Aug 25

Conforto Gives Mets Comfort For Next Year

At one time this season the Mets were desperate for outfielders. Looking ahead to next spring they appear to be in good shape, especially if they bring back Yoenis Cespedes.

Most intriguing is Michael Conforto, who was in college a year ago in June. In an un-Met like move, they brought him up when Michael Cuddyer was injured, and what do you know, he’s producing.

CONFORTO: Made impression.

CONFORTO: Made impression.

More importantly, he’s making adjustments. When pitchers starting working him away, he went to the opposite field. Hopefully, he’ll keep making them, but some hitters never learn. Ike Davis never did, and Lucas Duda is now getting the idea.

Conforto found his opportunity in Cuddyer’s sore knee. And, when it appeared he’d go down when David Wright came off the disabled list, the Mets opted to keep him and send out reliever Dario Alvarez.

“It’s crazy,’’ Conforto told reporters. “The way it’s been happening, you don’t like to see that, you don’t like to see guys going on the DL. But the fact that I’m still here, I’m very excited. It’s where I want to be.’’

It might be difficult for the Mets to keep Cespedes, but he would solve a lot of problems. The Mets will have Curtis Granderson for two more years and Cuddyer for next season.

Conforto has three homers, but has been adept at hitting line drives and playing a solid defense. He’s hitting only .258, but has a .356 on-base percentage and .840 OPS. He runs the bases well, and who knows, perhaps he could be the answer to the Mets’ leadoff question.

It isn’t hard to envision Conforto starting and Cuddyer coming off the bench.

What do you know, the words “next season,’’ in connection with the Mets isn’t a depressing thought.

Jun 07

Mets Must Overhaul Handling Of Injuries

While introducing the Sandy Alderson Era, Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon promised a different mentality emanating from the top. The Mets would be more aggressive in obtaining talent, and perhaps just as importantly, more diligent and proactive in keeping that talent on the field.

The Mets have long been criticized for their handling of injured players, including David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, Pedro Martinez, Ike Davis and the list goes on.

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

Injuries haven’t been diagnosed properly, players played when they should’ve been benched or were rushed back. Players also haven’t been proactive in reporting injuries, which in the case of Matt Harvey, this likely lead to his surgery. Perhaps most bizarre was when Beltran opted to have surgery on his own.

This season has been about injuries and an 11-game winning streak. That streak is why they’re where they are considering they lead the major leagues with 12 players on the disabled list.

Eight players are gone from the Opening Day roster, and three players in the starting lineup in Sunday’s game at Arizona were injury related. There’s not a day when injuries aren’t the focal point. Injuries will dictate if the Mets make the playoffs; what, or if, they’ll make any trades; and possibly, their offseason agenda.

What should also happen is a complete overhaul of their injury protocol. From the trainers, to the team physicians, to the organization’s philosophy in handling and treating injuries, everything should be on the table for review. What they are doing now isn’t working.

Why, over the years, has there been a glut of arm injuries resulting in Tommy John surgery? Why have there been so many muscle pulls and strains? Is there a problem in the offseason training program? Are players encouraged or discouraged to report aches and pains?

Do the pitchers throw too much or not enough? Is nutrition an issue? Do the players stretch enough? Is there too much weight lifting during the season?

There’s not a constant with each injury, but something isn’t right and it must change. Teams like to say, “next man up,’’ but for the Mets it seems to be “who’s the next to go down?’’ Yes, injuries are part of the game, but for the Mets it seems to be all nine innings.

What should also be noted is playoff caliber teams need to overcome injuries and adversity, and that brings us back full circle to Wilpon and Alderson. Will ownership provide the financial resources, and does Alderson have the capabilities to fill the void?

We’re waiting.


Mar 07

Mets Must Earn Right To Have Swagger

About this swagger thing Mets manager Terry Collins wants his team to have, well, it just doesn’t happen. It is something a team grows into having, something the Mets haven’t had since 2006. They lost it with their September collapse in 2007, and haven’t come close to regaining it with the possible exception of every fifth game in 2013 when Matt Harvey pitched.

“You know, for years and years, you used to watch those teams that won all of the time, they had an air about them,’’ Collins said this week. “You used to play the Braves and they’d walk out there and, they weren’t cocky, but they were confident.They weren’t overbearing, they knew how to play, they knew what they had to do to win games.’’

The Braves earned the right to have swagger by getting into the playoffs for a decade straight. Jose Reyes used to dance in the dugout after scoring and thought that was swagger.

It wasn’t.

LeBron James and other NBA players flatter themselves into thinking they have swagger, but most really don’t. If you have to carry yourself in such a way where you want people to get the impression you’re tough, then you really aren’t. If you’re really tough you don’t have to pound your chest as if to say “look at me,’’ which seems the standard in the NBA and NFL these days.

I know what Collins is getting at, but it just doesn’t happen overnight. True swagger isn’t forced. For your opponents to fear and respect you, that must be earned and the Mets aren’t there, yet.

After six straight losing seasons you just don’t snap your fingers and say you have swagger. The Mets need to be tougher, and that includes winning close games; winning within the division; taking the other team’s second baseman out on a double play; and when your hitters get plunked, then plunk one of their batters.

Swagger needs to first come from the top. It’s having a general manager not afraid to roll the dice at the trade deadline. It’s about being decisive on a player who doesn’t have it and not being afraid to cut ties with past disasters like the Mets had in guys like Ike Davis and Jordany Valdespin.

The bottom line is if you’re good you don’t need to tell anybody because they will know. And, nobody knows that about the Mets. Not yet, anyway.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notes.

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?

Nov 22

Could Former Met Davis Land With Nats?

The reports came so close together that they invariably are linked. First, Ike Davis was released by Pittsburgh, and then Met-killer Adam LaRoche bolted the Nationals and signed a two-year, $25-million deal with the White Sox.

So, what does two plus two equal? I can see it adding up to Washington signing the former Met.

DAVIS: Could he go to Washington?

DAVIS: Could he go to Washington?

Davis hit 11 homers with 51 RBI and a surprising .344 on-base percentage last year. There was so much going on with Davis’ head last season, then the trade, that it was almost inevitable he wouldn’t have a breakout year.

Davis made $3.5 million in 2014, so he shouldn’t command a big salary. And, by putting him in a powerful lineup where he doesn’t have to carry the full load – Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth – he could be worth a roll of the dice.

There were a lot of reasons why Davis didn’t make it with the Mets. After a promising start there were injuries and slumps, the latter having its roots in a misguided approach where he didn’t care about strikeouts and tried too much to pull the ball for home runs.

“I’m a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis once told me. “Strikeouts are going to happen.’’

That, and trying to power-pull the ball through a shift were aggravating to watch.

It wasn’t too long that those lunging catches over the dugout rail were forgotten.

If he learned, it wouldn’t be a bad move by the Nationals.