Jul 10

Three Mets’ Storylines: Loss Defines First Half

If ever a game was a microcosm of the Mets’ disappointing first half, it was Sunday’s loss to the Nationals.

The Mets were six games behind the Nationals when they were gut-punched after being swept in a three-game series in Washington two weeks ago that left them six games behind.

MATZ: Lone bright spot. (AP)

MATZ: Lone bright spot. (AP)

But, manager  Terry Collins said the homestand leading into the break, four games each against the Cubs and Nationals, and three with Miami, had the potential to turn the momentum and give them a chance to enter the second half with a good feeling.

That looked possible after a stunning four-game sweep of the Cubs and winning two of three against Marlins. But, after losing three of four to the Nationals, including 3-2 today, they are again six back.

“We’re still in the race,” was how Collins described the disappointing end of the first half to reporters. “We were in this situation one year ago. Things looked bleak, but we ended up in the World Series.”

The three key storylines taken today’s game are the Nationals’ continued dominance of the Mets; New York’s continued inability to produce offensively; and, Steven Matz again pitching well after his elbow flare-up.

WASHINGTON’S DOMINANCE: The Mets are a disappointing 4-9 against the Nationals this year, scoring a composite 16 runs in those nine losses. That’s emblematic of a myriad of deficiencies, notably of their all-or-nothing offense.

Assuming the Mets get it together and see another World Series, they will pretty much have to run the table in their remaining six games with Washington.

Washington’s first-half dominance over the Mets is definitely Daniel Murphy-related. He hit a two-run homer Sunday and has seven homers and 21 RBI so far against the Mets. He hit three homers and drove in ten runs over the weekend.

THE OFFENSE: When asked what the Mets had to most improve on in the second half, Collins simply said: “situational hitting.”

Previously, Collins insisted on saying his team was built on power, but history is full of power-laden teams that don’t win. Then again, GM Sandy Alderson – a disciple of the new-wave numbers – constructed this team.

The Mets got two homers from Jose Reyes today – that’s not why they signed him – and are second in the National League (to Washington) with 120 homers. However, far more telling is their .213 average with RISP with 180 strikeouts. They have won only five games when they don’t homer; are 11-34 with they score three runs or less; and, have been shutout eight times.

Complicating matters are they don’t have David Wright for the rest of the season; have been without Lucas Duda since May 21 with no idea of when he’ll be back; and, are without Yoenis Cespedes indefinitely.

MATZ SETTLES DOWN: Since the issue about his bone spur, Matz, who doesn’t have a win since May 25, has given the Mets seven innings in back-to-back starts and before that worked into the sixth against the Cubs.

That’s encouraging news, especially after losing Matt Harvey for the season and Noah Syndergaard’s mysterious “arm fatigue.’’

I believe in babying pitchers’ arms when there is an injury. That’s what the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg, and something the Mets do not believe.

With Matz, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop because it always does with the Mets.

Jul 01

What’s Mets’ Thinking About Wright?

David Wright is back at Citi Field after undergoing neck surgery and said he doesn’t expect to play again this season, but expects to return next year … and be again a viable player.

WRIGHT: What's next? (AP)

WRIGHT: What’s next? (AP)

“I’m going to be out for an extended period of time,” Wright told reporters Friday in his first public comments since undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured disk in his neck. “But I plan on coming back and being the player that I feel like I’m capable of being.”

Dr. Robert Watkins removed the damaged disk and fragments putting pressure on Wright’s spinal cord. Wright said Watkins was adamant about surgery because of fear of permanent damage.

When Wright is able to return next season is unknown. The way he spoke Friday of his concerns of losing his balance or being bumped underscores how this year is out.

Despite his optimism, and considering his recent injury history, nothing can be assumed with Wright. James Loney, who drove in three runs with a homer and double Friday, threw the Mets a lifeline in replacing Lucas Duda. The Mets haven’t been as fortunate with a replacement for Wright.

Wilmer Flores has been serviceable so far, and there is always the hope Jose Reyes will give the Mets an offensive spark, but can he play the position?

It would have been advantageous to see Wright this year as to get a feel for what he can do and what their offseason needs might be. This season will end for the Mets not knowing about Wright’s ability to play third base, or anywhere else, for that matter.

They might be forced to consider signing, or trading for, a third baseman this winter.

Of course, the hope is Wright will return in 2017 and be a productive player.

Jun 26

Mets Not Good Enough To Not Hustle

The Mets are a good team, but let’s be clear, they aren’t so good to where they can get away not hustling. Reports are manager Terry Collins gave Alejandro De Aza “an earful,” as The New York Post so eloquently put it for his inexcusable play Saturday night.

De Aza failed to get down a bunt, which is bad enough but compounded his failure by not hustling, and the play was subsequently turned into a double play in the tenth inning.

DE AZA: Not good enough to skate. (AP)

DE AZA: Not good enough to skate. (AP)

“I’ve seen [De Aza] play, and the one thing he is known for is how hard he plays,” Collins told reporters. “But it goes to show you — everybody gets frustrated when they don’t do the job.”

I don’t want to hear it.

Doing your job is to hustle even when you screw up. Getting frustrated is not a viable reason, but an excuse. Not buying it, and I don’t want to hear anything from De Aza saying he thought the ball was caught.

The bottom line is he wasn’t thinking. Or, maybe he could have been thinking since the Mets are a team built on power his mistake would be erased by the long ball. Could that idea have been planted into De Aza’s head by Collins, who says the Mets are a team built on the home run and we don’t bunt, or steal, or hit-and-run?

What I haven’t heard is whether Collins gave Yoenis Cespedes an earful for not hustling in consecutive games and getting caught on the bases. He won’t because Cespedes is supposedly a big star and big stars in all sports are given a long leash when is comes to not hustling.

On Friday, Cespedes was picked off first when he didn’t dive trying to get back to the bag and twisted his ankle. Last night, he was thrown out at second standing up. Go figure. The FOX announcers suggested Cespedes didn’t slide because of his ankle, which is unbelievably lame on several counts.

First, slide headfirst which is what everybody does these days. Second, if his ankle is so bad he shouldn’t have played. They could have delayed sending Michael Conforto down for a day. Or they could have played Matt Reynolds as they did earlier in the week. Or Kelly Johnson, who cleaned up for De Aza with a pinch-hit homer in the 11th inning.

Players play hurt all the time, but if the pain prevents him from doing his job, perhaps he shouldn’t be in the lineup and spend a couple of weeks on the disabled list on the mend. Cespedes’ sore hip was an explanation for why he didn’t slide earlier this year.

Speculation is De Aza will be gone when Jose Reyes is brought up. That’s a logical assumption. Also logical to conclude is Cespedes will be gone after this season when he opts out. Maybe that went into Collins’ thinking for not airing out his center fielder.

Whatever the reasons for not hustling by either player and Collins presumably letting Cespedes skate, they aren’t good enough.

And, the Mets aren’t good enough to get away with not hustling.

Jun 25

Striking Similarities Between This Year And Last For Mets

The similarities between this year and last are striking and the struggling Mets can only hope the results will be the same, which would be a long jaunt into October. Last year on this date, the Mets were floundering at 37-37 and 3.5 games behind the also struggling Washington Nationals.

CESPEDES: Bad on the bases.  (Getty)

CESPEDES: Bad on the bases. (Getty)

The Mets entered Saturday’s game in Atlanta with a better record (39-33) and closer to the Nationals (three games behind) than last season, yet there is a growing sense of urgency. Things would be a lot worse if the Nationals haven’t lost seven straight games.

Last summer GM Sandy Alderson was under pressure to revive the Mets’ listless offense, which was without David Wright, by making a trade – that turned out to be for Yoenis Cespedes – and bringing up Michael Conforto.

This year, with Wright again on the disabled list, the Mets hope to jumpstart their stagnant offense by bringing back Jose Reyes – which nobody expects will have an impact similar to Cespedes – and bringing up Brandon Nimmo and sending down Conforto.

When Conforto came up last year, he made an immediate positive impression, which didn’t go away until May of this year. Manager Terry Collins said when he saw Conforto had a “deer in the headlights” look Friday night, he knew it was time to make a move. The numbers screamed the same with an average of .107 over his last 25 games.

“I think in talking with the coaching staff and the manager, we just felt that, look, this is counterproductive and what we need to do is get him to Las Vegas, get his swing back, and then hopefully get him back here within a relatively short period of time,” Alderson told reporters.

What does that mean?

As much as I want to see what Nimmo can do, I don’t like the idea of him going back down right away, because we all know he’s not here to ride the bench. I’m also not crazy about the Mets’ thinking as to Nimmo’s future. He played center at Vegas, and although Cespedes is a Gold Glove Award winning left field, Nimmo will play left and Cespedes will stay in center.

Nimmo, after traveling most of the night – which only reinforces the notion the Mets need their Triple-A team to be closer – was on the bench tonight and is expected to start Sunday.

Speaking of playing out of position, Reyes is expected to play third and possibly some center, where he’s never played before on this level. At one time Reyes was a prolific base stealer who was stellar at shortstop. Those days are gone.

“Do we expect him to win the National League battle title this year the way he did in 2011? No,” Alderson said. “Has he lost a step maybe? Is he the premier shortstop that he once was? It doesn’t really matter – he’s not going to play shortstop. So we’ve taken all of those things into account. We think he can help us. You know, from a motivational standpoint, I don’t think we would be able to find a player who is more determined, more highly motivated to perform than Jose is today.”

The motivation comes in Reyes’ desire to save his career after a domestic violence incident that landed him a 50-game suspension.

“He understands the mistake he made and has taken responsibility for it,” Alderson said. “But at the same time, he doesn’t deserve to be ostracized.”

While Reyes isn’t the same player he once was, it’s a safe bet he’s still better on the bases than Cespedes, who was picked off first Friday night without diving back which resulted in a twisted ankle. And Saturday he dogged it and was thrown out at second going in standing up.

Both were mind cramps, which is also similar to 2015. However, if Cespedes gets the benefit of doubt and was injured and couldn’t slide, he shouldn’t have been in the lineup.

That’s on Collins and Alderson.

 

Jun 24

Mets Fans Must Remember He’s Not Reyes Of Old

By game time Saturday, expect the Mets to have re-signed Jose Reyes, who was placed on outright release waivers by the Rockies on Thursday. Some team could sign Reyes before the Saturday’s 1 p.m., deadline, but doing so would put it on the hook for the $39 million owed him. We can safely assume the Mets wouldn’t be that team.

REYES: On verge of coming back. (AP)

REYES: On verge of coming back. (AP)

The Mets plan to use Reyes at third and possibly give him some time in the outfield, manager Terry Collins told reporters in Atlanta.

“We took Matt Reynolds and put him out there with no experience at all,” Collins said of using Reynolds in the outfield on Wednesday. “This guy is as good an athlete as certainly Matt is. He’s got the arm. He’s got the foot speed for it. These are just things we’re tossing around.”

The Mets will likely use Reyes in the leadoff role and drop Curtis Granderson to the middle of the order where he’d hit back-to-back with Yoenis Cespedes. The idea is to put speed at the top of the order, although Reyes isn’t the base stealer he used to be.

Of course, he would back up Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop when he needs a day off. Of course, before Reyes plays anywhere, he might go to Triple-A Las Vegas since he hasn’t played in a game since June 12.

In speaking about Reyes, Collins spoke in the past tense.

“He was a great player,” Collins said. “I haven’t seen him in recent years, but he did a lot of things. He was a good hitter. He could fly. He’s got a great arm. He played very good shortstop. He brought a lot to the party.

“One of the things that probably caught my imagination was his joy of playing in New York. He loved it. That’s why he moved there. He loved being there. He loved playing in New York. It’s a tough place, because you’re going to have some bad times and some bad days. …  In my time around him, he was a joy to be around. I just hope if it works out that he’s that same guy.”

Well, he’s not, and that’s something Mets’ fans should understand. In his prime, Reyes was a batting champion and a prolific base stealer. He’s not that player any more, but he hasn’t lost all his skills. He can still fill a void and help a team like the Mets who are in need of an of an offensive jumpstart.

Reyes can help, but we should be guarded in our thinking of how much.