Jul 07

Three Mets’ Storylines: Flores, Bullpen Bail Out Colon

Just before the Mets were swept last week in Washington, manager Terry Collins said the 14 games leading into the All-Star break were “very important.’’

He didn’t call this stretch “critical,’’ but his message was understood just the same.

FLORES: Does it again. (AP)

FLORES: Does it again. (AP)

After being destroyed in DC, the Mets responded with a four-game sweep of the Cubs; winning two of three against the Marlins, and powering their way in the opener of this four-game series, 9-7, over the Nationals. With the victory, the Mets pulled within three games of first-place Washington.

Thursday’s win came on the heels of the sobering news Matt Harvey might be lost with season-ending shoulder surgery.

Things didn’t look promising for the Mets after the Nationals took a 4-1 lead in the fourth, but they responded with four homers and a strong showing their bullpen. Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores – again – and Asdrubal Cabrera homered for the Mets.

They also caught a break when Jayson Werth’s take-out slide of second baseman Neil Walker was ruled interference, so instead of runners on the corners with no outs the Nationals had the bases empty with two down.

Earlier in the game Werth was called safe on a similar play. Of course, this rule was a by-product of the Chase UtleyRuben Tejada play last year in the NL Division Series.

The following are the three main storylines from tonight’s game.

FLORES STAYS HOT: After a pair of two-homer games on this homestand, Flores did not get the start. Collins’ explanation, in part, was to give him an at-bat against one of Washington’s lefty relievers.

It sounded like he was blowing smoke, but sure enough, Flores hit the first pitch thrown to him by former Met Oliver Perez for a three-run homer in the fifth to put New York ahead to stay. It was his sixth game-winning hit of the season.

Flores has five homers during this homestand, which begs the question: Where will he play Friday?

COLON ROCKED; PEN ROCKS: Colon has been one of the most reliable starters this season, but was shelled, giving up six runs on ten hits in 4.2 innings. Three of those homers came in the fourth by Clint Robinson, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper.

Colon was bailed out by the offense and the bullpen.

With the bases loaded in the fifth, Jerry Blevins struck out Rendon to end the inning. Hansel Robles struck out Jayson Werth to end the sixth; Addison Reed retired four hitters; and Jeurys Familia recorded his 31st save in as many opportunities.

GRANDERSON RED HOT: “Red hot,’’ haven’t been the words to describe Granderson many times this season, but he reached base five times on three hits – two doubles – and two walks.

In his last five games, Granderson is 8-for-19 (.421) with two homers and five RBI.

Granderson’s surge coincides with the move to second in the order behind Reyes.

Dec 10

Mets A Winter Meetings Winner

The Mets left Nashville this afternoon a better team that showed up Sunday night, even if they come home with a contract having Ben Zobrist‘s autograph.

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

The Mets not only upgraded up the middle defensively with second baseman Neil Walker (trade from Pittsburgh for Jon Niese) and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (free agent signing from Tampa Bay), and in the process improved their bench and came away with a back-up for David Wright.

And, they did it at a minimal cost, $18.5 million in a two-year contract for Cabrera instead of the estimated $50 million they were going to pay Zobrist. The price of what Walker could make in arbitration and what Niese is to make ($9 million) is a wash.

The Mets were poor defensively with Daniel Murphy and Flores (a combined 26 errors) opposed to a combined 16 from Walker and Cabrera. However, defense is more than just errors, it is also positioning and range. For a team built on pitching, they improved in the field with no loss of production at the plate..

Flores will now fall into the role of right-handed hitting platoon with Walker; back-up shortstop; and fill-in for Wright at third.

The decision to sign Cabrera after tendering Ruben Tejada is not overkill because Flores fractured his ankle in winter ball and Tejada is still recovering from breaking his leg in the playoffs. We don’t know if they’ll be ready when spring training opens Feb. 17 (pitchers and catchers) and Feb. 24 (position players).

Assuming both are ready, they can spell Wright at third. Cabrera can do the same.

So, when you add it up, the Mets improved their up-the-middle defense, bench and found a contingency plan for Wright and will save an estimated $30 million.

I’d call it a win-win, leaving them to find a left-handed hitting platoon with Juan Lagares in center and bolstering the bullpen.

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Jun 20

Not Enamored With Collins’ Decisions Or Reasoning Friday

Jacob deGrom had only thrown 97 pitches when he was pulled in the eighth inning of Friday night’s 2-1 loss at Atlanta. He deserved better, from his defense, his bullpen, and his manager. Come to think about it, he deserved better from his general manager, too.

DE GROM: Should have stayed in. (AP)

DE GROM: Should have stayed in. (AP)

Betrayed is too strong a word, but he was definitely let down. DeGrom took a slim 1-0 lead into the eighth because the Mets’ anemic offense stranded six and was 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. This offense has done little for much of the year, and even less the past month.

After Andrelton Simmons doubled to lead off the eighth, most everybody in the park knew Eury Perez was going to lay down a bunt to the third base side. DeGrom pounced on the ball and immediately looked to third, but Ruben Tejada wasn’t by the bag. Had he been there, deGrom would have nailed the runner.

Not a natural third baseman, Tejada botched the play, but manager Terry Collins said he had no problem with his handling of the play.

“We’re trying to get an out there,” Collins told reporters, adding Tejada did the right thing.

I beg to differ. Strongly. Yes, they are trying to get an out, but that out needed to be at third and not first. How were they going to do that if Tejada wasn’t covering third?

I can buy Collins if he was trying to protect the inexperienced Tejada’s fragile ego. But, here’s where I have a problem with GM Sandy Alderson. HIs job is to ensure the Mets have the appropriate talent needed to win games and this is not the first time they’ve been left with a thin bench and poor bullpen choice.

Pedro Ciriaco followed with a grounder to shortstop Wilmer Flores, who took too long looking the runner back to third and couldn’t get the runner at first.

The Braves now had runners on the corners with one out when Collins summoned Sean Gilmartin.

“I thought it was time,” said Collins. Yes, time to lose the game.

DeGrom is the Mets’ best pitcher and only had thrown 97 pitches. Collins mentioned the pitch count, but deGrom’s defense opened the door.

There was nothing deGrom did to warrant being pulled. Collins knows he has an unreliable bullpen with the exception of Jeurys Familia. If deGrom is to be considered ace-like his manager must show him the confidence to make it through the inning.

Collins’ best choice was to stick with deGrom or go to Familia to close the eighth.

Gilmartin was not the best decision, evidenced by Jace Peterson promptly doubling in two runs to waste another good start.

Yes, deGrom deserved better. Much better.

 

May 03

We Will Know Mets’ True Feelings About Flores On Tuesday

It is a measure of how current GM Sandy Alderson – and the Mets’ brass in previous years – mislead fans that some of us are skeptical of the explanation given for the recent benching of shortstop Wilmer Flores.

FLORES: Resting again. (Getty)

FLORES: Resting again. (Getty)

It was no secret the Mets tried to obtain a shortstop during the winter, and several times Alderson cracked wise at Flores’ expense. Even when circumstances dictated Flores would be the Opening Day starter – primarily because they had less faith in Ruben Tejada – the Mets were reluctant to make the announcement.

After Flores committed an error which helped beat Jacob deGrom Thursday and his seventh the next night behind Matt Harvey, manager Terry Collins said he would rest the shortstop Saturday. Collins said it was his plan all along to Tejada a day. At the time, Collins said if he pulled Flores now it could destroy his confidence and he could never return to shortstop.

Alderson said: “We know he can catch the ball. The important thing right now is to make sure he understands we have confidence in his ability to catch the ball. He’s demonstrated it. This is not a hope and a prayer. He’s demonstrated it in the past. We know what limitations may exist at that position for him. This is not one of them — or shouldn’t be one of them. The short answer is: Yes, he’s got plenty of room.”

Collins emphasized his confidence: “You’ve got to give him a chance. You’ve got to give him a legitimate chance. … If this kid is going to be a big league player, he’s got to be able to get through some of these times. And therefore the leash has got to be long.”

Flores wasn’t in the lineup Sunday, which makes sense because coupled with Monday’s off day that would give him three straight days in which to clear his head.

However, what can we make of it if Flores isn’t in the lineup Tuesday against the Orioles?

 

Dec 08

Are Mets Sabotaging Flores?

I have been writing over a month Wilmer Flores should be the Opening Day shortstop. Speaking to reporters at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, GM Sandy Alderson all but confirmed it.

“I’d say where we are today, that’s the likelihood. But that doesn’t mean it’ll happen,’’ Alderson said. “But if you look around at all the possibilities, is it more likely than not? Probably.’’

FLORES: Don't undercut him.

FLORES: Don’t undercut him.

To that, I say it is about time.

Alderson began his regime promising a more open dialogue, but what we’ve been getting have been smokescreens and diversions. Let’s face it, Troy Tulowitzki was too absurd to consider, and Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew aren’t worth considering.

Alderson mentioned the possibility of January. If you’re going to wait that long, what does it say about the Mets’ level of confidence in these players? It says they don’t have much, if any.

It also screams cheapness and indecisiveness.

By the way, if the Mets are rebuilding as they say, you don’t do it by filling such a key position as shortstop with rejects. And, before you say you don’t build with guys like Flores, either, save it because we don’t know about him.

You build with your own players before you look outside.

All of this speaks little of the Mets’ faith in Flores. All this talk of trying to replace him can’t help his self-esteem. What the Mets are doing with Flores is the same thing they did with Ike Davis and that’s a shame.

The Mets constant negativity directed at Davis made it impossible for him to function here. I am afraid they are doing the same with Flores.

Why won’t they learn?

ON DECK: Do Mets really have pitching depth to trade?