Aug 09

LaTroy Hawkins Better Closer Option Than Committee

Isn’t it always the way with the New York Mets? There’s positives brewing, but something always seems to get in the way, such as Bobby Parnell’s bulging disk.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

Once pegged to lose 100 games, the Mets are talking about .500 and finishing in second place in the NL East, but gone is Parnell, probably for the year if surgery is required.

The Mets’ bullpen has been stellar since the beginning of July, but there’s only one real choice to replace Parnell and that would be 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins instead of going with a bullpen-by-committee, which rarely works and usually ends up using guys outside of their customary roles.

Hawkins saved the last two games of the Colorado series, and has 90 saves in his career. Not great over 19 years, but it is the best the Mets have going for them right now.

Hawkins struggled early in the season, but has been consistently effective. He has experience pitching in tight games, and Terry Collins has more trust in him than in Scott Atchison or Scott Rice or Pedro Feliciano.

Even at 40, Hawkins was throwing in the mid-90s against the Rockies. He can still bring it when he has to, and averages 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and only 1.6 walks per nine innings.

Perhaps Hawkins will eventually run on fumes, but if the Mets are cognizant about not getting him up constantly, and perhaps occasionally let their set-up reliever work into the ninth if there’s a three-run lead, it could preserve him.

Collins’ bullpen has been exceptional over the past month, but now he must make a significant choice: Does he go the committee route or give his trust to Hawkins?

The thought of saving Zack Wheeler’s innings by using him in relief is not a good idea as the change in routine creates the possibility of injury. And, please, nobody mention Frank Francisco. Please.

Hawkins has pitched well and is deserving of closing until he can’t it anymore.

I don’t think there’s any doubt Hawkins has to be the closer until Parnell returns, which as of now looks to be next spring.

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

Jun 15

Mets’ Collins, Marcum Not Believable In Rotation Issue

It is difficult to believe either Terry Collins or Shaun Marcum regarding the New York Mets’ upcoming rotation decision to accommodate Zack Wheeler.

Whether he’s ready or not – and even he said he didn’t pitch his best at Triple-A Las Vegas – Wheeler is on his way to start the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets already bought the plane ticket; he’s coming.

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

For now, Collins said the Mets will fly with a six-man rotation, but that’s probably once or twice through. Matt Harvey isn’t cool to the idea, so guess where this will go?

If based strictly on merit, the veteran Marcum, who fell to 0-8 Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, should be the odd-man out. But, he’s making $4 million this year, which amazingly, is the fifth-highest salary in the Mets’ payroll behind Johan Santana, David Wright, John Buck and Frank Francisco. And, this  does not include the deferred money owed Jason Bay, which could drop Marcum to sixth.

Collins, operating under the belief people are idiots, downplayed the salary angle.

“When it comes down to the time to make the decision, certainly I’m not sure salary is going to have anything to do with it,’’ Collins said Friday night. “I think we’re going to take the five guys that we need to make sure are the best five to go out there.’’

Of course, salary will have something to do with it as it always does with the Mets. And, it likely won’t be Collins’ call, either.

Salary is why they kept running Bay out there every day when it was clear he had nothing. Salary is why they hung onto Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo longer than needed. Salary is why they traded Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, and one can’t yet say the Mets won that deal. Salary might be why they resisted sending down Ike Davis to the minors, a decision that might have come too late.

Salary and cutting payroll has been the essence of everything the Mets have done in the Sandy Alderson era. You’d like to believe Collins in the decision will be based on merit, but Alderson’s track record indicates otherwise.

Marcum, who has had several good moments, notably his relief appearance in last week’s 20-inning loss to the Miami Marlins, has shown a propensity of working out of the bullpen, which makes it reasonable to figure he can do that job. However, Marcum’s dwindling trade value is as a starter and taking him out of that role could make that option difficult.

Marcum said, “I really haven’t thought about it,’’ which on second thought might be the truth because he knows he’ll get his money regardless.

ON DECK:  Johan Santana visits; a reminder of a lost deal.

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

Jun 13

The Need To Extend Terry Collins’ Contract

If Terry Collins and his staff aren’t the problem as GM Sandy Alderson suggested, then why not extend their contracts through 2015, or at least, 2014? If they aren’t the issue and considered part of the solution, it would seem a prudent action if for no other reason but send a message to the players the organization has a plan.

The Mets do have a plan, don’t they?

Few things are more fragmenting to a team than a managerial search. It would be great to go into the offseason not having to worry about the manager. And, if the Mets had to search for a new manager, that would set things back.

My first choice is if the Mets believe they are headed in the right direction would be to extend Collins for two basic reasons: 1) the players have not quit on him, which is the classic sign, and 2) management has not given him enough quality players.

One can’t make a fair assessment on Collins based on the talent given him.

If you’re buying into Alderson’s opening hire comments about changing the culture and patience being needed, then Collins can’t go the first time there’s an appearance of having money to spend.

Collins was Alderson’s pick and he’s done everything asked of him. He’s even had the Mets competitive until the lack of talent wore thin.

If Collins isn’t the right guy, then neither is Alderson, who is the architect. The Mets say they are building with young pitching, and in Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there’s potential. They are even getting good pitching from unexpected sources, such as Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner.

They rotation overcame the losses of Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and the early hole in the back end to have pitched well. They would have more to show for their efforts if there was a bullpen and hitting. Supposedly, that’s where the freed-up money will be spent next winter, and Collins should get the chance to benefit from that spending.

If the Mets aren’t happy with the job Collins has done, then by extension they can’t be satisfied with Alderson.

There are things I don’t like about what Alderson has done, but admit part of that comes from not knowing all he knows about what’s going on behind closed doors and being impatient about wanting results.

Alderson’s draft picks haven’t produced, but how many picks are playing after three years? That must get better.

It will be interesting to see how Alderson spends this winter because his patch-quilt approach the past three years haven’t gotten it done. I understand why they went in that direction, but if what you’re telling me is true, you should have more to spend.

And, remember it not about the willingness to spend, as the Wilpons have written checks before. It is about writing them wisely. Jason Bay, Frank Francisco, Frankie Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and the list goes on, were bad baseball decisions.

Alderson’s reputation is about making smart decisions. Now, let’s see it.

So, if the Mets believe they have the right plan in place, then Alderson needs to extend Collins. And, if not, can we assume they starting over again?

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

May 30

Ruben Tejada Issue Solves Itself

It appears the Ruben Tejada problem has taken care of itself.

On the day after hearing a wake-up ultimatum or risk being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas, Tejada strained his right quadriceps going after a ball he had no chance of catching in Wednesday night’s victory over the Yankees.

TEJADA: A head-scratching player.

TEJADA: A head-scratching player.

That left the Mets with the easy option of placing Tejada on the disabled list, where he could stay for two weeks. Once Tejada begins a rehab assignment, the Mets will have 20 days in which to activate him. That’s nearly five Tejada-free weeks.

Tejada ran a long way for the ball – one of the few bursts of hustle we’ve seen from him – but to risk injury in a blowout game was senseless. Even worse, was he nearly took out left fielder Mike Baxter in a sliding attempt at the ball.

It was the latest in a series of head-scratching plays from Tejada, who had a brain cramp in the sixth when he looked the runner back to third despite a big lead and didn’t get the runner at first.

It’s one thing to make a physical error, of which he’s had many, but shortstop is a thinking position and he gives the Mets nothing when his mind is elsewhere. In some ways, his wandering mind reminds me of Angel Pagan.

Tejada first tested Terry Collins’ patience when he didn’t report early to spring training in 2012. Collins reasoned with Tejada to replace Jose Reyes, the new shortstop would want to get a head start.

Collins was clearly annoyed that Tejada wasn’t in good shape, but had few options. Tejada made things easier for himself with a solid offensive season, but defense – supposedly his strong suit – was erratic.

Tejada opened the season with a handful of errors in the first two weeks and has been shaky since. At the plate, he couldn’t break the habit of hitting the ball in the air, which makes him an easy out.

Tejada has not been able to seize the leadoff spot, and when he does get on there are times he looks clueless on the bases, such as when he was picked off second Tuesday night.

The Mets won Tuesday giving Tejada another day, but even without the injury, his play Wednesday warranted a demotion.

The Mets are expected to promote Omar Quintanilla today. Quintanilla was a last-day cut in spring training when the Mets opted to keep Kirk Nieuwenhuis as an extra outfielder. To make room on the 40-man roster, they could move Frank Francisco to the 60-day disabled list.

The Mets won despite Tejada in large part because of Jeremy Hefner’s strong start. Hefner has pitched well, but in bad luck lately. He’s pitched well enough to stay in the rotation, but the Mets must make a move when Zack Wheeler is ready.

One demotion possibility is tonight’s starter, Dillon Gee (2-6, 6.34 ERA). If not him, then perhaps Collin McHugh would go. The underperforming Shaun Marcum isn’t leaving because he’s getting $4 million this year.

After the Pittsburgh series, I wrote how the following two weeks could define their season. It didn’t look good in St. Louis and when they were swept by Cincinnati.

However, they have sparked interest with this four-game winning streak, and with two series coming up against Miami, they could see relevance again.

ON DECK: Dillon Gee pitching for his job.

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

May 22

Matt Harvey Reveals What Little Else Mets Have

The headlines were basically the same no matter where you look: Today Is Matt Harvey Day.

Harvey, undeniably the most exciting thing to happen to the Mets this season, starts Wednesday against Cincinnati. In games following his start, the Mets are 0-9.

HARVEY: Goes against Reds.

HARVEY: Goes against Reds.

Harvey has started nine games and won five with four no-decisions. Even in those games he was brilliant. Yes, when Harvey starts the Mets have a very good chance of winning. On those days, the Mets are major league quality.

That’s a good thing, but it comes with a flip side, and that’s outside of him, David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell, there’s little substance on this team. Harvey’s success merely illustrates how little the Mets have on the major league level, and their refusal to demote Ike Davis shows how little faith they have in their minor league players.

Harvey is a major leaguer both in talent and demeanor, surrounded by players who mostly are not.

John Buck has his moments, as does Marlon Byrd, but seriously, you’re talking about two players who might not be here next year. Hey, they might be dealt at the July 31 deadline.

Besides Harvey, who can start on anybody’s staff, Wright and maybe Murphy – depending on the team – can be starters elsewhere.

The Mets began the season with a core they hoped to build around and contend with for a decade. Harvey and Jon Niese in the rotation; Davis, Wright and Ruben Tejada in the infield; Lucas Duda in the outfield, and Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate.

However, Tuesday night showed Niese to be unreliable. He is 3-5 with a 4.80 in ten starts. By definition, he has six quality starts, however, by sight he’s not been quality at all. Certainly, not one you would build a team around. He recovered Tuesday to give the Mets a chance to rally if they had any kind of offense. However, as has often been the case with Niese, one bad inning did him in, and it was the first when with no one on base and two outs, he walked three and fell behind 3-0.

Davis had an opportunity to get the Mets back in the game, but struck out. What can you say about Davis that hasn’t already been said, other than he’ll be on the next flight to Las Vegas?

Sandy Alderson, speaking during the SNY broadcast, said he sees last year’s second half when he watches Davis. Eventually, he concluded: “It may be he is better off going to Las Vegas for some period of time. But at this point we’re going to live with Ike for a little longer.’’

“Going to live with.’’ That’s some endorsement, isn’t it?

Duda’s on-base percentage has improved, but has little run-production – only 14 RBI – despite eight homers. One could conclude Buck drove in many of those potential RBI hitting ahead of him, but in reality Duda is not a good situational hitter.

Tejada has fallen off both at the plate and in the field, and you realize he’ll never be close to being what a healthy Jose Reyes was at one time.

Murphy is reliable, but not a star. He’s greatly improved at second base, but the Mets will always be looking for somebody faster and more athletic at that position. Murphy is a piece they could dangle in front of a contender in a couple of months.

That’s about the time d’Arnaud could be under consideration to being promoted. For now, his broken foot will be in a cast for another two weeks and he’ll begin rehab.

Parnell has been one of the few pleasant surprises, showing he can be a closer. Even if Frank Francisco’s elbow improves to where he’ll come off the disabled list, he won’t get the closer job back. We might not see him at all this season, which means never again in a Mets uniform.

The Mets host the All-Star game in less than two months. By that time, they could be 20 games under .500 and their fall complete before the dog days of summer.

But, enough of that for now. Today is Matt Harvey Day and there’s a reason to watch.

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