Apr 05

The Only Statement Today Is An Old One, Jacob deGrom Is Special

As always, it was great to see Jacob deGrom beat the Nationals today, 8-2, but let’s not get carried away, the Mets didn’t make any great statement other than to say they are off to a great start.

Nobody expected the Mets to get off to a 5-1 start, so let’s just enjoy it while we can. Let’s just see where the Mets are at the end of April or after 50 games before making any proclamations about making any statements or sending any messages.

There’s no reason not to be excited, but let’s keep things in perspective. After all, that’s what they are doing in that clubhouse.

DeGrom Defines Being an Ace: Despite hitting three homers, the game’s turning point came in the sixth after back-to-back walks loaded the bases for the Nationals with no outs.

The Mets were clinging to a 4-2 lead with the Nationals’ 4-5-6 hitters coming up. DeGrom got Ryan Zimmerman on a shallow pop to right, got Howie Kendrick on a liner to shortstop and struck out Trea Turner looking on three pitches.

Manager Mickey Callaway already knew deGrom was good, that inning showed he was special.

“Obviously his stuff is really good to bail him out when times start getting tough,’’ Callaway said. “But he never backs down.’’

DeGrom had trouble gripping the ball in the 40-degree temperatures, but composed himself to turn around the game.

“I slowed it down and was able to locate,’’ said deGrom, who now has seven straight quality starts at Nationals Park.

Outfield does damage: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce all homered, with the latter’s a grand slam in the seventh.

After deGrom escaped the sixth, Brandon Nimmo pinch-hit for him and doubled. Conforto, who was activated from the DL before the game, and Cespedes walked to load the bases. Then Bruce unloaded for the slam.

If Nimmo continues to hit, Callaway has to find a spot for him in the lineup.

Mar 29

Syndergaard, Small Ball Offense Get Season Off To Good Start

New Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway has to know they all won’t be this fun – or this easy. Everything fell into place for the Mets this afternoon in a 9-4 victory over St. Louis, just the way it should be on Opening Day.

“It feels great,’’ Callaway said. “What a ballpark. All of us, the coaches, were sitting there going, man, this is something special. This is a different place than most.’’

SYNDERGAARD: Ten strikeouts in opener. (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Ten strikeouts. (SNY)

A day that began with the sad news of the death of franchise icon Rusty Staub began with everything breaking right for the Mets, who lost their first eight Opening Days, but have gone 37-12 on the season’s first game since.

At 37-20 (.649) they have the highest Opening Day winning percentage in the Major Leagues. So much went right for the Mets today, beginning with Noah Syndergaard, who struck out ten and didn’t strike out a hitter for the seventh time in his career, second only to Tom Seaver in club history.

Despite the numbers, Syndergaard wasn’t happy with giving up four runs on six hits in four innings.

“I thought it was a great team win. A lot of fun,’’ Syndergaard said. “Kind of kicking myself in the butt for allowing that (Jose) Martinez guy to get a little too comfortable, but that won’t happen again. … I didn’t have command. In the last game (of) the spring I was comfortable, so I don’t know what happened.”

Syndergaard had thrown a manageable 52 pitches entering the fifth inning, but finished with 85, which is too many for a starter who wants to pitch deep into games.

Twice the Mets gave Syndergaard a lead he gave up, something else he vowed to improve on.

Complementing Syndergaard was an offense that proved power isn’t the only way to win.

“I just wanted to make sure the guys were in a good position to succeed,’’ Callaway said of his batting order featuring Syndergaard batting eighth, Amed Rosario ninth, Brandon Nimmo leading off and Yoenis Cespedes second. “We wanted to just make sure that we thought everything out when we set that lineup. We’ll try and do that every single time.’’

Callaway’s thinking was to stack the Mets’ speed – Rosario and Nimmo – in front of Cespedes.

“It made sense,’’ Callaway said. “It’s not as much about the pitcher as it is who’s hitting at the top of our lineup, and who’s going to hit ninth for us. It’s not going to be something that happens every game.’’

Rosario responded with two hits, including a two-run single and Nimmo reached base four times on two walks and two hits.

“It was a blast,’’ Nimmo said. “I was anxious to get into this game. Whatever they give you, take it. I think that’s the mentality of this team right now.’’

Mets’ hitters struck out eight times, but more importantly, drew nine walks. They also went 5-for-15 with RISP and drove in six runs with two outs.

Coming through were Cespedes (three RBI on two singles); Jay Bruce (RBI single), Kevin Plawecki (two hits and an RBI) and Adrian Gonzalez (two hits and two walks).

“I put our lineup against anyone,’’ said Bruce spouting Opening Day confidence. “We have veteran guys. We have young guys with so much talent.’’

And, today it panned out.

Feb 27

Is Syndergaard Flaunting His Thordom?

We’re a week into spring training and already the Mets have a long list of nagging injuries. There’s no reason to be immediately concerned because it’s early in camp.

However, something I find more concerning is Noah Syndergaard topping 100 mph. in 11 of 22 pitches. Then he gave a shirtless interview. Flaunting his Thordom?

SYNDERGAARD: Radar gun waves red flag. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Radar gun waves flag. (AP)

Manager Mickey Callawaywhose resume highlights pitching – already cautioned Syndergaard about overthrowing and doing too much too soon.

We already know Syndergaard can throw 100 mph. And, we already know Syndergaard likes to do this his way, evidenced by him bulking up last winter and then tearing his lat muscle trying to blow away Bryce Harper.

“My heart might have been beating a little fast when I saw 100, 101,’’ Callaway told reporters. “But I look more at the delivery and if he’s trying to overthrow. He wasn’t doing any of that.’’

But, Syndergaard has to overthrow just once to re-injure himself.

It’s not unreasonable to wonder if Syndergaard didn’t learn from last season, and like Matt Harvey seems to be caught up in his comic book superhero persona.

I don’t want to get overwhelmed by negative thoughts this early in camp, but Mets’ history tells me Callaway would be better served by keeping a close eye on Syndergaard.

Also, concerning is Jacob deGrom, who is bothered with stiffness in his lower back. DeGrom threw today, but the Mets haven’t scheduled his next start. Callaway said today he’s not sure deGrom will be strong enough to be the Opening Day starter. We’ll know more in a week or so.

You had to figure Yoenis Cespedes’ name would pop up sooner or later on the Mets’ spring training injury list. I didn’t expect it would happen this soon.

Cespedes, who admitted to not throwing over the winter, has a sore right shoulder and is listed day-to-day.

“It gets like this because I spent the whole offseason without throwing a ball,’’ Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I am used to that so there’s no reason to be concerned.’’

It’s not unusual for a player who hasn’t thrown to come down with a sore shoulder early in camp. However, it is unusual for a player not to throw at all in the offseason.

The most serious injury is Dominic Smith’s strained right quad – an injury usually associated with Cespedes – but he’s not expected to even make the Opening Day roster.

Other injuries are Juan Lagares, who is day-to-day with a strained left hamstring, and Jay Bruce has plantar fasciitis.

The only injury that could be alarming is deGrom’s simply because it is a back and he’s their best pitcher.

However, if the Mets proceed cautiously, it’s early enough in camp for them to overcome.

 

Jan 19

Why The Mets Won’t Deal Nimmo

Sure, the Mets like Brandon Nimmo and don’t want to trade him. It’s understandable the Mets would rather sign a free agent than give up their young talent.

However, there’s more than just Nimmo’s upside that kept him a Met and prevented Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison from coming to New York. And, the reasons are something GM Sandy Alderson isn’t telling us.

NIMMO:  Why the Mets want him.  (Getty)

NIMMO: Why the Mets want him. (Getty)

The Mets know Nimmo can hit major league pitching on a limited basis – he hit .260 with a .379 on-base percentage last year through 69 games – and is worthy of a fulltime gamble.

If the Mets were truly a contender this season, it would have been worth the roll of the dice to trade him for McCutchen. That Alderson didn’t pull the trigger on that trade tells us the Mets aren’t ready for primetime.

Rejecting McCutchen also tells us the Mets wouldn’t be willing to offer him a multi-year deal while Nimmo is two years away from being pre-arbitration eligible.

There’s a third reason why the Mets want to hang onto Nimmo, and it is the uncertainty with surrounding the health of Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes.

Conforto (shoulder) will miss at least the first month of the season and nobody knows how much time Cespedes (hamstring) will miss at the start of 2018. And even if he does start the season, he missed substantial time over the past two seasons.

The Mets are perilously thin in the outfield with Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares and Nimmo the only immediate healthy bodies that represent any cost certainty.

Jan 16

Why Didn’t Alderson Make A Stronger Play For McCutchen?

A quick show of hands, please: Who has heard of Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds?

Chances are you haven’t until today when the Giants sent to the two prospects to Pittsburgh for Andrew McCuthen. The cash-strapped Pirates will also send money to the Giants to help cover McCutchen’s $14.75 million salary.

“It’s no secret that we were looking to further add run production to our lineup,’’ said Brian Sabean, Giants executive vice president of baseball operations. “Anytime you have the opportunity to bring aboard someone with such a track record, you have to jump on it.’’

Which begs another question, why, if the Mets were reportedly interested in McCutchen, couldn’t GM Sandy Alderson have matched the Giants in the talent sent to Pittsburgh? Why didn’t Alderson “jump” on it?

And, that McCutchen is a free agent after this season is irrelevant because if the Mets chose not to bring him back on a long-term deal, they could at least make get a qualifying offer. And, if McCutchen rejected it, they would receive a compensatory draft pick.

If the Mets are as close to being competitive as Alderson believes they are, then why pass on McCutchen, who is only 31?

Michael Conforto could move from center to right, and Jay Bruce could switch to first base. That would be a fairly formidable lineup if the pitching stays healthy. However, Bruce isn’t enough to make the Mets a wild-card contender. Bruce and McCutchen might be. It is certainly better than Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez.

So, why was Alderson asleep at the switch?

The only thing I can think of is because he didn’t want to spend the money.