Oct 06

Leadoff Hitter Remains A Nagging Question

Of all the Mets’ off-season questions, the matter of their leadoff hitter is one of the most intriguing. That is especially if their intent is to fill it from within.

With no budding Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson in their farm system, their best hope is on their current 40-man roster. I say that because there’s no real answer in the free-agent market and they are reluctant to trade their young pitching.

The primary in-house candidates are Eric Young, Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. All have something they could bring to the table, but all have issues to the negative.

Young, Lagares and Nieuwenhuis have speed, but also rather low on-base percentages and a penchant for striking out too much.

Of the group, Murphy is the best hitter, but for a relatively weak lineup he’s better suited for a run-producing slot in the middle of the order. Also, Murphy’s on-base percentage, at .332, isn’t as lofty as one might think.

If Murphy is still here – a substantial question – he should be hitting between second and sixth.

As for Young, there’s an excellent chance it will be a moot point and not be brought back.

Last winter, manager Terry Collins toyed with the idea of experimenting with Tejada. The catch here is Tejada needs a position to play and that means starting ahead of Wilmer Flores, which isn’t a given.

Mets’ 11 different leadoff hitters ranked last in the majors with a .235 average and paltry a .308 on-base percentage. If they want to change that, they’ll have to hope for a breakout season from the names suggested or be willing to spend.

Sep 22

Mets Enter Final Week Looking For Strong Finishing Kick

It’s all about creating a good last impression for the New York Mets.

With six games remaining in what turned out to be an unusual season, there’s not enough time for a player to change the impressions of manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson.

COLLINS: Still looking.

COLLINS: Still looking.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s something they can’t learn – and it begins with attitude. Anybody can play hard when the team is winning, but there’s something to be said for playing hard through the grind.

It sounds like a cliché, but I believe it. Vince Lombardi said: “Winning isn’t a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.’’

Collins buys into that thinking, and wants to see it from his players.

“Well, we’ve got some young guys,’’ Collins told reporters during the Atlanta series. “If they pack it in, you won’t see them again. That’s why it’s nice this time of year to bring those young guys up, because they add a lot of energy to the team.

“And our veteran guys, they’re great guys. There’s never been a question of how hard they’re going to play. We’ll finish it up. We’ll finish it up strong.’’

Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt den Dekker and Travis d’Arnaud are among that group of young players figuring into the Mets’ plans. For the most part, the Mets run out ground balls and pop-ups.

To see them dog it this week would be a disappointment, especially since there are jobs to be won next season, namely shortstop – although it is believed it is Flores’ to lose – left field and in the bullpen.

Personal, statistical goals could be reached this week, such as Daniel Murphy hitting .300, Lucas Duda getting 30 homers, Jenrry Mejia reaching 30 saves and Bartolo Colon pitching 200 innings.

Collectively, they are four games under .500 and a half-game behind Atlanta for second. The last time they did either was in 2008. Both are possible, but to finish at .500 they must run the table, which includes sweeping the Nationals in a three-game series at Washington.

Stranger things have happened.

There’s playing out the string and going through the motions, and there is a strong finishing kick. It is always better to go into winter on a positive note than to limp home.

May 30

Chris Young and Sandy’s Big Gamble

chris young

Sandy Alderson’s $7.25 million gamble that Chris Young would suddenly revitalize his career by offering him an everyday role has come up snake-eyes for the New York Mets GM.

As Young shown throughout his career, he was not able to suddenly start hitting righthanded pitching the way Sandy thought he would simply by letting him face more of them. You see the trick to this game is to try and minimize the bad at-bats, the bad matchups, the bad results.

You can’t put out a fire by dousing it with gasoline, and that’s essentially what has happened here with Chris Young.

Alderson believed that CY’s .219 batting average over the last two years was an aberration and the result of inconsistent playing time. Wrong.

However, all the extra playing time has now resulted in career worst numbers for Young who went 0-for-3 on Wednesday and is now batting .195 with three homers and 11 RBI for the season. Hardly the middle of the order slugger Sandy thought he was getting when he decided to invest 9 percent of his payroll budget on him.

Young’s playing days are now winding down and the rebuilding Mets have turned to 40-year old Bobby Abreu as their short term solution, opting for the grizzled veteran instead of younger options like Eric Campbell or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who homered two more times last night for Triple-A Las Vegas.

The impetus for the Mets underperforming offense which led to the firing of hitting coach Dave Hudgens, is as much on the shoulders of Chris Young more than any other player on the roster.

Seeing Young fail again and again in endless RBI situations may have been the tipping point for what transpired after the weekend series with the Diamondbacks. 

What happens now?

It’s tough to say now that Collins has grown enamored with Abreu, who was only supposed to be the bat off the bench and not someone getting a healthy diet of everyday playing time.

But you have to believe that at some point Nieuwenhuis, who is 14 years younger than Abreu and has hit eight homers this season, more than any other player on the Mets roster, will get another chance to show if he belongs.

There’s no guarantee that Kirk will be the answer. But in a true rebuild and on most any major league roster with an eye toward the future, the choice between Chris Young, Bobby Abreu and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, wouldn’t be as difficult a decision as it seems to be for the Mets.

Mar 24

Flores Optioned To Minors

Wilmer Flores has been optioned to minor league camp and will begin the season with Triple-A Las Vegas along with Matt den DekkerKirk Nieuwenhuis and Zach Lutz.

The Mets will use Flores at shortstop and second base with Las Vegas to continue to gauge his worthiness, writes Adam Rubin.

“I feel good,” Flores said after receiving the news. “I did a great job. I’ll just wait for the opportunity to come again.”

Ruben Tejada is your starting shortstop.

Mar 15

Playing In Las Vegas A Good Idea

The New York Mets haven’t had the best working relationships with their minor league affiliates over the years, moving from Tidewater, to Norfolk, to Buffalo, and now Las Vegas.

Much of the problem, especially with Buffalo, was not doing much to promote those affiliates. The perception with Buffalo, and now Las Vegas, is those cities were merely pit stops until somebody offered a better arrangement.

It doesn’t take much of an effort for the major league team to play several exhibition games the final weekend of spring training, and in the case with Las Vegas – where the weather is good – in the middle.

The cost of air travel and hotels for the weekend is miniscule in comparison to the goodwill and opportunity for the minor league city to show off the big club. Of course, those costs are also offset by their cut of the gate.

This is the only chance for those fans to see David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud, the latter who played last year in Las Vegas. They’ll also get a chance to watch Bartolo Colon and Jenrry Mejia, who could pitch part of this season in Las Vegas.

Some of the other Mets expected to make the trip are Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, Omar Quintanilla, Jacob deGrom, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Seratelli and Eric Campbell. All but Quintanilla should see time in Las Vegas this summer.

Las Vegas was kind of a stretch for the Mets because they didn’t have much choice after Buffalo, as it is several time zones away, which makes last-minute moves difficult.

Buffalo was perfect because it is a city with professional sports and call-ups were easy. It’s too bad that didn’t work.

I don’t know how long they’ll stay with Las Vegas, but this was a good idea.

ON DECK: Bartolo Colon.