Sep 30

Mets Extend Collins; 2014 Season Has Begun

The New York Mets’ offseason began this afternoon at Citi Field with the expected announcement of Terry Collins’ contract extended for two years plus an option.

General manager Sandy Alderson there were three criteria for the extension:

* That the team hustled for Collins even during the lean times. “The club played hard for Terry and I think that was evident for everyone to see,’’ Alderson said.

* That he overcame a lot in terms of injuries and trades, and the young players generally improved. “He has helped out younger players get better,’’ Alderson said. “He’s a great motivator.’’

* That although the record wasn’t acceptable, the team showed improvement and played .500 over the last 100 games.

Alderson, Collins, COO Jeff Wilpon and the other members of the front office and coaching staff, will fly to Port St. Lucie today and begin organizational meetings to evaluate available free agents and trade options; player evaluations; and determining a budget.

“We have in mind what we can spend,’’ Wilpon said.

Alderson named Matt Harvey’s injury as the greatest disappointment, but also named the regression of Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, and inability to build a solid bullpen.

Both Collins and Alderson cited the club’s losing record at home, with the former saying the club’s offensive approach was a significant factor.

“We can’t lead the National League in strikeouts if we’re not going to hit with power,’’ Collins said. “Our approach with two strikes has to get better.’’

The Mets’ holes include the rotation, where Alderson named Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee as the only givens; first base, which for now has Ike Davis and Lucas Duda as the primary candidates; shortstop, where Tejada struggled, was injured and went on the disabled list, and then after an extended period in the minor leagues, returned and broke his leg; and the adding a significant bat in the outfield.

As Collins, Alderson and Wilpon spoke to the media, the grounds crew was working on the field, which looked in pristine, almost Opening Day, condition.

“I’m honored to be able to continue what we started,’’ Collins said about the future, which included Opening Day 2014. “The nucleus of young talent in our organization really came to the forefront this year. There is no doubt in my mind that we are headed in the right direction. The won-lost record is not what any of us wanted and that’s what we have to change, beginning in 2014.’’

And, 2014, has already begun.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 28

Mets Wrap: Numbers That Add To Another Loss

There are a lot of statistics to define the 2013 New York Mets. One is 40-41, the Mets’ record in games decided by two or fewer runs. The other is 32-24, their record at Citi Field after today’s 10-inning, 4-2 loss to Milwaukee.

It was the Mets’ third straight loss by a 4-2 score after winning five of six on the road. That inconsistency is also emblematic of how the Mets have played this season.

There are two ways to interpret the first statistic. With half their games decided by two runs – they are 28-28 in one-run games – the Mets have been competitive, which is an encouraging sign.

Not so encouraging is they haven’t been good enough to take the next step over the line. The 40 victories mean they’ve played well enough to stay in the game. That they’ve been that competitive is why manager Terry Collins will reportedly be offered a two-year extension.

To be that competitive considering the season-ending losses of Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell; the lengthy injury to David Wright; the horrific lack of production from Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda; a makeshift bullpen and outfield; Jon Niese’s off-year; and the trade of Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

All that and it is a wonder their record isn’t worse.

The 41 losses indicate breakdowns in the bullpen, defensive lapses a failure to hit in the clutch, plus all of the above.

The Mets’ home record? Well, that’s just bad baseball.

Their overall record at home has been abysmal since Citi Field, and the sad thing is this year’s staff might have been the Mets’ best, even without Johan Santana.

When the Mets opened Citi Field, they moved into a cavernous stadium a promised a team build on pitching, speed and defense. Power was a fourth priority, and yet when the Mets’ needs are mentioned it always comes down to adding a power-hitting outfielder.

However, the most telling offensive stat isn’t their 130 homers – only the traded Byrd hit more than 20 – but 1,371 strikeouts. All those strikeouts add up to over 50 games without touching the ball.

Foul balls excluded.

All those strikeouts is yet another statistic that defines this summer, the Mets’ fifth straight losing season and fifth consecutive with a drop in attendance.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 25

Mets’ Collins Can’t Say Goodbye To Summer With Matsuzaka

Terry Collins has been endorsed by this blog several times to come back to manage the New York Mets next season, but only if that is a multi-year contract. Collins should tell the Mets “no thanks,’’ and walk away if the contract offer is for one year or one plus an option. Anything else puts him in lame duck status and that’s not fair.

Collins doesn’t have many “serious’’ choices left season, excluding the naming of his lineup. In that regard, Collins would be absolutely foolish to start Daisuke Matsuzaka as the starter in the season finale Sunday at Citi Field.

NIESE: Want to see him one more time. (AP)

NIESE: Want to see him one more time. (AP)

“I’ll probably go with Daisuke,’’ Collins told reporters in Cincinnati prior to today’s game. “He’s one of those guys who loves to pitch. He could throw 125 pitches in a game and be ready to go three days later without being the worse for wear.’’

I don’t give a damn if he loves to pitch. And, regardless of how many pitches he throws he won’t have another game three days later. Based on his performance for the Mets, he might not get a spring training invite to Port St. Lucie. He should only get one if the Mets are thin on starters, definitely not on merit.

So, why bother starting him? The ball has to go to Jon Niese, and if the reasons aren’t obvious to Collins, allow me the liberty to point them out.

Matsuzaka’s body of work with the Mets has been slightly above that of bad. It is the last day of another loss season, so why would you want to leave the fan base of that as the season’s last memory? Why give them a foul taste?

It is reminiscent of Jerry Manuel’s decision to pitch Oliver Perez in the final game of the 2010 season. Perez had been a cancer, both on the mound and in the clubhouse, that year yet Manuel decided to leave that image. Maybe, and I don’t discount this, he was sticking it to the Mets, whom he knew wouldn’t bring him back.

Maybe he was telling the fans who continually booed him to go to hell. Who knows? We haven’t heard from Manuel since.

In contrast, the Mets are negotiating to bring back Collins, so why, on a day the franchise is honoring Mike Piazza, will he want to leave Matsuzaka as the “good-bye to 2013’’ image?

Just not smart.

The start has to go to Niese, who will be part of the franchise’s future. Don’t chance injury by taxing him, although it will be on short rest. Give him five innings max and turn it over to the relievers who have a chance to make next year’s team: Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, LaTroy Hawkins.

If the Mets had a sense of imagination, they would have had Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard throwing all this time and had them pitch in the season finale, only if for an inning or two. Say good-bye for the summer with a real look at the future.

I know, I know, it never would have happened because it would have meant tinkering with the 40-man roster. That’s a rule that should be modified so a team can showcase it’s minor league talent for one game in September, but only if has been eliminated.

But, it would have been a way of giving their frustrated fan base a glimpse into spring training.

And, one more thing, since David Wright is back, I don’t want to hear anything about resting him for a day this weekend.

If you’ve hung around this summer and you’re buying a ticket for this weekend, you deserve a chance to see him play.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 24

Mets Wrap: Aaron Harang And David Aardsma Show Something For 2014

It was fun to watch the New York Mets play a meaningful September game. Maybe next year they’ll be in one for their own benefit.

Manager Terry Collins said prior to the game the Mets could benefit just by playing a team with something on the line.

HARANG: Pitching for 2014.

HARANG: Pitching for 2014.

“It will be an education for our young players,’’ Collins said of this series with the Cincinnati Reds. “It will be fun to watch. We’ll see how we react. The pressure is on them. We’ll see how our guys measure up.’’

They measured up well in tonight’s 3-2 10-inning loss at Cincinnati, with a couple of nuggets worthy of a look.

The first was Aaron Harang, who gave up two runs in six innings. By definition, that was a quality start, but there was nothing good about the six walks.

However, what Harang demonstrated was an ability to work out of trouble, which is something to look for in a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

Harang should be invited to spring training to compete for a spot in the rotation.

Assuming Matt Harvey won’t be ready for the start of spring training, the Mets have three starters in Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. That leaves Harang competing for the fourth spot with the fifth spot wide open.

Should Harvey be ready, Harang would be competing for the fifth spot. Harvey opted to rehab his elbow and eschew surgery for now. Part of that rehab could be to test the elbow in the Arizona Fall League, as it would enable him to throw at game speed.

The Fall League is advantageous to the Mets in finding out about Harvey. Throwing on flat ground or in the bullpen does not test the elbow as facing hitters. Of course, Harvey won’t pitch in Arizona if he feels any discomfort in his elbow.

Something else to consider as they prepare their offseason moves is reliever David Aardsma, who pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.

The Mets, as in what has been a winter tradition in the past four years, will be attempting to build a bullpen. Aardsma has been effective in stretches this season, and tonight was another example.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 18

Is Tim Lincecum On Mets’ Radar?

What might the New York Mets be wondering as they look into the Giants’ dugout and see Tim Lincecum?

Could they be mulling over the idea of signing him as a free agent this winter? He’ll be pricey, but if the Mets are serious about contending in 2014, they’ll have to pay for pitching.

LINCECUM: Could he be on Mets' radar?

LINCECUM: Could he be on Mets’ radar?

With Matt Harvey opting for rehab over the next two months instead of immediate Tommy John surgery, the Mets have no certainties with their young ace. Surgery is still a possibility, and that would mean he would miss all of next year.

At the time Harvey went on the disabled list and surgery was anticipated, GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets would have to prepare to not have him next season.

Perhaps he didn’t want to reveal his true thoughts in front of Harvey in a press conference, or perhaps he didn’t want to come across as being desperate, but Alderson backed off that sentiment yesterday.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect our offseason planning as much as has been speculated,’’ Alderson said. “The one thing we have is a great deal of starting-pitching depth, some of it untested at the minor league level. But we have a lot of confidence in the quality and quantity of our starting pitching.

“So hopefully Matt is part of that rotation next year. But if he’s not, I don’t foresee us working hard to fill his spot from outside the organization.’’

What Alderson should have said is the Mets have “potential’’ starting-pitching depth.

Harvey, of course, is no given. Jenrry Mejia just underwent elbow surgery. Noah Syndergaard isn’t ready, and there’s nothing imminent with Rafael Montero.

By my count, the Mets will go into spring training with a rotation of Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Tonight’s starter, Aaron Harang, could be invited to spring training and so might Daisuke Matsuzaka. Are you comfortable with those last two options?

They will have to add somebody regardless of what Alderson said and Lincecum could be available. He’s in the final season of a two-year, $40.5-million contract, and the Giants haven’t said anything about bringing him back.

If not the Giants or Mets, somebody will offer Lincecum a contract, and considering what he made this year there won’t be much of a salary cut.

Lincecum was signed to the contract after the 2011 season, in which he went 13-14, but with a 2.74 ERA and having worked 217 innings. The feeling it was due to a lack of run support.

Lincecum was 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA in 2012 and a drop to 186 innings. He has thrown 184 so far this season while going 10-13 with a 4.40 ERA. Both this year and last there were reports his velocity is down. Even so, something had to be there to throw a no-hitter.

There’s some sentiment a change of scenery might benefit Lincecum, who is only 29. The flip side reported in San Francisco is the Giants might sign him for one year plus a team option.

Of course, the Mets might offer the same. They might have to.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos