Jan 16

Let’s Hedge Raves About Mets’ Rotation

Many of the baseball preview magazines are already on the newsstands, with more than a few suggesting the Mets have one of the sports’ top rotations. However, they omit one word in the description, that being “potentially.”

The Cubs, Giants, Boston, Cleveland are all right there. So are the Nationals. The Mets? Well, if healthy, their group can throw as hard as anybody, but throwing hard isn’t the issue. Four potential starters will be coming off surgery, with a fifth, Noah Syndergaard, gutting through the second half of the season with bone spurs in his elbow.

Matt Harvey (shoulder) had seasons cut short by the knife in 2013 and 2016 and missed all of 2014; Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz each had elbow surgery; Zack Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two years; and, they did not bring back Bartolo Colon. The Mets clearly have health issues, which is why they aren’t listening to calls for Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, knowing they might need them this summer, either as a starter or in a relief role.

Harvey, deGrom and Matz each have had surgery twice, and Wheeler’s surgery hasn’t worked out. We can’t assume the four recovering from surgery will pitch without incident in 2017, nor are there any guarantees all four will bounce back. That’s banking on a lot of things working out positively, including nothing happening with Syndergaard.

Even if they did, you can’t forget none of the Mets’ young studs have won more that 15 games, much less 20, or pitched more than 200 regular-season innings. The Mets’ young arms are immensely talented with loads of potential, but championships are won on proven production and not potential.

If everything breaks to the positive, it could be a sweet season reminiscent of 2015, but there are no guarantees.

 

Dec 31

Wrapping Up Mets’ Season That Wasn’t

Time to take a moment to look back on “The Season That Didn’t Happen,’’ before moving on to panning the Mets of 2017 and wishing you all a Happy New Year.

After being ousted in the World Series in five games, with Game 5 decided by Terry Collins’ decision to let Matt Harvey go out for the ninth, it was easy to project the summer of 2016 for the Mets.

SYNDERGAARD: Sums up disappointing season. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Sums up disappointing season. (FOX)

Harvey, who gave it up and Jeurys Familia, who blew the save, would come back with fiery determination. Hell, I even wrote Harvey would win 20 games.

They brought back Yoenis Cespedes and added Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. The future was bright for Michael Conforto.

Yes, there was a lot of optimism entering the season as there should have been. But, the World Series was never meant to be.

Writing on Twitter, Noah Syndergaard summed up 2016 in 140 characters:

2016 Mets Recap:

Wright hurt
Duda hurt
Walker hurt
Harvey hurt
DeGrom hurt
Matz hurt
Wheeler delayed
lost Wild Card
Bart leaves

It really wasn’t much more than that.

KEY STORYLINE: Harvey didn’t win 20 and didn’t come close. For the second time in three years, Harvey’s season was cut short by arm surgery. He wasn’t the only one. The knife also fell on Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler never recovered from his surgery.

KEY ADDITION: The Mets got off to a fast start in large part by Walker’s power surge, predominantly from the right side. Alderson plugged holes, adding James Loney when Lucas Duda went down and Jose Reyes to replace David Wright. The high-profile addition was Jay Bruce at the deadline, but the most important pick-us were Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman when Harvey and deGrom went down. Without them, the Mets don’t see the Wild Card game against the Giants.

MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENTS: The injuries to the pitchers and Wright were the biggest. … It can’t be underestimated how vital Conforto’s inability to build on 2015’s first impression. … Once again, the Mets’ inability to hit with runners in scoring

HIGH DRAMA: The puzzlement of what was bothering Harvey hung in the forefront until his shoulder injury was diagnosed. However, most of July was overshadowed by the high maintenance Cespedes, who couldn’t play because of a strained quad, but was able to golf instead of taking treatment. Neither Alderson nor Collins had the backbone to call out the outfielder, but Cespedes’ availability prompted the trade for Bruce. That could have been avoided had Alderson sent Cespedes to the disabled list three weeks before they finally pulled the trigger.

CONTINUING ISSUES: It shouldn’t have been all that hard to project Wright going down again. It shouldn’t be difficult for it happening again in 2017. … Also lingering is not hitting with runners in scoring position. They’ve done nothing to address that situation. … The middle innings in the bullpen also remained a problem, and that’s still in question with the pending suspension of Jeurys Familia.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR: There were a lot of electric moments, many of them of the walk-off variety, but is there any doubt about it being Bartolo Colon’s homer?

GAME OF THE YEAR: The Mets were reeling on Aug. 20, in third place, 12.5 games behind Washington when Colon went to the mound in San Francisco. Colon gave up two runs in 6.1 innings and was picked up by the Mets’ suddenly revived offense, which knocked out 13 hits, including two homers from Cespedes and one from Alejandro De Aza, to beat the Giants, 9-5. That was the first victory in a stretch where the Mets won nine of 11 games to go back over .500 and generate the push into the Wild Card.

 MVP: Cespedes was brought back to provide the spark he did in 2015. Despite playing in 132 games, Cespedes hit 31 homers, but was limited to 86 RBI. There really wasn’t a serious challenger to him.

PITCHER OF YEAR: Working most of the year with a bone spur, Syndergaard started 30 games and compiled 183.2 innings, going 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA. Does Syndergaard have Cy Young potential? You bet.

 

Dec 28

Top Six Mets’ Storylines For 2016

The season didn’t turn out the way for the Mets the way many hoped. Too many injuries and too few hits with runners in scoring position will do that to a team. There were numerous storylines from this summer, but I’ve narrowed it down to five. I’m sure you have others, but these are mine:

SYNDERGAARD: Pitched big in WC Game. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Pitched big in WC Game. (FOX)

Mets lose wild-card heartbreaker: San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard were brilliant in one of the most well-pitched games in Wild-Card history. Syndergaard threw seven scoreless and Bumgarner went nine in the Giants’ 3-0 victory won by Conor Gillaspie three-run homer in the ninth.

The loss prevented a playoff rematch between the Mets and Cubs, and of course, kept them from returning to the World Series.

Injuries derail rotation: The highly-anticipated return of Zack Wheeler to the rotation in July and switch of Bartolo Colon to the bullpen never materialized. One by one they went down until three more went down with surgery: Matt Harvey (shoulder), Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz (elbows).

Syndergaard was also hindered with an elbow spur. Injuries always produce opportunities, and this time Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman took advantage.

Piazza enters Hall of Fame: Catcher Mike Piazza was clearly the summer’s feel-good moment with his induction into the Hall of Fame. While there have been many players with links to the Mets that are in Cooperstown, Piazza and Tom Seaver are the only ones who went in as Mets.

Wright’s back limits him to 38 games: For the second straight summer, David Wright’s injured back scuttled his season that put his career in jeopardy.

Wright is progressing on schedule, but we’ll not know about him until spring training.

Cespedes and Walker power offense: Bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and signing Neil Walker were the Mets’ two biggest off-season moves last winter, and together they combined for over 50 homers.

The Mets will bring both back for next year (Cespedes is signed for four years), which just about completes their off-season shopping.

Mets trade for Bruce: With injuries sapping the Mets’ offense – including those to Cespedes and Walker – GM Sandy Alderson pulled the trigger and traded for Reds outfielder Jay Bruce.

Bruce struggled for most of the second half, but finished with a strong ten-day to close the season. Alderson made a big thing of having Bruce as insurance if they couldn’t bring back Cespedes, and if they could they would deal him.

Well, they signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million package, then turned around to find no interest in Bruce and might not be able to deal him until spring training, if at all.

Dec 06

Mets Aren’t In Blockbuster Mode

The Boston Red Sox are in a tough division but went all out today in trading for ace Chris Sale at the cost of four prospects.

Meanwhile, the Mets need to build their bullpen, but are trying to make a reclamation project out of Zack Wheeler and reportedly are playing hardball with Jerry Blevins on a multi-year package that won’t exceed $18 million and subsequently might not do anything until January.

SALE: Monster move. (ChicagoNow)

SALE: Monster move. (ChicagoNow)

Yankees GM Brian Cashman labeled the Red Sox the Warriors of Major League Baseball. Does that make the Mets the Knicks of baseball, or worse, the Nets?

The Nationals were poised on getting Sale. In fact, I heard a Washington Post reporter say it was all but a done deal. That was, of course, until the Red Sox swooped in and changed everything.

On Monday, another team in dire need of bullpen help – the Giants – didn’t wait for the market to take shape by having Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen sign. They made a strong play for Mark Melancon.

Sale to the Red Sox and Melancon to the Giants helps the Mets. Their manager, Terry Collins said today, “we dodged a bullet,” after learning of Boston’s blockbuster.

But, do the Mets want to survive this way? They are waiting for somebody to come along and take Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson off their hands.

What they aren’t doing is being proactive. They aren’t making things happen on their own. Yes, they brought back Yoenis Cespedes, but he was one of their own and their commitment to him is financially tying their hands.

I hear Boston and the Giants saying they want to win and they make bold moves. I hear the Mets say they want to win, but the big story with them today was Collins saying he wants to bring Tim Tebow to camp.

 

Nov 18

Cespedes Market Might Not Be So Hot

The reported market is six teams, including the Mets, interested in Yoenis Cespedes. However, the interest could be described as “luke warm,” which might have prompted his text to the GM Sandy Alderson indicating his desire to return.

Reportedly, Cespedes wants $150 million over five years, while the Mets are saying $100 million over four years. That’s a significant gap, but those are reported figures not confirmed by the Mets or Cespedes’ representatives.

CESPEDES: Desperate? (AP)

CESPEDES: Desperate? (AP)

It’s interesting the text – reported by multiple outlets – came from the player and not his agent. It also came after Alderson told WOR the Mets could have interest in Jose Bautista, Dexter Fowler and Steve Pearce, all of whom would cost significantly less.

Could it be there’s a growing sense of urgency on Cespedes’ part? Kind of like the teenage girl asking over and over again if the guy in her geometry class really likes her.

“I think we’ve said as an organization that we’d like to have him back,” Alderson said. “Free agency provides its own sort of intrigue, so we’ll see where things take us. … I think we’re gonna have to wait a while to see how this turns out. I think he wants to be back.”

However, Alderson also said he doesn’t want this to drag on into January as it did last winter.

The initial market for Cespedes was reported as the Mets, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, along with the Yankees.

After trading Brian McCann to Houston, the Yankees have more room for Cespedes.

“I’m sure we’ll talk again,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman told The New York Times. “Now that we have more flexibility, it gives us more choices.”

However, the Yankees have been linked to the Angels in a possible trade for AL MVP Mike Trout, and it has been widely speculated they could make a run at the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in a couple of years.

It seems doubtful if they really wanted either of those players they would inflame their payroll now with Cespedes.

As for the Giants’ interest, they are already embroiled in long-term deals with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzjia, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

If the Giants were to add a bat, it would likely be one of a lower profile are the reports from San Francisco.

And, the White Sox’s first priority is finding a market for stud pitcher Chris Sale, which presumably would include a power hitter.

Cespedes is aware of this, or at least should be. He has to be wondering it the market for him is all that big and really isn’t six teams.

Given that, the Mets seem to have the leverage and would be wise to press Cespedes to make his demands soon and get back to him with their best, and final, offer.

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