Jul 18

DeGrom, Mets At Impasse

Jacob deGrom left the ball in the Mets’ court, where it could stay for the next two years. DeGrom, easily the Mets have to offer, said he wants to remain with the team, but with the qualifier if the feeling isn’t mutual, they should trade him.

While this issue has been brewing for weeks, things boiled over at the All-Star Game when deGrom’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said if the Mets weren’t willing to give him an extension they should explore trade options.

“I think we expressed that we’ve enjoyed it here,’’ deGrom said in Washington. “We’d like to stay. It’s up to the Mets. I’ve really enjoyed my time here and enjoyed winning here. I’d like to get back to that.”

DE GROM: Biding his time. (AP)

DE GROM: Biding his time. (AP)

However, the Mets aren’t close to returning to 2015, when deGrom was brilliant in the playoffs, but they lost to Kansas City in five games in the World Series. The Mets lost the wild-card game to San Francisco in 2016.

Perhaps most distressing, but emblematic of the Mets these days, no one from the Mets reached out to him or Van Wagenen. Also emblematic of the Mets is their propensity to delay until they absolutely have to make a decision.

DeGrom doesn’t anticipate negativity from the Mets.

“I think the way we put it was, we, first of all, would like to stay here,’’ deGrom said. “I have a good relationship with the Mets. We’ve had one my whole career here. We were just expressing that we’d like to stay here and be a part of the future here. So, I think the other thing, that was kind of the option. If they don’t see [us together] in the future, get what you can for me. But our main goal would be to stay here.”

DeGrom said he can live with the Mets neither extending him or trading him and letting this play out until he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. He even envisions the Mets being competitive by that time.

“Look at how many guys got hurt this year already,’’ deGrom said. “[If] you’ve got those guys on the field, they come up in a couple of situations, we probably win a few more ballgames.”

Where have I heard that before? And, haven’t we seen the Mets delay until they had to make a decision, and with deGrom that’s in over two years?

Nov 10

Mets Should Go With Smith At First

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Mets’ need for a first baseman and where Dominic Smith fits into their plans. By any numerical system – conventional statistics or analytics – Smith did not have a good debut with the Mets last summer.

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

SMITH: Give him a real chance. (AP)

Smith, the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, exceeded his rookie status in 49 games and 167 at-bats last season. He hit .198 with a .262 on-base percentage and .658 OPS. However, those are just numbers, just like his 49 strikeouts (matching the number of games played) and only 14 walks. However, of his 33 hits, nine were homers.

All this has led to columns about the Mets going after Eric Hosmer or reuniting with Jay Bruce – cue singer: “To dream, the impossible dream.’’ – or maybe Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison or Adam Lind.

Smith will earn the major league minimum of $507,500.

Of all the names mentioned, Washington’s Lind, who earned $500,000 last season, is the one most likely to fit into GM Sandy Alderson’s budget. However, Lind has a lifetime .272 average with 200 homers, including 14 last year, so the Mets shouldn’t be so eager to celebrate – or write any checks.

At 34, Lind is probably looking at his last contract. That he also played in 25 games in the outfield last year could work to the Mets’ advantage. His age means he’ll be more likely to accept a one-year deal.

At 31, Santana, who hit 23 homers with 79 RBI for Cleveland, earned $12 million last year. He’ll be looking for at least a three-year deal. He’s too expensive.

At 30, Morrison, would be a great addition. He hit 38 homers with 85 RBI, but would want significantly more than the $2.5 million he made last year with Tampa Bay. Morrison is reported to be interested in Kansas City as the Royals will lose Hosmer.

As for Bruce, it is reported he wants $90 million over five years, but has a lower estimated landing price of $40 million over three years.

Either way, that’s too rich for Alderson’s blood.

All the names linked to the Mets are predicated on them being as competitive as Alderson believes. If they really are – and I’ve heard of nobody other than Alderson who thinks that way – then go for it.

The Mets won 70 games last year and one NL Scout thinks they’ll be lucky to win 80 in 2017, which won’t do it.

“They have too many holes,’’ the scout said. “Even if all their pitching issues work out for them, they just don’t have enough to contend. They need a second baseman and third baseman, and who knows how Amed Rosario will pan out over a full year? There’s also questions at catcher and first base, plus there are concerns about the health of Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto.’’

With a reported $30 million Alderson has to spend, and a large part of that will go in arbitration cases (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores.

So, where does that leave us with Smith?

I don’t think the Mets will be as good as Alderson thinks, but you already knew that, being the negative SOB that I am. If the Mets were a player away and money wasn’t an issue, I’d say go for it.

But, they aren’t.

The Mets will be lucky to finish .500, so why not go with Smith and Flores? Let’s give Smith at least to the All-Star break to see what he has, or platoon him with Flores.

In what figures to be another losing season, let’s see if they can find a nugget in Smith. It’s a better option than throwing a lot of money at a player who won’t turn things around and will be gone in a couple of years.

Oct 25

Beltran Is Why I Am Rooting For Astros

In games I don’t cover and just watch for fun, I have to take a rooting interest, otherwise why bother? So, it is a no-brainer for me to pull for the Houston Astros, who entered the National League in 1962 with the Mets.

I also worked for the Astros right out of college and still have a lot of friends in Houston. Outside of those links, there are two reasons why I am pulling for the Astros.

BELTRAN: My World Series hook. (AP)

BELTRAN: My World Series hook. (AP)

I understand why but don’t like the Dodgers leaving Curtis Granderson off the World Series roster. We all know how much he brings to a team and clubhouse and how he delivers in the clutch.

Logically, I understand their reasoning. With shortstop Corey Seager now active, Chris Taylor was moved to center field. My argument took a hit when Taylor homered on the game’s first pitch.

Even so, I do have a sentimental bone and love watching Granderson, and this could have been his last chance to play in a World Series.

It would have been sweet if Granderson homered to beat the Yankees in the World Series – at Yankee Stadium, of course.

And, I always liked Justin Turner, who homered again last night. Mickey Callaway said at his press conference that he is going to go out of his way to show the players he cares about them.

Frankly, Turner was run out of town and not appreciated by the Mets. The same applies to Carlos Beltran. This will be Beltran’s last chance to play in a World Series and I can’t help but feel happy for him. Beltran has always been one of my favorite players to cover.

Win or lose, he was always stand-up after games. He always answered questions no matter how he played. He often played hurt, playing with a fractured face from an outfield collision in 2005. Even so, arguably the Mets’ best all-time position player was never truly appreciated by fans of the team, but certainly was in the clubhouse.

I hated how Beltran was treated by the team at the end of his Mets’ tenure when GM Sandy Alderson didn’t appreciate the gravity of Beltran’s knee injury and the player went and had surgery on his own.

My two favorite Beltran plays was a circus catch while running up that ridiculous incline in center field in Houston. And, of course, there was his game-winning homer to beat Philadelphia.

Another thing I’ll always remember was a story I wrote about him recalling his experiences in spring training as a rookie with Kansas City. He spoke about being so lonely to the point that he holed up in his hotel room and cried.

Beltran has come a long way since that troublesome spring in Fort Myers, Fla. He’s gone from lonely rookie to a borderline Hall of Fame career.

I will miss him. Granderson, too.

Feb 13

Today In Mets’ History: Cone Tries Comeback

On this date in 2003, hoping to recapture the glory of his career, David Cone came out of retirement to sign a minor-league contract with the Mets. Cone compiled an 80-48 record from 1987-1992 with the Mets.

CONE: One more time. (AP)

CONE: One more time. (AP)

Cone made the team and went 1-3 with a 6.50 ERA in five games with the Mets. Cone beat the Expos in his first start, 4-0, giving up two hits in five innings, but the feel-good comeback soon fizzled as he lost his next three starts.

His last game came in relief, May 28, with two scoreless innings at Philadelphia.

Cone compiled a 194-126 record over 17 seasons. He twice won 20 games, going 20-3 with the 1988 Mets and 20-7 ten years later for the 1998 Yankees.

Cone won the Cy Young Award in a strike-shortened 1994 season with Kansas City going 16-5 with three shutouts.

Cone carved out a reputation as a big game pitcher with an 8-3 postseason record, including 2-0 in the World Series.

ON DECK: Syndergaard Is Unquestioned Ace

 

 

 

Dec 17

Cold Weather Has Me Thinking Spring Training

There’s a foot of snow on the ground, the wind chill at 20 degrees, Christmas eight days and the Dolphins crushing the Jets. What better time than this to think about spring training?

Spring training has always been one of my favorite times of the year, for reasons both on and off the field.

From landing in Florida and taking off for the chill that’s still in New York, it’s a great time and a terrific experience.

The best part was the time you could spend with the players. Earlier in his career, the ten minutes David Wright said he’d give you could turn into a half-an-hour with the conversation touching a wide ranging variety of subjects, to playing the bunt, to going to the opposite field, to watching North Carolina play Duke in the ACC Tournament, to dozens of other topics.

I remember a long conversation with Carlos Beltran, who told me of his rookie season while with Kansas City. His eyes watered when he spoke of not being able to speak English.

I used to love talking pitching with Mike Mussina and David Cone, with Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. With Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner.

How great is it to go to work wearing shorts and a windbreaker?

I remember running laps around the fields after practice in Port St. Lucie. That was, until somebody on the grounds crew told me snakes came out at dusk.

Better still was playing basketball after practice, then going out for seafood and a movie. I played a lot of miniature golf and went to the dog track.

You never knew who would show up to spring training. Sandy Koufax was terrific. I ran into him one day told him of the time my dad told me “you have to see this guy pitch.’’ When he asked what game, I sheepishly told him of a game the Mets shelled him at Shea Stadium, 10-4. His response? “I remember that game, too.’’

There were others, too. Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.

There have been dozens of cross-state drives passing through places like Yeehaw Junction, a truck stop of a town with a population of 240. There is also the long drive across the state on Alligator Alley, named for the obvious reason

It was a lot of fun to sit in the stands behind the plate and talk with scouts.

There was so much more. Countless hours watching the NCAA Tourney … picking my Home Run Derby team with the other writers … eating at hole-in-the-wall barbeque joints. … it is Florida, so good pizza and Italian was hard to find.

By my calculation, I spent over 120 weeks in Florida for spring training. I’m looking forward to going there again next year.