Sep 08

Questions The Mets Might Have Already Answered

Let’s begin the Mets’ salvage operation for September by seeing how they answered the most significant questions facing them as they entered spring training.

Q: Can the Mets finish with a winning record?

A: Mathematically, it’s possible as Sunday’s victory in Cincinnati has them seven games under with 19 to play. They are six games behind in the wild-card standings, but need to leapfrog five teams. They have head-to-head match-ups with Washington, Atlanta and Miami, but even so, the odds are against them. They were 14 games under last year and won’t be the 90-win team GM Sandy Alderson thought possible this spring. Bet, he regrets that comment. Even so, improvement is possible. Hey, you take what you can get.

Q: Who’s on first?

A:  Probably more than anything, Alderson’s high point this season is how quickly he disposed of Ike Davis. Honestly, I thought this might get played out as it was the past two years, but Alderson pulled the trigger quickly on a trade. Davis struggled both with injuries and at the plate out of the gate, and Lucas Duda has done more than just out-play him. Duda has developed into a legitimate slugger who could merit a better contract. As the Mets brace for legitimacy in 2015, they’ll have one less question because of Duda’s development.

Q: Who’ll play shortstop?

A: The Mets teased us with talks of signing Stephen Drew or trading for Nick Franklin. April began with shortstop as a black hole with Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores competing for the job, and the Mets having little confidence in either.

I envisioned Tejada winning the job by default because I didn’t think Alderson would gamble on Drew or Franklin, or ever have the stones to go with Flores.

Surprise: Flores has been getting the lion’s share of the playing time and September is for him to put a stranglehold on the job. Flores always had the better bat and he’s not embarrassed himself in the field.

This could be one less question for the winter.

Q: Who’ll be the leadoff hitter?

A: There was no clear-cut favorite, although manager Terry Collins had lukewarm preference for Eric Young. However, this has been a miserable season for Young, who doesn’t have a good on-base percentage. Several players were used to lead off, including the departed Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. The job now appears to be sliding to Juan Lagares, who stole two bases Sunday. Lagares can steal a base, but there’s more to leading off than stealing bases. Working the count and a high on-base percentage are paramount, and those are two categories are something he’ll need to work on this month. Lagares’ development also assures Eric Young won’t be back.

Q: How will the rotation shake out with Matt Harvey gone?

A: The biggest issues were whether Zack Wheeler would progress and if Jon Niese would take it to the next level. Wheeler has pitched well following a slow start. He won his tenth game Sunday, but was hampered by the persistent problem of running up his pitch count, throwing 99 in six innings. He’s worked into the sixth or longer in all but one start – have to like that – but his 99 Sunday was the fewest he’s thrown. As for Niese, the Mets expected far better than 8-10. The Mets could very well be tiring of Niese’s inconsistency and this could finally be the time when they opt to trade him. Could happen.

Q: Who replaces Bobby Parnell in the closer role?

A: The Mets finally decided on a role for Jenrry Mejia, and it is closer. Mejia still has those moments when he tends to overthrow and lose command. He labored Sunday with 25 pitches, but came away with his 24th save compared to three blown saves.

Let’s face it, 2014 was supposed to be a transition season for the Mets, who made no secret they were waiting for Harvey’s return and a step toward competitiveness.

For the most part, the Mets addressed their issues in the positive. Even so, in the cases of Lagares, Flores, Mejia and Wheeler, there’s a difference between optimism and definitive answers. Looking ahead to 2015, they need to see more of those four in September before deciding their offseason plans.

There’s not enough time remaining for some guys – such as David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud – to finish with statistically impressive numbers. Even so, there’s time enough to enter the offseason with positive vibes.

The flip side are the nagging questions:

Where is Wright in his career? Has his career peaked and is he on the downhill slide? Did his shoulder injury hurt him more than the Mets let on?

As for Granderson, we knew there would be a power slide leaving the Bronx, but will he ever be a significant power threat again?

The Mets haven’t gotten the production they hoped from d’Arnaud, but the defensive part of his game is getting better and the pitchers are comfortable with him.

As for pitching, nobody can say for certain how Harvey and Wheeler will develop. Niese remains an enigma. The bullpen has been good in spots, but is always a work in progress. Is this as good as it will get for Mejia? What can we expect from Parnell next season?

There will be no playoffs this season, but .500 can be had with a 13-6 finish. With 13 of their remaining games at home, and nine against teams with losing records, stranger things have happened for a franchise that likes to call itself, “Amazin.’’

Let’s not think about 2015 just yet.

COMING UP THIS WEEK:  Mets we might not see in 2015 … Numbers and milestones that could happen … Looking at second base … Are the Mets in better shape than the Yankees?

Jul 30

How Collins Views Wilmer Flores


The following transcript is courtesy of Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. It’s a conversation between reporters and Terry Collins at Citi Field regarding Wilmer Flores.

Reporter: ”When you take a look at Wilmer Flores, when he was up here in May, when he played in five consecutive games, he hit. When he plays every other game he doesn’t hit. Is now the time to see what Flores can do on an everyday basis?”

Collins: ”It all depends where you’re going to play him.”

Reporter: ”You don’t have confidence in him at shortstop?”

Collins: ”No, no. I didn’t say that. The other kid [Tejada] is playing pretty good. I don’t know what games you’ve been watching, but we’ve been playing pretty good lately.”

Reporter: ”He’s 3-for-29.”

Collins: ”We’re playing pretty good lately. You know, Ike Davis wasn’t hitting and we were winning games. So you pick and choose your spots. Wilmer came up because Ruben got beaned, so we were concerned about having a backup. So that’s why he’s here. There were no instructions to play him everyday. We’re going to try to get him at-bats. That’s why he’s in there today.”

Reporter: ”What do you need to see from him to keep him in the lineup everyday?”

Collins: ”Nothing from him. We’ve got to figure out if he is going to be the shortstop, or if the other guy is going to be the shortstop.”

During Flores’ first call-up to the Mets, he hit a grand slam and drove in six against the Phillies to win the game. Afterward, Collins said the following about Flores:

“It’s not like he hit it against Cliff Lee.”

After sitting idle for 12 straight days, Collins was asked if that was harmful to Flores’ development. The Mets manager responded:

“I cant worry about developing players, I have games I’ve got to win.”

Last week, when asked if Flores would share time at short with Tejada, the Mets manager said:

“Lets understand that if Tejada didn’t get beaned, Flores is not even here right now. Got it?”

Cripes… Yeah, we got it…

Mar 24

Flores Optioned To Minors

Wilmer Flores has been optioned to minor league camp and will begin the season with Triple-A Las Vegas along with Matt den DekkerKirk Nieuwenhuis and Zach Lutz.

The Mets will use Flores at shortstop and second base with Las Vegas to continue to gauge his worthiness, writes Adam Rubin.

“I feel good,” Flores said after receiving the news. “I did a great job. I’ll just wait for the opportunity to come again.”

Ruben Tejada is your starting shortstop.

Mar 18

This Is What The Mets Should Do Immediately

There’s a distinction between ideal and reality for the New York Mets. Ideally, they’d like a healthy Ike Davis or Lucas Duda at first base, to hit 30 home runs and build a consistent attack around them.

However, reality has the Mets – according to ESPN – still trying to deal Davis, and both with nagging leg injuries.

DAVIS:  Time to think DL. (AP)

DAVIS: Time to think DL. (AP)

Neither had significant time this spring and are not running. With Opening Day less than two weeks away, they won’t get the time needed and quite possibly be healed.

That leads us to the reality, and it is harsh.

GM Sandy Alderson is dreaming if he believes he can deal Davis now. Alderson’s bargaining power is even less than it was during the winter.

Davis is hard to move because of his recent production and health issues. He’s even harder now with a nothing spring training. The best option with Davis is for him to open the season on the disabled list and just get well.

The same goes for Duda. Nobody expects anything from either, so let’s move on. Do it now and give what is suggested a time to jell.

Putting Davis on the disabled list is the lead domino, because other moves will follow, and there’s precious little time remaining to get cohesive.

They begin with moving Daniel Murphy, who has the experience, to first base. I previously suggest this spring to use Wilmer Flores because he can play the infield corners, but force-feeding him another position could backfire.

Of course, first base is a power position and Murphy won’t give much. Then again, how much power have they been given by Davis and Duda? I’d rather have Murphy’s .285 average and unimpressive on-base percentage than Davis’ .205 average and thundering nine homers.

With Murphy at first, Eric Young can be moved from left field to second base.

I always wanted Young in the starting lineup because I believe he helps the Mets more offensively in the leadoff position than Juan Lagares would defensively in center field.

This enables the Mets to give Lagares at-bats on the major league level instead of at Triple-A Las Vegas.

There are potential glitches, but it at least keeps the Mets afloat.

Mar 17

Little Time, Many Questions For Mets

Spring training is not just to get ready for the season, but for teams to sharpen their cliché skills. The New York Mets have used many this spring, but the prevalent one is: There’s plenty of time left.

Memo to Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins: No, there isn’t.

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

With Opening Day two weeks away, the Mets have many decisions left; way too many for a team that could win 90 games. I bet Alderson already regrets that thought.

Here’s what’s left to decide:

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis entered spring training as the frontrunner, but because of leg injuries, neither him nor Lucas Duda has played much.

Neither will get close to 70 at-bats, much less the 90-plus Collins hoped for Davis.

They could, but I don’t see them carrying both.

Speculation is Davis will open the season on the disabled list, with Duda playing. That’s presumably because Duda is further along.

They could run Josh Satin out there, but I believe they wasted this spring to learn more about Wilmer Flores.

Collins suggested using Flores at shortstop, but he’s barely played there. He has a promising bat, but scouts say he is better equipped for second base or the corner infield positions.

Flores won’t get third because of David Wright, and last I checked first base is a corner infield position. Why couldn’t they look at Flores there? Where’s the vision?

SHORTSTOP: Publicly, they support Ruben Tejada, but almost as visible have been their efforts to land Stephen Drew and trade for Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Neither is imminent, and the Orioles and Rays also have interest in Franklin. If they really wanted him, they should have acted weeks ago.

Shortstop remains a black hole, but I see Tejada winning the job by default because the Mets are skittish about giving Drew the money and surrendering prospects for Franklin. Anticipate Tejada as the Opening Day shortstop, with much criticism to follow.

LEADOFF HITTER: Collins prefers Eric Young, which is the best choice. However, where does that leave Juan Lagares? That’s the rub.

If Young plays, the outfield would include him, Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.

This isn’t softball, so there is no extra outfielder. For the purposes of his development, Lagares should play fulltime, either up here or in the minor leagues.

If it is here, they are wasting Eric Young. They also have no idea if Lagares can hit at this level.

One possibility is to go with Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the extra outfielder – both can play center – and give Lagares his at-bats in Triple-A Las Vegas.

PITCHING; Both the rotation and bullpen are seemingly set, but there’s the Jenrry Mejia question: Rotation or bullpen?

If they aren’t going to use Mejia in the rotation in the majors, they should use him as a starter in Las Vegas.