Oct 16

Mets’ GM Search Hitting On No Cyclinders

Fred and Jeff Wilpon have promised autonomy in the past to GM candidates in the past, but it never materialized. They are saying they are offering it this time, but aren’t close to making a decision on a new hire and their dismal season ended just under three weeks ago.

Several reported candidates have even refused interviews because they don’t believe the hype coming out of Queens.

The whole process is dysfunctional. How so? The trio who shared the GM position last year after Sandy Alderson left – John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi – aren’t candidates, but are in the interview process.

I still haven’t figured out how that works.

Jeff Wilpon gummed up the process even further by saying he wants to retain manager Mickey Callaway. Would any candidate who really wants the job be willing to go against his new boss?

Not likely.

Ricciardi and Minaya are suggesting candidates to the Wilpons, but would they really endorse somebody who will want to get rid of them?

Not likely, on that one, too.

The gap between two candidates, 35-year-old Tampa Bay senior VP of baseball operations Chaim Bloom and Milwaukee’s 66-year-old advisor Doug Melvin, is wider than the 31 years that separate them.

What candidates are going to be attracted by the Mets saying they don’t want to spend in the free-agent market, have no pieces to trade, and are seemingly ambivalent in analytics?

Not many, to be sure.

It was a long summer and figures to be a long winter.

Jun 26

Alderson Leaves Mets As Cancer Returns

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is taking a leave of absence to receive continued treatment on his cancer. Alderson has been receiving chemotherapy since his cancer returned since the end of April.

Alderson, 70, was initially diagnosed with cancer in September of 2015 shortly before the Mets made their improbable run to the World Series.

ALDERSON: Leaves Mets, maybe for good. (AP)

ALDERSON: Leaves Mets, maybe for good. (AP)

Alderson, speaking with Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon at his side prior to tonight’s game at Citi Field, said he will forfeit all his decision-making responsibilities to his staff of John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi, all decisions – the trade deadline is July 31 – will go through Wilpon.

“I’m just really concerned for Sandy’s health,” Wilpon said, “and that he’s back with his family, and doing everything he can to make sure he weathers this storm the best he can.”

Wilpon did not comment of the Mets’ new chain-of-command or Alderson’s future, but the general manager hinted he might not return.

“If I were to look at it on the merits, I’m not sure coming back is warranted,’’ Alderson said, but wouldn’t define the term `merits.’ Although, reaching the 2015 World Series was the pinnacle.

Alderson’s record with the Mets is 582-628, including 31-45 this season. His marquee decisions were trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler; buying out Jason Bay, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo; signing David Wright to an eight-year, $138-million contract; trading Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud; trading for Yoenis Cespedes, then extending him to a four-year, $110-million contract; firing manager Terry Collins, and finally giving up on Matt Harvey and trading him to the Reds this year.

Alderson has also been reluctant to spend lavishly in the free-agent market and unable to build up the farm system. Alderson also assumed responsibility for the Mets’ miserable season.

“I feel badly that we’ve had the season that we have had to date,” Alderson said. “I feel personally responsible for the results that we’ve had. At the same time, I have confidence in our manager, our coaching staff, our players, that this will change. John, Omar [and] J.P., I’m sure, will take a hard look at where we are, maybe take a fresh look at where we are. And I have every confidence that they will serve the franchise well over the next few months through the end of the season.

“I’m really disappointed with where we are and disappointed to have left Mets fans in this situation. I’ve said many times, I really do this to make other people happy. When you’re not making people happy, it’s difficult.

“None of us writes his or her script. You deal with circumstances as they arise. I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had here, all the opportunities I’ve had in the game, and for whatever opportunities may arise in the future. This isn’t Disney World. We have to deal with life as it presents itself, and I’m OK with that.’’

Sep 28

Bravo For Collins Not Quitting

Several days ago I wrote Terry Collins shouldn’t make things easier for owner Fred Wilpon and GM Sandy Alderson, and if the Mets wanted him out they should be put in the awkward position of having to defend the decision to fire the longest-tenured and second-winningest manager in franchise history.

COLLINS: Treated shamefully. (AP)

COLLINS: Treated shamefully. (AP)

Yesterday, prior to the last game of the season at Citi Field, Collins did the right thing and said he has no intention of resigning.

“I said it a couple years ago, I didn’t know how long I wanted to manage, what could be my last year – I never said anything that I was going to retire,’’ Collins told reporters. “I always wanted to work until I was 70. That’s two more years … I can put something to rest: I’m not going to go home and go fishing. OK. Whatever anybody thinks about if I’m going to be here or not, I can’t answer that. But I’m going to be doing something.

“I’m going to be somewhere. If after we have discussions, if it feels I shouldn’t be here, then I won’t be. … We’ve created something here that’s pretty good. That’s my take. I haven’t talked to anybody about it so we’ll go from there.’’

Reportedly, the Mets are considering six candidates to replace Collins, but none with his resume.

There are also published reports pitching coach Dan Warthen is also on the way out. Of the five young arms that were to make up the core of the rotation, only Jacob deGrom hasn’t missed a start this season. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey spent considerable time on the disabled list, and Alderson must accept responsibility by rushing Harvey on the Opening Day roster two months before he was ready and by letting Syndergaard pitch without the MRI.

None of the five, which includes Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, have made a complete cycle through the rotation. Speaking of which 12 different pitchers started for the Mets this season, and that is more than partial explanation for the high number of walks.

Syndergaard and Alderson, and not Warthen or Collins, bear responsibility for bulking up last offseason. When Alderson took over prior to the 2011 season, he and Jeff Wilpon promised every aspect of the Mets’ training and medical staff would be evaluated.

That also applies to Yoenis Cespedes’ bulking up regime last winter. One would think a general manager to issues a $110-million contract to a player with an injury history would oversee the offseason conditioning program.

I have had issues with how Collins juggles his bullpen and batting order (149 different orders), but shouldn’t Alderson assume the lion’s share of the responsibility because he built this team then stripped it down of his veteran talent?

Collins has been undercut by Alderson at every turn. He said he wants to continue and believes he’s earned a considerable amount of respect throughout baseball.

Too bad he’s not getting any from his own team.

Sep 12

Backman Out; Was Never Going To Get Chance

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Wally Backman, the one time, popular pepper pot second baseman of the 1986 champion Mets, is out as Triple-A Las Vegas’ manager.

Just like that, he’s out.

Alderson said Backman left on his own, but does anybody really believe that?

BACKMAN: Inevitable happens. (MLB.com)

BACKMAN: Inevitable happens. (MLB.com)

“Wally has decided to move on,” Alderson told The New York Post. “He’s got other opportunities, presumably including possible major league coaching or managing.”

That’s nonsense. The minor league season just ended and the major league season is still going on. There are no current openings. If Backman had another job lined up, he would have said so.

When somebody desperately wants to manage in the major leagues, he doesn’t resign from a Triple-A job without something lined up. Instead, he just posted a mild tweet saying he resigned and thanked Mets’ fans for their support. He posted nothing about Alderson.

Reportedly, Backman was on the verge of being named bench coach for the 2012 season, but something happened at the last minute and the job went to Tim Teufel.

In 2004, Backman was hired to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks but was fired four days later after The New York Times reported he had been arrested twice and was under financial duress.

Amazingly, the Diamondbacks failed to do a background check.

Baseball is noted for giving second chances, but Backman has never gotten another opportunity to manage on the major league level. Instead, he found sanctuary with the Mets, the team he energized in 1986.

SNY analyst Keith Hernandez called Backman, “a dear friend and a great teammate.”

Backman managed Las Vegas for five seasons and guided them to a 70-74 record this year. Although Las Vegas had three winning seasons prior to this year, Backman never was enamored by Alderson, who was very complimentary in The Post.

“I thought he did a fine job for us,” Alderson said. “We had many players come through Las Vegas and graduate to the major league level and establish themselves in New York.

“He was part of that development process. In addition, other than this year, the teams were very competitive and successful on a won-loss basis. He did a good job for us.”

So, what was the problem?

Backman has a reputation as a loose cannon that irritated the button-down Alderson. There always seemed to be friction between them, and Alderson has a reputation for holding a grudge.

There are reports of Backman defying Alderson by not batting Brandon Nimmo leadoff and – heaven forbid – or starting Michael Conforto against left-handed pitchers.

On the major league level, Terry Collins said he would, but never followed through on hitting Conforto against lefties. Backman was also critical of how Conforto was used by the Mets. Come to think of it, who hasn’t been critical of the way the Mets are using Conforto.

The Mets’ current outfield situation, in large part made by their eagerness to placate Yoenis Cespedes, is currently a mess. There are no plans for what to do with Conforto – whom Collins said in April was destined to be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the next decade – and Nimmo.

There is actually a chance they won’t have either Cespedes or Jay Bruce in 2017.

Collins was hired to replace Jerry Manuel in 2011 and had four losing seasons. There were opportunities to hire Backman then, but Collins survived, getting the benefit of the doubt by numerous injuries and ownership’s financial problems.

The thinking was the Mets couldn’t fire Collins because he hadn’t been given a representative team. It wouldn’t be fair. However, everything fell into place and the Mets reached the World Series in 2015. And, with the Mets serious wild-card contenders this year, Collins’ job seems secure.

Part of the success of last year was because of the performances of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud, players who did well under Backman.

The Mets could have promoted Backman to bench coach after last year to replace Bob Geren, who left for the Dodgers. However, when the job went to Dick Scott, it became clear there was no place for him on the major league level despite Jeff Wilpon’s initial gesture of support when they hired him.

With the friction between Backman and the Mets this year, it was only a matter of time before today happened. Do you still don’t think there isn’t animosity between Backman and the Mets? On SNY during the game, Backman wasn’t mentioned until the seventh inning of a blowout, and ended its Baseball Tonight broadcast with basically a throw-away line. It was the last item, but should have been the first.

Don’t think the Mets didn’t have anything to do with that? It sure looks like the Mets wanted to bury this. Makes you wonder why they didn’t wait until 3 in morning Eastern time – the Mets were on the West Coast at the time – like they did when they axed Willie Randolph.

The bottom line is the Mets didn’t want Backman. That’s too bad, and I hope some team takes a chance on him.

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Aug 29

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Makes Statement

It is hard to say what was the more deafening sound, the Citi Field crowd after Yoenis Cespedes’ game-winning homer or the cash register in Jeff Wilpon’s mind ringing up what the Mets might have to pay to bring him back next summer and beyond.

Cespedes has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out after this season. The contract calls for him to make $27.5 million this year and $25 million in each of the next two seasons.

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

Cespedes said he’d like to stay with the Mets, but stopped short of saying he will come back. If stands to reason that the better Cespedes performs – he had three hits, including his 27th homer in the 10th inning to beat Miami, 2-1 – the greater his leverage.

To bring Cespedes back, they’ll have to increase both dollars and years. It’s easy to say, “well, just give him the money,’’ after what he did Monday, but the Mets will then have to make a decision on Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, and what to do with Michael Conforto.

Bruce has done little since coming over from the Reds. They could buy out Granderson. And, in April, Conforto was penciled in to be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the next decade.

However, none of them have what Cespedes does, which is the ability to jumpstart and carry a team with one swing. The Mets have had only a handful of players that no matter, they force you to watch and not look away when they come to the plate. Dave Kingman was one, then Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza. Finally, there is Cespedes, who carried the Mets last season into October, and has been doing it again since coming off the disabled list.

“He’s that kind of player,” manager Terry Collins said. “You expect to see big things from him each and every time he comes up. People pay to see him. They want to see what he can do.”

Cespedes can be infuriating, such as not running out a pop-up that fell for a hit in the first. Against Jose Fernandez, you knew runs would be at a premium and not hustling into scoring position could have bitten them in the end.

Even with his tight right quad, he should have been on second. However, that gets filed away when he takes control of a game as he did facing off against Nick Wittgren with two outs in the tenth.

“In big moments I really try to focus and deliver,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I know they were pitching me away, but I was looking for something in.”

Cespedes’ game-winning drive was clearly the top storyline of the night. Jose Reyes stealing a run in the eighth and the pitching from Rafael Montero and the bullpen were the other two.

A REYES RUN: When the Mets signed Reyes at the end of June, they sold the fan base on the premise he would bring energy and speed to their station-to-station offense. What they had in mind was the eighth inning.

Down by a run, Reyes lead off the eighth with a line double into the right field corner. When it appeared Alejandro De Aza failed to advance him on a fly to left, Reyes tagged and moved to third, then scored on a head-first slide following A.J. Ramos’ wild pitch.

Reyes appeared to be hurt on the play when Ramos fell on the Met infielder’s head and left shoulder. Reyes remained in the game, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.

MONTERO FILLS BILL: Montero made the spot start because the Mets believed normally scheduled starter Jacob deGrom – who gave up a combined 13 runs in his last two starts – was fatigued. Montero, brought up from Double-A Binghamton, gave up only two hits in five scoreless innings, but threw 100 pitches in large part because he walked six.

If Collins wanted to see if Montero could respond to a challenge, his concerns were answered in the positive. Montero was in constant trouble and left the Marlins stranded with RISP in the first, fourth and fifth.

Montero left the bases loaded in the fourth and needed a double play to get out of the fifth. With how he pitched, Montero will stay after the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1.

While Montero was the unexpected, the bullpen was something they counted on.

Addison Reed gave up a run in the eighth on doubles by Ichiro Suzuki and Xavier Scruggs. The Mets also received scoreless innings from Sean Gilmartin (6th inning), Jerry Blevins (7th), Jeurys Familia (9th) and Josh Smoker (10th).

Combined, the bullpen gave up one run on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

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