Jun 27

Mets Must Give Us Reason To Care

Sometimes listening to Terry Collins makes me want to scream. I know I’ve written that before, but Collins keeps making “I want to throw my shoe at the TV” type of comments. The Mets’ manager said several things over the weekend in preparation for tonight’s game in Washington that were simply puzzling. He means well, but it becoming clearer with each press briefing he can’t think on his feet.

First, after Jacob deGrom‘s start – his tenth straight without a win – Collins said he was looking forward to coming out of the break so he could set up his rotation. Well, what about setting things up now for the next two weeks, which includes seven games in two series against the Nationals. three with the Marlins and four against the Cubs?

COLLINS: Facing toughest stretch of season. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing toughest stretch of season. (AP)

I would begin by skipping Noah Syndergaard tonight in Washington because of his second complaint of soreness in his right elbow. Would I sacrifice a game in Washington to preserve Syndergaard for the second half? Damn straight I would.

After Monday’s butt whiping, the Mets are now four games behind the Nationals – who won’t have Stephen Strasburg for either series – because Washington’s seven-game losing streak kept them in the race. If the Nationals had any killer instinct they could be up by eight games or more with a chance to put away the Mets. Who knows, maybe they were waiting for the Mets to come to town to do it.

Collins told reporters Sunday in Atlanta in preparation for the Nationals series: “The worst-case scenario is: Go to the break no worse than we are sitting right now. Right after the Nats we’ve got the Cubs – arguably the best team in baseball right now. We’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to get the `A’ game going and maintain it. Right after them you’ve got the Marlins, who are playing very, very well right now. And then back come the Nationals again. I think the next 14 days are very, very important to us.”

Good for Collins; he can read a schedule. But, with |these games so important, why send the message of mediocrity? We watched the Mets pull things together and get to the World Series last year. Now their manager is talking about treading water until the break. At least that’s the perception.

Standing pat in the standings for the next two weeks and at the trade deadline aren’t acceptable for a World Series team. I don’t want Collins to panic, but a sense of urgency would be nice. The disadvantage of getting to the World Series is the expectation to go every year. That’s pressure, but also why they play.

We’ll watch Syndergaard tonight with crossed fingers and the hope we won’t get Antonio Bastardo. I don’t trust the bullpen now, with even Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia giving me pause. The offense is beyond awful. No homers, no wins. Manufacturing runs and playing fundamental baseball seem beyond their comprehension. There were more than a few times in June when they didn’t hustle.

As far as their `A’ game, we haven’t seen it since the end of April. Nothing has been reported as to what Collins has said to his team behind closed doors. Evidently he hasn’t read the riot act or we would have heard about it. Somebody always talks.

Yes, there are injuries, but championship caliber teams overcome them. Otherwise, they are just excuses. There were holes in the batting order even before David Wright and Lucas Duda were hurt and Michael Conforto was sent down. Hopefully, there will be more stability when Jose Reyes is activated and Curtis Granderson can hit lower in the order. But, whether Granderson bats first, second, third or fourth, will it really matter if he doesn’t hit?

The remaining two weeks could determine whether Citi Field experiences October. You and I both know the Mets won’t run the table from until the All-Star break, but I want more than 7-7, for which Collins – at least publicly – seems willing to settle.

I want a sense of urgency. I want hustle and heaven forbid, their hitters to manufacture runs. I know Collins cares, but dammit, show some fire. Kick your players in the ass, because they need it. And, that includes Yoenis Cespedes. If your “star” can get away dogging it, it’s a license for everybody else to drop it down a gear.

Playing .500 for the next two weeks or the rest of the summer isn’t acceptable. It’s like going to school hoping for a `C’ grade. It’s average, which is the worst of the best or best of the worst. Being average gives us little reason to care.

Damn, I want to care about this team again.

May 19

Collins Must Share Blame For Wright; DL Should Be Considered

In the 20-plus-years I have written about major league baseball, there are a handful of players I admire and respect as much as David Wright.

Even so, I am still objective as to what I see and it currently isn’t good. Wright was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back, and then returned to go 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts Wednesday.

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

Wright is in persistent discomfort and needs up to two hours to get ready to play. He is not suited to pinch-hit, especially in cold weather, as he did Sunday in Colorado. Wright knows not to push it, but when asked he will play. That’s in his DNA.

Translated: Manager Terry Collins did Wright a disservice when he asked him to pinch-hit. Winning one game in mid-May isn’t as important as risking losing him for the long haul.

I know Collins wants to win, but he was wrong, selfish and shortsighted for asking Wright to pinch-hit. It isn’t the first time Collins pushed the envelope with Wright or other players. Don’t forget his panic move of labeling the eighth game of the season “must win,’’ and pushing Wright, Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia, none of whom should have played that day.

Wright would never finger-point at his manager. The bottom line is Collins should have been smart enough to not put Wright in that position.

“I don’t know,” Wright told Newsday on whether pinch-hitting took him out of Tuesday’s lineup. “Again, it’s probably not the ideal circumstances. But this is the National League, you really don’t have that much leeway especially when you’re playing with a short bench.”

That puts the onus on the manager to pay attention to what he has available.

Wright is batting .221, which is a career-low for this point in the season. He already has 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats, with four homers and eight RBI. He’s on pace to strike out 195 times, hit 17 homers and drive in 33 runs. His on-base percentage of .362 gives us glimpses of him still being a productive player.

“The back thing is just something that I’m going to have to get used to because it’s not changing,” Wright told reporters. “But I feel like I can play at a much higher level than I’m playing at right now.

“I think that there are certainly some things I’m having to make adjustments with as far as preparation, as far as playing schedule, that I’m going to have to get used to. But when I go take the field I expect to play much better than I am right now.”

Is Wright done?

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s worth sticking with him to find out, but that means staying with the plan and not deviating. That’s all on the manager.

Can Wright play Thursday night? That’s up in the air. If his availability is day-to-day and Collins doesn’t know what he has on any given night, he should go on the disabled list.

Go back to the beginning. Get re-examined and concentrate on nothing but getting stronger for the next couple of weeks. And, during this time, management should have a sit-down with Collins and tell him to get with the program and stick with it.

A lot of things must happen for this to work, including the manager being smarter than he has been.

 

Apr 15

Don’t Give Credit For Mets’ Power Surge To Collins’ Rant

Let’s not go overboard giving Mets manager Terry Collins’ post-game outburst Wednesday credit for tonight’s power surge. We all expected the Mets would eventually hit. The Mets entered the game with only two homers, but clubbed four in beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-5, Friday night. They also had a season-high 14 hits.

CONFORTO: Homer gets it going for Mets. (AP)

CONFORTO: Homer gets it going for Mets. (AP)

Collins went off after the Mets’ victory over Miami, going after the supposed critics of his team’s effort, but I can’t recall anybody who criticized their effort. What has come under fire was their lack of hitting, but we all figured Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda would eventually hit.

It’s an oversimplification to think Collins’ rant is baseball’s version of “win one for the Gipper,’’ because most everybody liked this lineup entering the season.

Michael Conforto, Cespedes, Neil Walker and Alejandro De Aza all homered.

Collins said Wednesday’s game was something “we had to have,’’ which two days later is still odd considering it was just the eighth of the season.

Collins took liberties with Jim Henderson, who, coming off surgery, threw 34 pitches the night before. He also pushed it with Jeurys Familia, who despite being ill, pitched for a third straight game to get a five-out save. He also played David Wright in a day game after a night game, something he said before the season he didn’t want to do.

All smacked of panic. Regardless of GM Sandy Alderson backing Collins, the outcome of the season’s eighth game is not essential.

However, give Collins kudos for moving Conforto up to No. 3 in the order. All too often Collins makes a move that works, only to reverse the next game. Here’s hoping Collins stays with Conforto hitting third and playing De Aza, who homered and doubled.

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Apr 13

Collins Runs For Mayor Of Panic City

Less than 24 hours after calling the baseball season a marathon, Mets manager Terry Collins decided to run for mayor of Panic City. Moments after his sluggish Mets beat Miami, 2-0, to snap a four-game losing streak, Collins went off in a press conference, calling the victory “a game we had to have.”

COLLINS: Shows panic signs. (AP)

COLLINS: Shows panic signs. (AP)

When the season is less than ten games old, there’s no such thing as a “must win” game. How can there be when there are 154 games left to be played? On Opening Day, I wrote this season would be Collins’ toughest job of his career because it carried with it the weight of expectations.

He has not dealt with this slow start well.

Collins handled the Mets masterfully last season in guiding them to the World Series through the landmines of a key injury to David Wright, the innings-flap concerning Matt Harvey, and nearly a two-month offensive slump. There were other pitfalls, but Collins wouldn’t let his team step into them.

This afternoon he stepped into one himself. It’s not so much admitting he reads and listens to the media and fans, but in conceding it is getting to him. No manager should ever admit to that, especially on April 13.

“I’m worried about the perception there’s no energy here,” Collins told reporters in response to a question why he considered today’s game so important this early in the season. “That’s completely not true. I’m not deaf. I’m not blind. I hear what people are saying. I’ve been hearing that we’re not prepared, that we’re overconfident and it made me sick to my stomach.

“We’re trying. People better understand we’re out to win. We care. We’re going to get this going. We had to send the message that this team is as dedicated this year as it was last year. I thought it was important for our fan base to stay excited. I thought today was a game we had to win. We need to show people we need business.”

That’s why he played Wright in an afternoon game following a night game; why he rode reliever Jim Henderson on the day after he threw 34 pitches; why he used Jeurys Familia for a five-out save. He said he would have done things differently if the Mets were 5-2 going into the game instead of 2-5.

That’s amazing. It is absurd.

Things haven’t gone for the Mets the way we’ve wanted or expected, but we’re eight games into this season. It’s foolish to think they can’t turn things around. Collins has been around long enough to know a hot week can change the outlook of a team.

He said he didn’t want people to have the perception they weren’t prepared. Instead, after Collins’ melt down the perception is one of panic and that’s far worse.

ON DECK: Game wrap

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Apr 03

Repeating Will Be Harder

Wilmer Flores wasn’t halfway back to the Mets’ dugout after striking out to end the bottom of the 12th inning and last year’s World Series when we already asking the question: Can the Mets return to the Series?

Getting to the World Series is one thing, but getting back there is different, and much harder. Much harder for the simple reason everybody is gunning for you.

SYNDERGAARD: Game two starter. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Game two starter. (Getty)

“The first thing I talked about in spring training is the difference between being the hunter and the hunted,” David Wright told reporters. “We have a bullseye on us now.”

That they do. The Washington Nationals want to wrestle the NL East back from them and the Chicago Cubs – everybody’s sexy pick to get to the World Series – want to avenge being swept in the NLCS.

Last year at this time, the Mets entered the season without having a winning record since 2008. The hope was their young pitching keyed by Matt Harvey‘s return following Tommy John surgery, and Jacob deGrom coming off a Cy Young season, could carry them. And, don’t forget, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz hadn’t even made their major league debuts.

The Mets entered 2015 with questions at catcher, shortstop, Wright’s health at third, left field and in the bullpen.

The Mets got off to a blistering start, but lost Wright in April with a strained hamstring that turned into spinal stenosis and almost four months on the disabled list. The pitching kept the Mets afloat when the hitting collapsed.

The Mets kicked away their early lead, then turned their season around when Michael Conforto was brought up and the team traded for Yoenis Cespedes with a couple of days after a trade for Carlos Gomez fell through which created the enduring image of the season, that being Flores crying at shortstop after hearing he had been traded to Milwaukee.

The season began with .500 as the goal, but the Mets pulled away from Washington, outlasted the Dodgers in five games – winning the deciding game on the road – and sweeping the Cubs to reach their first World Series since 2000 and the fifth in franchise history.

However, Jeurys Familia blew three save opportunities in the World Series and the bats fell quiet and the Royals won in five games.

“Falling short can be a motivator,” deGrom said.

Daniel Murphy left, but the Mets appear to have upgraded their up-the-middle defense with the acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cespedes was brought back and they’ll have Conforto for a full year. They’ll also expect to have Syndergaard and Matz for a full season.

The health of Wright and Travis d’Arnaud are significant issues as is the make-up of the bullpen.

But, we’re not talking about .500 as a primary goal, but winning a World Series.

“Mets fans are hungry,” Wright said. “We’re hungry.”

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