Jun 07

Mets Must Overhaul Handling Of Injuries

While introducing the Sandy Alderson Era, Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon promised a different mentality emanating from the top. The Mets would be more aggressive in obtaining talent, and perhaps just as importantly, more diligent and proactive in keeping that talent on the field.

The Mets have long been criticized for their handling of injured players, including David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, Pedro Martinez, Ike Davis and the list goes on.

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

Injuries haven’t been diagnosed properly, players played when they should’ve been benched or were rushed back. Players also haven’t been proactive in reporting injuries, which in the case of Matt Harvey, this likely lead to his surgery. Perhaps most bizarre was when Beltran opted to have surgery on his own.

This season has been about injuries and an 11-game winning streak. That streak is why they’re where they are considering they lead the major leagues with 12 players on the disabled list.

Eight players are gone from the Opening Day roster, and three players in the starting lineup in Sunday’s game at Arizona were injury related. There’s not a day when injuries aren’t the focal point. Injuries will dictate if the Mets make the playoffs; what, or if, they’ll make any trades; and possibly, their offseason agenda.

What should also happen is a complete overhaul of their injury protocol. From the trainers, to the team physicians, to the organization’s philosophy in handling and treating injuries, everything should be on the table for review. What they are doing now isn’t working.

Why, over the years, has there been a glut of arm injuries resulting in Tommy John surgery? Why have there been so many muscle pulls and strains? Is there a problem in the offseason training program? Are players encouraged or discouraged to report aches and pains?

Do the pitchers throw too much or not enough? Is nutrition an issue? Do the players stretch enough? Is there too much weight lifting during the season?

There’s not a constant with each injury, but something isn’t right and it must change. Teams like to say, “next man up,’’ but for the Mets it seems to be “who’s the next to go down?’’ Yes, injuries are part of the game, but for the Mets it seems to be all nine innings.

What should also be noted is playoff caliber teams need to overcome injuries and adversity, and that brings us back full circle to Wilpon and Alderson. Will ownership provide the financial resources, and does Alderson have the capabilities to fill the void?

We’re waiting.

 

May 09

Tejada Makes Most Of Opportunity

Mets manager Terry Collins was rewarded with Saturday night’s decision to go with Ruben Tejada over Wilmer Flores at shortstop. It will be interesting to see how long Collins rides the hot hand after Tejada’s play in the 3-2 victory over Philadelphia.

Last weekend, Collins went with Tejada in consecutive games after a string of Flores’ errors. At the time I wondered if the Mets were greasing the skids for benching Flores full time. Tonight, with Jon Niese, who throws a lot of groundballs on the mound, Collins went with the better glove and the thought returned.

This time, Tejada did something to warrant staying in the lineup with two hits and starting a key double play that literally saved the game for the Mets. What Tejada did was give the Mets – for one game, at least – the type of shortstop play they expected of him when he assumed the job after Jose Reyes’ departure.

Tejada doubled lead to off the fifth and scored on an error, but in the eighth is when he earned his money. The Phillies loaded the bases with one out when Carlos Ruiz ripped a hard grounder Tejada backhanded to start an inning-ending and game-saving 6-4-3 double play.

“[Ruiz] hit the ball very hard,’’ Tejada said. “We had to, no matter what, had to make that play.’’

Considering Flores’ defensive problems, one had to think he wouldn’t have made that play and the Phillies could have at least tied the game.

The Mets’ hadn’t been happy with Tejada’s work ethic the past few years and some thought he might not have made the roster coming out of spring training, but that appears to have changed.

“It’s the hardest I’ve seen him work,’’ Collins said. “He’s kept himself ready to play. Here’s a guy who wants to get back in there.’’

Collins plans to start Tejada Sunday at second base and you wonder how much of a chance he will get.

 

Mar 07

Mets Must Earn Right To Have Swagger

About this swagger thing Mets manager Terry Collins wants his team to have, well, it just doesn’t happen. It is something a team grows into having, something the Mets haven’t had since 2006. They lost it with their September collapse in 2007, and haven’t come close to regaining it with the possible exception of every fifth game in 2013 when Matt Harvey pitched.

“You know, for years and years, you used to watch those teams that won all of the time, they had an air about them,’’ Collins said this week. “You used to play the Braves and they’d walk out there and, they weren’t cocky, but they were confident.They weren’t overbearing, they knew how to play, they knew what they had to do to win games.’’

The Braves earned the right to have swagger by getting into the playoffs for a decade straight. Jose Reyes used to dance in the dugout after scoring and thought that was swagger.

It wasn’t.

LeBron James and other NBA players flatter themselves into thinking they have swagger, but most really don’t. If you have to carry yourself in such a way where you want people to get the impression you’re tough, then you really aren’t. If you’re really tough you don’t have to pound your chest as if to say “look at me,’’ which seems the standard in the NBA and NFL these days.

I know what Collins is getting at, but it just doesn’t happen overnight. True swagger isn’t forced. For your opponents to fear and respect you, that must be earned and the Mets aren’t there, yet.

After six straight losing seasons you just don’t snap your fingers and say you have swagger. The Mets need to be tougher, and that includes winning close games; winning within the division; taking the other team’s second baseman out on a double play; and when your hitters get plunked, then plunk one of their batters.

Swagger needs to first come from the top. It’s having a general manager not afraid to roll the dice at the trade deadline. It’s about being decisive on a player who doesn’t have it and not being afraid to cut ties with past disasters like the Mets had in guys like Ike Davis and Jordany Valdespin.

The bottom line is if you’re good you don’t need to tell anybody because they will know. And, nobody knows that about the Mets. Not yet, anyway.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notes.

Mar 01

Further Proof Tejada Doesn’t Get It

My guess is this will be Ruben Tejada’s last season with the Mets. That is, if he lasts that long. Manager Terry Collins has called into question Tejada’s work ethic in the past, and now players are doing so.

Former teammate Jose Reyes, whose own attitude has been doubted, said Tejada failed in his opportunity to seize the Mets’ shortstop job.

Once off-season workout buddies, Tejada’s response to reporters of Reyes was: “I don’t really pay attention to too much. If I try to pay attention to everybody, it would make me crazy. I try to do my best and come here every day to work hard.’’

Tejada’s interpretation of working hard differs from that of Collins.

Collins has no problem with Reyes calling out Tejada, telling Newsday: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with one of your peers challenging you once in a while. … Jose Reyes is a guy who gets ready to play. I think the world of Jose Reyes. Apparently, he may know something I don’t. … They were good buddies when they were here and I think Jose might know some things that I don’t know.’’

Maybe so, but I have the feeling Collins knows all he needs to know about Tejada – and the impression isn’t good.

Feb 24

Collins Has Reason For Saying Tejada In The Mix

After hearing most of the offseason how Wilmer Flores would be the Opening Day shortstop, even before the first full squad workout, manager Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada would compete for the job.

This isn’t about waffling, because what else could Collins say? He certainly can’t slam the door on Tejada this early.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie: “I’m not going to say that Wilmer Flores won’t be the shortstop. I’m not saying that. … All I’m saying is I’m giving this other guy a chance because I know two years ago I had some coaches on this staff, who are still here, that thought this guy was going to be an All-Star, especially offensively.’’

True enough.

In 2012, the year after Jose Reyes left, Tejada hit .289 in 114 games. The following season, Tejada didn’t report in good shape and labored at the plate and in the field hitting .202 with a .250 on-base percentage and committed eight errors in 55 games.

The Mets committed to the unproven Flores in large part to deflect from their failure to land a shortstop in the free agent or trade markets. Based on how Tejada played the last two years, they couldn’t give him the job.

Even so, the Mets could need Tejada this year, especially if Flores doesn’t pan out. And, if Flores does prove to be a keeper and the Mets want to move Tejada, they can’t have him as a disgruntled trade chip.

Collins said Tejada is in the mix because as a manager he must keep his players enthused and feeling part of the team.