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

 

 

 

 

Jul 17

How Mets Responded To Opening Day Questions

When the New York Mets broke camp this spring, they did so with a myriad of questions for manager Terry Collins. That’s not surprising considering the Opening Day roster featured only nine players from the 2012 first-game roster.

I broke the questions down to pitching and position players, limiting each category to just five questions. So, let’s go back and address each question to see how they’re being answered.

PITCHING QUESTIONS

 Q: Will Jon Niese assume the role of No. 1 with Santana done with the Mets?

NIESE: Key loss. (AP)

NIESE: Key loss. (AP)

A: Niese came out strong in his first two starts, including winning Opening Day. However, back-to-back high-pitch outings in freezing weather in Minneapolis and Denver caused tightness in his back. Niese’s inability to get loose caused a strain in his shoulder and eventual tear to the rotator cuff. He’s on the disabled list and not expected back until mid-August, if at all. The Mets won’t come close to getting the 200 innings they hoped from him. As far as being the ace, Matt Harvey grabbed that role and shows no signs of relinquishing it.

Q: Matt Harvey: Boom or bust?

A: The expectations are high, but high by Harvey’s standards. Harvey wants to be among the best and is living up to that desire. People might not recognize him as evidenced by his skit with Jimmy Fallon, but after his strong first half and starting the All-Star Game that will change. If Harvey isn’t recognized, that’s more a reflection of SNY’s ratings than anything else. The Mets are planning on cutting Harvey’s innings in the second half to 220. The Mets aren’t sure whether they want to skip starts or shave innings off each start.

Q: What will they get from Shaun Marcum?

A: Marcum started the season on the disabled list and is back on after losing feeling in his hand and fingers. The hope was he’d become an innings eater and win at least 12 games as the No. 4 starter. He’s 1-10 and will never pitch for the Mets again. Zack Wheeler replaced him in the rotation.

Q: Will Bobby Parnell seize the closer opportunity?

A: Parnell spit the bit before, but is holding tight and developing into a viable closer. He’s so good that we’ll never see Frank Francisco again. Parnell has drawn attention in the trade market and is coveted by Boston and Detroit.

Q: How good is the bullpen?

A: Parnell is the only one from last year’s Opening Day pen. The pen came out of the gate strong, faltered and is now showing signs of reliability. After 14 years in the minors, left-hander Scott Rice is among the league leaders in appearances. Josh Edgin broke camp with the Mets, but was sent down. He’s been better since his recall. LaTroy is a veteran presence, but struggling with a biceps issue. Bullpens come and go and the Mets have traditionally had problems.

HITTING QUESTIONS

 Q: Will David Wright respond to his contract?

A: Wright appeared in his seventh All-Star Game Tuesday night and a .300, 25, 90 year is within reach. He shows his captain stripes on a continual basis. Wright was in the middle of things trying to defuse the Jordany Valdespin powder keg. He also lobbied to keep Ike Davis from being sent down, but that didn’t work. He continues to play a strong defense and ranks among the NL leaders in on-base percentage.

DAVIS: It has been that kind of year.

DAVIS: It has been that kind of year.

Q: Can Ike Davis put together two strong halves?

A: No. Mets got little from him at the start last year and this season was more of the same. This time, the Mets had enough and sent him to Las Vegas. Davis rebounded to finish with 32 homers last season, but there are no signs of duplicating that this year. GM Sandy Alderson said the organization’s patience is wearing thin. If things continue as they have, the Mets are unlikely to tender Davis a contract for 2014.

Q: How will the outfield shake out?

A: Collin Cowgill’s stint in center field lasted roughly a week and he’s now out of the organization. Kirk Nieuwenhuis seems to be making the most of his opportunity. The team is also interested in seeing what they have in Juan Lagares. Marlon Byrd has exceeded all expectations in right field with 15 home runs, while Lucas Duda sputtered again. Duda is currently on the disabled list, but the team hardly misses him after picking up Eric Young.

Q: What will the Mets get from Ruben Tejada?

A: After a solid 2012, Tejada had a miserable spring training that carried over into the season. Compounding matters is his defense declined. Tejada’s offensive strength was getting on base, but that also declined. Tejada was replaced by 31-year-old Omar Quintanilla, who has been everything the Mets could have hoped for.

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

Jul 14

Mets To End First Half Standing Pat

The first half of the season for the New York Mets, despite losing their last two games in Pittsburgh, ends today on the plus side with comments from GM Sandy Alderson his intent to keep Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd.

Alderson said not to expect a second-half makeover. It would easy to trade either, but doing so would create further holes. Doing so would be taking a step in reverse.

BYRD: Looks like he's staying.

BYRD: Looks like he’s staying.

Regarding Byrd, Alderson told Newsday: “We’re not looking to move Marlon. Obviously, we have our eye on the future, but we want to be as good as we can be this year as well. Now, if what we can get for the future exceeds the value of the present, we’d have to look at that. But we’re not anxious to do it.’’

The Mets entered spring training needing an outfielder, and Byrd has produced 15 homers while playing strong defense. Nobody would be saying anything if he were ten years younger, but production is production, and they are getting it from Byrd. They are also getting a sense of professionalism.

Maybe Byrd will ask for two years in the offseason as Scott Hairston did and the Mets will let him walk. But for now, they aren’t going to do much better.

As far as Parnell, if the Mets are to compete next season as they anticipate, they will need a closer who is an economic bargain. That would be Parnell, who after several stumbles, is finally grasping the brass ring.

“We’ve been looking for a closer for two years. Looks like we’ve found one,’’ Alderson said. “Why would we want to give him away immediately? This is not a guy we’re looking to move, either.’’

If the Mets are blown away with offers for either, they should look at them. But, they shouldn’t trade just because somebody called their phone.

The statement the Mets are making is to see how good they can be this season, so they’ll have a clearer picture of their off-season decisions. Trading what commodities they already have will be taking a step back. And, the Mets have made enough of those in recent seasons.

After Saturday’s loss, the Mets optioned Jordany Valdespin, who was on a 2-for-36 slide, to the minor leagues. With Kirk Nieuwenhuis playing well, and before him, Juan Lagares, plus Byrd and the acquisition of Eric Young, there was less playing time for Valdespin after his failed audition at second base.

The Mets were never enamored with Valdespin to begin with, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we never saw him again. I would suggest trading him, but Valdespin’s value is clearly diminished.

The Mets end the first half excited about Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and before long could have two other young pitchers in their short-term plans as prospects Rafael Montero (World Team) and Noah Syndergaard (Team USA) will start in today’s Futures Game at Citi Field. We could see Montero before the season is over.

In addition, 2011 first-round pick infielder Brandon Nimmo is on the Team USA roster.

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

Jul 12

Mets Should Stay Intact And Try For Strong Second Half

Rarely does a major league roster go unchanged from Opening Day to the end of the season and the 2013 New York Mets are no exception. The roster Terry Collins will be playing with this weekend in Pittsburgh and taking into the All-Star break barely resembles that of the one that left Port St. Lucie.

WRIGHT: Not the only positive. (AP)

WRIGHT: Not the only positive. (AP)

Less than a month ago the Mets were 15 games below .500, and with a sweep of the Pirates could be five games under. Nobody expects a sweep, but nobody thought they could go 5-0-2 in their past seven road series, either.

Think about it, the Mets are playing their best ball of the season and the Pirates are cooling. It can be done. But, if not, that still leaves the Mets with two weeks before the trade deadline. Should they be buyers or sellers?

Next winter is when the Mets tell us they could be active in the free-agent market, but who wants to wait that long? History tells us the Mets came from behind in 1969 and 1973 to reach the playoffs, so why not at least be thinking along those lines now, even if the odds are long?

A Mets executive recently told me a successful season would be defined as finishing .500, which would be a 14-game improvement over 2012. That is not unrealistic and should be ownership’s commitment to its fan base. The mantra should be: There will not be a fifth straight losing season.

The Mets are where they are because:

* An All-Star first half from David Wright. Even if  he’s not hitting a lot of home runs, he’s driving the ball, getting on base, playing a strong third base and producing with runners in scoring position.

* A strong first half from Matt Harvey, who could start the All-Star Game despite ten no-decisions. With a little support, .500 would be even more realistic.

* The acquisition of Eric Young, who as the tenth option, became the leadoff hitter the Mets have sought. Young is the kind of player the Mets, if they got creative again, could add. The Giants won two of the last three World Series with mid-season acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff and Angel Pagan. None were marquee players, but pushed the Giants over the top. Proof the Mets don’t have to splurge to make second-half noise.

* Marlon Byrd has become the productive outfielder the Mets have been seeking. Why trade him now? Maybe he’ll cool, who knows? But, he’s produced and there are others like him out there.

* John Buck had a monster April. After a prolonged cooling off period, Buck is hitting again. He’s also been a stabilizing influence for Harvey.

* Josh Satin gave the Mets production they lacked from Ike Davis. While Davis will get most of the playing time, the Mets can’t afford to ignore Satin. Collins said he wants to get a look at Satin at second and the outfield. He’s waffled before, but needs to see what Satin can do.

* If Ruben Tejada hadn’t been hurt, he would have been demoted to the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla is hitting and playing the kind of shortstop the Mets hoped from Tejada, who doesn’t deserve to have his old job handed to him.

* Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee rebounded from slow starts to become reliable starters. Hefner, especially, has been terrific, even better than Harvey over the past month. There’s the temptation of dealing Hefner now with the thought this is a fluke, but why not ride him out and see what you have over a full year?

* When the Mets become serious contenders they will need a closer, so trading Bobby Parnell, as I suggested yesterday, would be counterproductive.

Yes, we’ve been here before, seduced by a good run from the Mets. However, this is a season we never expected much from them. They are giving us more than we could have envisioned despite adversity.

In each of the past four seasons the Mets have gone into the All-Star break thinking they would be sellers at the break, only to have them do nothing but let talent slip away during the winter.

This year has a different feel to it. After a miserable start, they have stabilized and are playing competitive, aggressive baseball. There are still holes, but this time management should reward its players and fan base and give us something to watch after the national attention goes away following the All-Star Game.

Stay intact and give us a reason to come out in the second half.

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