May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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Apr 04

Cespedes’ Explanation Insulting

Seeing Yoenis Cespedes’ comments about his misadventures in left field Opening Day served as a reminder most players don’t care as much as fans do. His explanation was insulting.

I don’t know what I expected Cespedes to say after he lackadaisically loped into position and casually reached for Mike Moustakas’ routine fly ball in the first inning. And, dropped it because he wouldn’t do the most fundamental thing, which is to use two !@#$% hands.

CESPEDES: ``I'm human.'' (AP)

CESPEDES: “I’m human.” (AP)

Every Little Leaguer knows to do that, but not Cespedes – and to be fair most Major Leaguers, either. Maybe they don’t think it’s the “cool’’ thing to do. Maybe they just don’t give a damn.

Cespedes’ comment was as half-assed as his effort three hours earlier: “The ball just fell out of my glove. The ball just fell. I’m human.’’

Fell? It fell because he was too lazy to use two hands; too stubborn to do one of the most fundamental things in his sport. Actually, in all fairness to Cespedes, it “fell” from his glove twice, the second when he attempted to pick it up with his glove. Another screw-up, as in a play like that you reach down with your throwing hand.

I guess Mets fans should be grateful he at least reached down to pick it up.

The play, Cespedes’ comments, and manager Terry Collins’ reaction is emblematic about what is wrong with professional sports these days.

First, there’s the player who doesn’t care enough to do his best then dismisses legitimate questions. Then, there’s the manager who is too timid to do anything about it. And, worse, defends the botched play. Don’t dare call out the player who is making $27.5 million.

Instead, Collins meekly said: “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.”

I laughed because anybody who has been paying attention couldn’t be surprised.

Actually, the only person who came out of this looking good was the player victimized the most, with that being Matt Harvey.

Sure, Harvey had to be pissed – no pun intended – but he did the professional thing, which is to not publicly throw his teammate under the bus.

“It’s baseball. Things happen,’’ Harvey told reporters. “Nobody’s trying to do anything out there except to get outs and do everything we can to help the team. Errors happen. It’s part of the game.’’

So is using two hands.

ON DECK: Why this is Collins’ toughest job

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Apr 03

Mute Harvey Must Let Pitching Speak For Him

Matt Harvey gets the ball tonight as we all knew he would. However, few thought he’d enter the season pitching as poorly as he did this spring. And, while we always knew he had a chip on his shoulder, nobody thought he’d go into the season with a mad-on at the New York media because he didn’t like a few headlines that poked fun at his urinary tract infection caused by holding in his urine.

OK, so Harvey doesn’t want to talk. That’s his choice, but one that will eventually bite him in the butt in the long run because the headline writers, and columnists, and bloggers, and radio talk-show commentators, will always have the last word. Somebody who is supposedly as smart as Harvey should know that by now.

Harvey’s aggravation might be easier to comprehend if he hadn’t pitched so poorly this spring, as evidenced by a 7.50 ERA and 1.83 WHIP.

However, none of that matters now. Neither does Harvey’s anger. Or what the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series. The only thing that matters is this is a new season and the expectations have never been higher of Harvey and the Mets.

If Harvey doesn’t want to speak, so be it. Let him be silent. It’s all right as long as his pitching gives us something to talk about.

ON DECK:  Mets’ Opening Day lineup.

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Jan 23

Examining Nuances Of Cespedes Deal

I would be lying if I said I saw this coming. The Mets’ bringing back Yoenis Cespedes was not as predictable as say, the whiny LeBron James acting to get coach David Blatt fired.

CESPEDES: Coming back. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Coming back. (Getty)

I wrote the Mets could get Cespedes back if they let the market come back to them. That didn’t happen, but Cespedes playing in Citi Field in 2016 was made possible because the Mets made two huge financial concessions. The Mets agreed to terms with Cespedes on a three-year, $75-million, with $27.5 coming in the first season, after which he can opt out.

The Mets refused to go more than three years with Cespedes, but in essence gave him the money he’d get with a four-year deal.

The Mets made this deal simply because they couldn’t afford not to. The Mets have seen the Cubs, Nationals, Giants and Diamondbacks all improve, and the St. Louis Cardinals are always good. The Mets are banking on their young pitching to carry them, but those arms need runs.

New York surprised a lot of people when it reached the World Series last year, but there won’t be any shocking this summer. Everybody knows the attendance ramifications aren’t felt until the next year. The Wilpons couldn’t afford in letting the Mets regress to the point where they wouldn’t taste the benefits of last year’s success.

Without Cespedes, and David Wright a physical question, the Mets would be taking a gamble they could repeat with a stagnant offense similar to the one they had in June and mid-July before the trade was made. It is a gamble they would likely lose. All it would take to re-affirm that was to look at Wright’s career, After 2006 there was the prevailing feeling the Mets would live in the playoffs.

That wasn’t to be.

As far as the economics of the deal, the Mets have to look at this as a one-year, $27.5 million contract because if Cespedes produces you can surely expect him to opt out. And, it not, then they Mets would have him for three years and not have to pay a monster contract.

Actually, it is a win-win for both sides.

Too bad this couldn’t have been done sooner, at least before I wrote yesterday’s headline.

 

 

Aug 29

Upon Further Review: Lagares Blew Play

It is totally irrelevant, 100 percent, replays showed Blake Swihart’s drive off the wall that resulted in an inside-the-park home run would have been ruled a conventional homer had it been reviewed.

Also irrelevant, and unacceptable, is Juan Lagares’ explanation that he saw the ball go over the line.

“One hundred percent,’’ Lagares told reporters. “It hit over the line. That’s why the ball came back that hard.’’

LAGARES: Didn't make the play. (AP)

LAGARES: Didn’t make the play. (AP)

Yes, it did, but that doesn’t matter. More important were his actions during the play. I don’t want to say Lagares is lying, but I’m not buying what he said.

If Lagares really thought the ball struck over the line, then why did he run after it? Actually, he jogged after it, which is also not acceptable.

OK, Lagares misplayed the drive and indicates he’s continually plays too shallow. He won the Gold Glove last season, but he’s not good enough to play that shallow. He’s not Paul Blair, not Curt Flood, not Willie Mays, not Andruw Jones, and not Andrew McCutcheon. Not even close. A lot of balls have gone over his head this season. (Sorry for the side rant, but that has been building up for awhile.)

The only ones who handled the play properly were Swihart, who never stopped running; the umpires, who never gave the home run call because they didn’t see that; and Ruben Tejada, who ran into the outfield to get the ball.

“I thought it had gotten over because of the way it bounced back, but I just kept my head down running,’’ Swihart said. “I kind of watched the center fielder jogging after it, but I didn’t hear anything so I kept running.’’

Notice how Swihart said Lagares jogged after the ball. He kept running out the play; Lagares did not.

And, give left fielder Yoenis Cespedes a bag of popcorn for the way he watched the play. It hasn’t been the first time he hasn’t hustled.

Lagares needs to hustle after the ball because you never know until the umpires make the call. As a player, you never assume anything, out or safe, fair or foul, until the call is made.

Lagares’ judgment and Cespedes’ lack of hustle can’t be tolerated, not in spring training and especially not during a pennant race.

After the game, manager Terry Collins conceded Cespedes and right fielder Curtis Granderson didn’t do their jobs, saying: “Somebody’s got to back him up.’’

However, Collins was not quoted regarding Lagares’ part other than to say the ball went over the line. Here’s wrung him out in his office after the game. The Mets are in a race, so this stuff needs to be cleaned up now.

Last night doesn’t cut it in October.