May 25

Mets On The Trade Market

As the Mets’ season spirals out of control, it is getting close to the time when the organization will be taking – if not making – calls to test the trade waters at the deadline. The past two years the Mets had key players – Jose Reyes and David Wright – facing free agency that made them prime talent to be dealt.

Not so this year.

GEE: Could today's starter attract interest?

GEE: Could today’s starter attract interest?

Reyes is on Toronto’s disabled list, and Wright is under a long-term contract wondering when the losing will ever end and privately might be asking himself if made a mistake. The Mets will again be sellers leaving Wright to shake his head thinking another summer is slipping away with no hope for October.

In previous seasons, Jon Niese was a trade topic, but despite his off-season he’s not going anywhere. Left-handed pitchers under long-term contracts are always in demand, so the Mets will hang onto him as long as possible.

From the rotation, Shaun Marcum has had a degree of success, so the Mets might offer him, especially if Zack Wheeler has been promoted. Dillon Gee has shown he can get to the sixth inning. That’s also appealing to a contender.

If he were healthy, Frank Francisco would be available since he lost the closer job to Bobby Parnell, but his elbow could keep him on the disabled list for the remainder of the season if it doesn’t end his career.

A month ago, it would have been logical to assume John Buck could be traded, but his connection with Matt Harvey coupled with Travis d’Arnaud’s broken foot will likely keep him playing in front of sparse crowds at Citi Field, perhaps even next year, too.

Two years ago the Red Sox were interested in Ike Davis, but his trade value is low, if not non-existent. Four more strikeouts Friday night is head-scratching. The only exception would be if a team’s first baseman were injured – nobody’s could be slumping more than Davis – and believed he might benefit from a change of scenery.

Contenders are always searching for power, which normally would preclude Daniel Murphy, but also need role players and capable pinch-hitters. For that matter, Mike Baxter and Marlon Byrd could be had. Also, Jordany Valdespin for any team wishing to add a headache.

Teams talking to the Mets always inquire about their young pitching, but Matt Harvey and Wheeler are untouchables. At one time teams coveted Jenrry Mejia, but misuse contributed to an elbow injury and his value is the hope he heals and able to find the strike zone.

The Mets look helpless, but have viable players who could help a contender. It’s not as if they are helping the Mets.

May 23

Where’s The Accountability With The Mets?

Matt Harvey has it. So does David Wright. Ike Davis tried to show it Wednesday, but only had warning track power.

It is accountability, which is the backbone to admit screwing up. We certainly didn’t see any the past few days from the Knicks, so let’s turn to the Mets. After losing Thursday to the Reds, Harvey was front-and-center about his performance and threw high-heat at himself.

ALDERSON: Who is to blame?

ALDERSON: Who is to blame?

“It was a tough day – whether it was the changeup I couldn’t necessarily throw for a strike when I wanted to – and everything just crept over the middle,’’ Harvey told reporters at Citi Field. “It was one of those days. I didn’t execute. I didn’t do a good job. I’ve got to be a lot better than that. Nine hits is unacceptable for me. Obviously I wasn’t happy giving up any runs. We needed a big win, and I wasn’t able to do that.’’

What a reporter wants is for a player to be stand-up, to answer questions when the heat is on. Davis tried, although sometimes it seemed as if the listener would get frequent miles for following along with the answer.

I’ve never been enamored with Davis’ approach to hitting and explanations of his approach and thought process. This time, I didn’t care for his defensive explanation, although I appreciated the effort.

With runners on the corners in the ninth inning, Brandon Phillips dribbled a ball down the first base line. Davis, who misplayed a similar ball in the seventh that allowed a run to score, seemed confused on how to play the ball.

“I couldn’t get the guy at home,’’ Davis said. “[Shin-Soo] Choo runs really fast. And it was really slow to my backhand side. I was trying to get off the bag to get in the hole because it was a right-handed hitter.

“They usually don’t hit it down the line like that. The second bounce … I thought it bounced foul. In my head, I can’t turn two. I can’t catch it, touch the bag and then throw it to second and get the guy out, because then it’s a tag play and the guy [Choo] scores anyway.

“So, in my head, when I thought I saw it bounce foul, I pulled my glove back, because then we’d be 0-2 on Phillips [if it were foul] and the run wouldn’t score. That was my thought process on that. I still can’t tell if it was foul or fair on replays. But I definitely did think it bounced foul right before I got it. He made the call fair.’’

With no interpreters in the Mets’ clubhouse, let me attempt to boil it down: Davis said he couldn’t get the runner at home or get the 3-6-3 double-play, so he thought his best play was for the ball to go foul.

Only, Davis couldn’t tell if it was fair or foul. Given that, Davis’ mistake was letting the ball go and hoping for the right call. As a hitter, Davis wouldn’t stay at the plate and wait for the call, but run the ball out. So, why didn’t he do the same on defense? Why would he let the ball go on such a close play and hope for the best?

Maybe he wasn’t asked, but even so, he should have known what to do and admit the mistake of giving up on the play. What we got was a roundabout analysis that sounds like an excuse. Just catch the damn ball. If it is fair and a run scores, so be. Letting it go by opened the door for three to come in.

And, let’s cue the violins when he said, “everything that could go wrong for me now is going wrong.’’

Terry Collins is in a rough place, between telling the truth and not throwing his players under the bus. But, when his team is already ten games under .500, I’d like to see him go to the whip a little more. Didn’t he also promise a culture change and emphasis on fundamentals?

Where’s the fundamentals when all but two players in the normal starting lineup are on pace to strike out over 100 times? Where’s the emphasis on getting a good pitch to hit?

Two walks is a stretch in saying Davis is showing come-out-of-it signs. And, I don’t buy Collins saying Davis is not taking his offense to the field. His fielding has been miserable lately, so how could his offense not be a connection?

Collins didn’t get on Jon Niese for letting the first inning get away from him Tuesday. Nobody on and nobody out and he walks three and let three runs in. That’s inexcusable on any level.

Collins wasn’t forceful on getting on Jordany Valdespin last week when he should have been in full rip mode. And, I would have liked for him to get on Shaun Marcum more for not coming to camp in good condition. He did the previous spring with Ruben Tejada.

However, in fairness to Collins, it is hard to come down on a player if he doesn’t get the backing of the front office. Sandy Alderson, who over the weekend said the minor leagues wasn’t imminent for Davis, echoed that Tuesday, saying: “ … at this point we’re going to live with Ike for a little longer.’’

When Alderson came on the job, he promised a change in culture and stressed accountability. Immediately, we knew he was talking about Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and both would be gone the following spring. Alderson also knew Jason Bay‘s lack of production after three years shouldn’t net him a fourth. Bay was a good guy, yes, but wasn’t hitting.

So, why be hesitant with Davis, especially if he’s considered a building block?

Alderson speaks like a lawyer with the way he dances around questions. All, I want to hear is: “I didn’t do a good job of putting together the bullpen,’’ and “I didn’t do a good job putting together the outfield,’’ and, “I should have handled things differently with Johan Santana this spring,’’ and, “If I stocked the farm system better, maybe I’d have more options to replace Davis.’’

And. ownership should show more accountability, if for nothing else, letting the Ponzi scandal distract the Mets and influence their off-season moves the past two years. Not to mention, signing off on contracts given to Perez and Bay.

And, don’t deny it hasn’t.

Be accountable. We deserve that much.

May 20

Daniel Murphy Should Remain Leading Off

It doesn’t matter that Daniel Murphy hit the game-winning homer Sunday afternoon, or that he’s the Mets’ hottest hitter, he should be in the leadoff spot again Monday night at Citi Field.

Because of Murphy’s high on-base percentage, batting him leadoff is something I have advocated, and I’m glad Terry Collins was thinking outside the box enough to make the move.

MURPHY: Current leadoff choice. (MLB)

MURPHY: Current leadoff choice. (MLB)

He gets on base, because he can hit,’’ Collins told ESPN.com. “And, when he’s swinging good, he can get some walks. We’ve got to get some people on ahead of David [Wright]. That’s for sure.’’

Notice how Collins didn’t mention getting on base ahead of Ike Davis, but I guess he couldn’t say that with a straight face.

Murphy is the seventh Met to hit leadoff this young season, and of the previous six, is there one you can note with conviction will be here next year?

Ruben Tejada (12 times), Jordany Valdespin (10), Mike Baxter (eight), Collin Cowgill (seven), Justin Turner (two) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (one) have all appeared without much success at the top or the order. Mets leadoff hitters have hit a major league low .185 with a 29th ranked .255 on-base percentage.

Collins was non-committal on how long he’ll use Murphy leading off, but considering he’s a .300 hitter with a .337 on-base percentage, he doesn’t have better options.

With their leadoff hitters and Davis, the Mets have two slots in the batting order hitting less than .200, and overall they have four positions in their regular lineup hitting below .240.

Collins thought about Murphy hitting first during spring training, but then he had to come up with a center fielder and decide what to do with Tejada. Meanwhile, Murphy, because of his willingness to take a pitch, also seemed suited to hitting second.

“I thought about it in spring training, to be honest, whether or not to lead Murph off,’’ Collins said. “We’ll just see how it goes. It might be something we’ve certainly got to consider as we get deeper into the season, because he can hit.

“He gets on base. If he does that, certainly we’ve got to keep our options open with Murph being the leadoff hitter.’’

Murphy hitting first seems the way to go for now, but slotting him there doesn’t alleviate all of Collins’ concerns. Rick Ankiel can be an answer defensively in center field, but the outfield remains subpar.

The Mets now need a No. 2 hitter, but because Tejada insists on hitting fly balls, he’s not an ideal fit there.

Let’s face it, currently Murphy and Wright are the only hitters in the lineup who are reliable.

May 19

Sacking Terry Collins Now Would Be Unfair

Terry Collins will go to home plate tomorrow with the line-up card and likely get booed. Surely, he’ll hear it when he makes a pitching change.

COLLINS: Give him a fair chance.

COLLINS: Give him a fair chance.

It won’t be fair, but we know few things in baseball aren’t fair.

Collins doesn’t have a contract beyond this season, and his lame duck status rises to the surface when the Mets go into a tailspin, as they did last week when they lost a season-high six straight games, and he later blasted the fans over the Jordany Valdespin episode.

I ripped him over Valdespin with no regrets, but Collins does deserve some points for his clarification the next day. He didn’t retract, which is fine, didn’t say he was misquoted, which is commendable, but said there was room for interpretation.

Sometimes, I don’t get where Collins is coming from when he waffles – for example, I don’t think he gave Collin Cowgill a long enough opportunity in center/leadoff at the start of the season – but for the most part realize he’s dealing with a lack of depth and talent.

Assuming there’s no turnaround, this will be Collins’ third straight losing season, enough to get most managers sacked, but there is a unique scenario in Flushing.

Collins was not hired to take the Mets to the playoffs. He was hired as a caretaker and to change the culture. He is being asked to win a poker hand with five cards worth of mismatched talent. When it comes to discarding cards, Collins might keep David Wright and Matt Harvey, but that’s about it.

Sandy Alderson – also hired as a caretaker – and ownership, which is trying to stabilize its financial ship, have not given Collins a genuine opportunity to win.

Collins has not changed the culture, but he’s not had total support from Alderson in that regard. How else can you explain Valdespin’s presence on the roster? Also, Alderson’s comments yesterday about it not being imminent Ike Davis will be optioned shows a lack of changing the culture.

And, not for a second do I buy there’s no other alternative. The issue isn’t who will play first base for a month in a lost season, but why won’t they make the decision to do something to help Davis?

That falls on Alderson, not Collins.

A way you determine whether a manager is reaching his players is if they’ll still hustle for him and if he loses his clubhouse, and there’s not enough evidence of either. The captain, Wright, plays hard and is the proper example.

However, keeping Valdespin’s toxic attitude and Davis’ dysfunctional bat could gradually eat away at this team’s psyche. Collins’ lame duck status can also do the same.

If the Mets are to be financially whole after this season and show a willingness to spend to add talent, then Collins should get the opportunity to manage that team. He should get the chance to manage with some degree of talent in his dugout.

In looking at the Mets’ 25-man roster, I only see a handful of players I can say with certainty will be back next year: Wright, Harvey, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell. I can see Daniel Murphy back, but also dealt in July. I can see somebody else playing shortstop next year. Everybody else I can see gone.

That indicates no core or organizational depth, and that’s not Collins’ fault. Give Collins time with a full deck and then make a decision. It’s not fair to do so otherwise.

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May 17

Mets Must Option Ike Davis; It’s The Only Way To Save Him

The Mets’ lineup for today’s game in Chicago has Ike Davis batting clean up, just where Terry Collins promised he would. Collins said Davis will hit fourth today and tomorrow, but doesn’t know where he’ll bat – if he bats at all – Sunday against left-hander Travis Wood.

“Through this weekend,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday in St. Louis after Davis went 0-for-5, including four strikeouts. “I told him last week that this week, when we play against right-handed pitchers, he’s going to hit fourth. That’s where he belongs. And that’s where he’s supposed to hit.’’

DAVIS: We've seen this reaction a lot.

DAVIS: We’ve seen this reaction a lot.

That is, of course, if he’s hitting at all, which Davis is not. He takes a 0-for-22 slide and .157 average into today’s game. Davis already has 45 strikeouts and is on pace for 192. Here’s another way to look at things: If his strikeouts were hits, he would be batting .354.

I realize this is a different era, but Davis’ strikeouts are inexcusable. He didn’t seemed concerned about them when I spoke with him earlier this spring, telling me he’s a home run hitter, that he likes to hit home runs and strike outs are part of the package.

That’s nonsense, and in some ways, just as selfish as Jordany Valdespin’s styling after hitting a meaningless home run.

No matter how you slice it, a strike out is a wasted at-bat. So many things can happen if you put the ball in play: you can get a hit; reach on an error; drive in a run; or simply advance the runner into scoring position.

You don’t do anything when you strike out, and the worst thing about Davis now is that he doesn’t grasp that concept.

Mets hitters average just under ten strikeouts a game, which,means they aren’t putting the ball in play for a third of the game. No wonder they are losing.

Everybody in the normal starting line up but Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy are on pace for over 100 strikeouts, and the double-play combination is on pace for nearly 170, so it’s not like we’re talking that great an improvement.

I don’t know what Collins will do after this weekend, but the Mets need to move Davis, and I don’t mean to seventh in the order.

If the Mets honestly believe Davis is their future first baseman based on the 32 homers he gave them last year, then sending him to the minor leagues is their best option so he can straighten his head and shorten his swing. If the Mets don’t believe he’s their future, then sending him to the minor leagues is their best option because it will give somebody else a chance to play.

Davis said he’s been hitting the ball well during this slide, which is puzzling, and he’s not even in agreement with Collins on what’s the problem. Collins said Davis is missing off-speed and breaking pitches, but Davis says otherwise.

Collins said teams are giving Davis a steady dose of off-speed pitches. Davis said that’s only partially true. He’s missing fastballs early in the count and becomes vulnerable for the off-speed pitches with two strikes.

“It’s not the off-speed that I’m missing,’’ Davis said. “I’m missing the fastballs. When you miss the fastballs, they have pretty good off-speed pitches in the big leagues. `And when you have two strikes, you’ve got to protect [against] the fastball at 97 mph. And then there’s a good off-speed pitch. The bottom line is I need to hit the pitch earlier in the count that’s over the plate, and hit it in fair play.’’

Huh? Did you get all that? If you did you should get frequent flier miles for following him all over the map.

Overall, Davis is missing the off-speed pitch because that’s what he’s getting. There’s not reason why a pitcher would throw him a fastball. Yes, he’s missing them, too, when he gets one.

One scout told me Davis isn’t doing anything right at the plate, that he’s pull happy and doesn’t use the entire field, let alone go to left. He said Davis is in love with the home run, which is killing any chance he has to become a solid hitter.

Is it too late for Davis to live up to the expectations?

Davis can be salvaged, but not on this level. When he gets home he’ll hear the booing just as Jason Bay heard them and the pressure will only intensify.

The Mets must send him to the minor leagues and keep him there until he changes his approach. Minor league results are meaningless; the Mets must see a change in style. Davis must learn to be patient and wait for his pitch. He must eschew the low-and-away breaking stuff; he must stop trying to pull everything.

If his approach improves and he’s making consistent contact, the home runs will come. If he stays on his current approach, he’ll soon be an ex-Met. Josh Statin and Zach Lutz can be brought up, if nothing else, to see what they can give the Mets. As of now, it can’t be any less than what Davis gives  them.

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