Can Terry Collins avoid not driving John Buck into the ground?

A: Anthony Recker has been getting more playing time and coming up with the long ball. After a fast start Buck tailed because he was getting worn out. Tired catchers aren’t a plus. And, let’s forget about Travis d’Arnaud. This is a lost season for him.

Q: Can All-Star David Wright sustain?

A: On the field and in the clubhouse, Wright has lived up to his captain status. He is a good reason to keep watching. He might not be spectacular, but he’s more than solid. Looking at .300, 25 and 90 from him, minimum.

Q: Omar Quintanilla and Eric Young were positive surprises. Can they keep it up?

A: Quintanilla and Young replaced Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda, respectively, and frankly, neither are missed. Collins said Tejada must win back his job and Young is playing so well, Duda isn’t an option at all anymore. They’ll keep him around in the chance they lose Ike Davis.

Q: Speaking of Davis, does he have a strong second half in him?

A: It sure doesn’t look that way. They won’t get anything for Davis in a trade, and Alderson said the team is running out of patience. With a poor second half, don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

Q: Who plays center field?

A: Both Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares have shown glimpses, but nothing sustainable. Nieuwenhuis is getting most of the time now.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos