Sep 13

Mets Wrap: LaTroy Hawkins Still Has The Right Stuff

When the New York Mets begin their annual winter task of building their bullpen, they’d be wise to consider three names instrumental in beating Miami tonight at Citi Field.

Yes, Lucas Duda gets props for a three-run homer, Jon Niese pitched into the seventh, and Andrew Brown took advantage of a rare start by hitting a mammoth home run, but the Mets might not have won without Vic Black, Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins.

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

By definition, winning 4-3 is not a slam-dunk, but a study of perseverance and endurance. Those three carried the Mets to the end.

Hawkins has been solid all year in a set-up role, and despite his reservations, assumed the closer role when Bobby Parnell went down and excelled, picking up his ninth save with a 1-2-3 ninth highlighted by a classic punch-out of Giancarlo Stanton, who already hit two homers.

In a masterful display, Hawkins got ahead 0-and-2 with two inside fastballs. Stanton wouldn’t bite on two down-and-away sliders to even the count 2-and-2. But, fearless as usual, Hawkins blew away Stanton inside with a 94 mph. fastball.

At 40, most teams might consider Hawkins an afterthought in constructing a bullpen, but he still has the fastball plus the guile that can’t be measured by a radar gun.

Not only does he get the job done, but he’s an invaluable and calming influence to the younger relievers and in the clubhouse.

My favorite Hawkins moment came at mid-season when the Mets – including manager Terry Collins – danced around the Jordany Valdespin saga. However, Hawkins, a proud veteran, called it as he saw it and wouldn’t let the immature Valdespin off the hook.

Meanwhile, Feliciano doesn’t throw in the 90s, but is still an effective lefty specialist and last night closed the eighth by getting Christian Yelich on a grounder to second.

If used properly – which is to say sparingly and not wear him out – Feliciano is still a plus.

The Mets don’t know Parnell’s availability next year after undergoing neck surgery. They must assume they won’t have him, at least at the start.

They’ll need a closer and Black, who throws in the mid-90s, could emerge as the choice. In preparing for next season, Collins should use Black in as many pressure situations as possible.

Of course, the bullpen key for 2014 is Parnell. If healthy, the three could slot in behind him and GM Sandy Alderson’s bullpen reclamation would be halfway done.

The key to a strong bullpen is having quality starters capable of working deep into the game as Niese did last night. The fewer innings the bullpen works, the more effective.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 13

Is Mets’ Terry Collins Sending The Right Message?

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has recently been speaking with a sense of urgency we haven’t heard regularly this season.

With the Mets in the midst of losing 10 of their last 12 games, it can be hard to ascertain whether Collins’ intent is to spark his team with the allure of 2014 jobs or deflect attention of another lost season from himself.

Several times this summer I advocated an extension for Collins, and still believe so. However, recent comments come across as him throwing his young team and hitting coach Dave Hudgens under the bus, something a manager can’t do if he doesn’t want to lose his team.

COLLINS: Sending wrong message.

COLLINS: Sending wrong message.

Collins’ latest buzzword is “adjustments,’’ and that’s a direct reflection on Hudgens’ ability to teach.

“You’ve got to make adjustments,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were shut out for the second time in the series. “You can’t keep thinking you’re going to get balls to pull, or try to go up there and pull every pitch. … [You have to] realize what the opposing pitcher is doing to get you out, and try to come up with a plan to make an adjustment at the plate and put the bat on the ball.’’

That’s either saying his hitters are clueless or haven’t been taught properly by Hudgens. There didn’t appear that much angst with Ike Davis earlier this season, although there was some noise about Lucas Duda taking too much and Ruben Tejada hitting the ball too much in the air.

The Mets’ stated offensive approach coming out of spring training was to be patient, work the count and swing at your pitch. There’s been a disconnect in there somewhere.

“I know they’re young. That’s all part of it,’’ Collins said. “We want to see some guys get better. And part of that getting better is being able to gather yourself on the side, and get in the batter’s box, and put a good at-bat on.’’

Collins said there are jobs to be had and it isn’t hard to figure where he’s talking about: first base is between Davis and Duda; shortstop is open; and there’s room in the outfield.

“You’d think some of these guys would grab the opportunity that’s in front of them because of the injury issues on our club to say, `Here’s my chance to show I’m a major league player,’ ’’ Collins said. “And we’re not seeing it. We’re not seeing it at this moment, I can tell you.’’

Collectively, Collins said the Mets are starting to feel sorry for themselves.

“And I will not stand for that. Not in this clubhouse, not in this league,’’ Collins said. “You don’t feel sorry for yourself in this league. Nobody feels sorry for you in the game. Our guys in that room, because a lot of them are young, they better learn that lesson real fast. Because if they’re going to play here, they better learn how to bounce back.’’

That aspect of the game is mental and psychological, and a large part of that development falls on Collins. Part of his job when it comes to rookies and younger players is to put them in position to succeed and give positive reinforcement, but that doesn’t always happen here.

Players have played multiple positions, and some in which they are uncomfortable. These guys are smart enough to know their futures are on the line. They don’t have to be reminded of it. There’s enough pressure in this sport without the manager adding more.

There’s a fine line behind telling players the importance of a situation and crushing their confidence, and Collins has danced on it.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong and the problem is the players just aren’t good enough to begin with. If that’s the case, threatening them to get better isn’t going to work.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 12

Where Is Mets’ Opening Day Lineup?

All teams evolve throughout a season, but the New York Mets’ transformation in 2013 has been staggering, with only second baseman Daniel Murphy and shortstop Ruben Tejada were in last night’s lineup at those positions. Lucas Duda started, but at a different position.

Here’s what has happened to the 2013 lineup in comparison to the team the Mets ran out there in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss to Washington. Three starters plus the pitcher remain on the team; three were traded; and two are on the disabled list.

Colin Cowgill, CF: Was going to start after beating out Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker’s injury.  Cowgill was the starter for roughly a week after he was demoted and eventually traded. Den Dekker started last night, but Juan Lagares could eventually win the role next year if he’s more consistent offensively.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Started, but hit third last night. He’s been all over the top of the order. A slump followed a hot start, but he’s back up to .282. The Mets, however, aren’t enamored by his .316 on-base percentage.

David Wright, 3B: Entered the season after a contract extension and being named captain. He’s lived up to all that but is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Wright vows he’ll return.

Ike Davis, 1B: Slumped horribly before being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. Eventually wound up hitting .204 with nine homers. There was considerable speculation the Mets would not tender him a contract, but he’ll get another chance to next season.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Signed for depth, but wound up leading the team in homers and could be its MVP. Eventually traded to Pittsburgh, where he could see the playoffs. Good for him. Lagares was in right last night, and could stay there if den Dekker develops consistency at the plate.

Lucas Duda, 1B: This guy just can’t play the outfield. Has improved his plate presence as evidenced by a .353 on-base percentage, but has not produced for power. Will compete with Davis for the first base job next spring. Eric Young was acquired at mid-season and became the Mets’ tenth, and final, leadoff hitter. But, for all his speed, he must do better than a .318 on-base percentage.

John Buck, C: Carried the Mets offensively in April before tailing. However, he was consistent all year behind the plate and has to get some credit for the development of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. His status was doomed with the promotion of Travis d’Arnaud, who has struggled at .152. Traded along with Byrd to Pittsburgh.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Played brutally in the beginning before going on the DL. Omar Quintanilla more than adequately filled the void. Tejada is back, but the Mets openly question his work ethic and commitment. He has a lot to prove, and trading for a veteran in the winter isn’t out of the question.

Jon Niese, LHP: Was the de facto ace and Opening Day starter because of the season-ending shoulder injury of Johan Santana. Niese developed shoulder problems after back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Colorado. As Niese labored and eventually went on the disabled list. Niese could end up being the Opening Day starter in 2014 with Harvey’s injury.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 09

Ike Davis Could Remain With Mets

ESPN reported the New York Mets would tender Ike Davis a contract for 2014, largely because not doing so would cost them a compensatory draft pick.

Davis is making $3.1 million this year, and through the CBA, can’t be offered anything higher than a 20 percent pay cut. Reportedly, the least Davis would make is $2.4 million, which isn’t bad for nine homers and 33 RBI.

The reason GM Sandy Alderson delayed sending Davis to Triple-A Las Vegas was because of the promise of a breakout second half, which, of course, never happened.

Non-tendering a contract would have meant no compensation, so what Alderson is doing is essentially buying an insurance policy, with the worst-case scenario being forced to endure another year of non-production.

In keeping Davis, the Mets would go into spring training of him and Lucas Duda competing for the first base job.

Currently, the Mets are about getting whatever they can, which is what they did in the John BuckMarlon Byrd deal, their reasoning with Davis, and why, despite the foul taste it gave them, they recalled Frank Francisco.

Despite all accounts but Francisco’s, the Mets believed he dogged it during rehab, he was pitching in the major leagues Sunday.

It was a last ditch effort to showcase him to a contender desperate for bullpen help, even though Francisco would not be eligible for a postseason roster.

Francisco is owed $745-thousand for the remainder of the season, which isn’t much, but better than nothing.

METS MUSINGS: Among the Mets’ call-ups is 35-year-old pitcher Aaron Harang, who might get one or two starts to serve as an audition for a spring-training invite. Harang went 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA in 22 starts with Seattle. Harang will likely pitch Saturday in one of the games of the Mets’ doubleheader with Miami. … David Wright could be with the Mets this week, but he’s not ready to play. … RHP Matt Harvey will receive a second opinion this week from Dr. James Andrews on his elbow, and after which could decide on Tommy John surgery.

METS PROBABLES vs. Washington at Citi Field:

Tonight: RHP Carlos Torres (3-3, 2.89) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-6, 3.49), 7:10 p.m.

Tomorrow: RHP Dillon Gee (11-9, 3.53) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmerman (16-8, 3.30), 7:10 p.m.

Wednesday: RHP Zack Wheeler (7-4, 3.38) vs. RHP Dan Haren (8-13, 5.23), 7:10 p.m.

Thursday: LHP Jonathon Niese (6-7, 3.86) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (5-0, 0.94), 1:10 p.m.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 08

In Retrospect Mets Made Right Call In Passing On Michael Bourn

Watching the New York Mets this weekend in Cleveland reinforced the adage the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

The Mets were heavily criticized last winter for their choice not to sign free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn from Atlanta because they didn’t to give up the compensatory draft pick.

Bourn was supposed to give the Mets the leadoff hitter they lacked plus a defensive anchor in center field. For the first two months of the season the Mets lamented not getting Bourn as they went through ten leadoff hitters before settling on Eric Young, and used eight center fielders with Juan Lagares having the inside track heading into spring training.

As for Bourn, the Mets didn’t miss his .263 average with five homers, 40 RBI, paltry .317 on-base percentage and 22 stolen bases.

n the end, the Mets waited, filled two voids and saved themselves over $40 million in the process.

SECOND OPINION FOR HARVEY: Perhaps the most important decision to impact the Mets over the next two years will whether Matt Harvey will proceed with Tommy John surgery.

Harvey’s initial thought was to rest in the hope he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2014, but conventional wisdom dictates surgery. In that regard, a decision could be made as soon as this week after an exam with Dr. James Andrews.

The sooner the surgery, the sooner the rehab and the sooner the return, but it isn’t expected to be before the start of the 2015 season.

MORE CALL-UPS: The Mets are expected to include Ruben Tejada in their latest group of call-ups. Tejada his .288 with 24 RBI at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Outfielder Mike Baxter and catcher Juan Centeno are also expected to be brought up.

TODAY’S BATTING ORDER:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Josh Satin, DH

Lucas Duda, 1B

Justin Turner, 3B

Juan Lagares, RF

Matt den Dekker, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos