Feb 17

Mets’ Top Ten Spring Training Questions

Mets pitchers and catchers officially report today, something we’ve waited for since the final out of the World Series. Of course, most Mets – including position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie for several days, if not weeks, now.

Numerous questions will surface between now and Opening Day, but until then I’ve come up with a list of what I consider the ten most pertinent questions heading into spring training:

Q: What did the Mets learn from the playoffs?

A: There’s some validity to having been there. The Royals benefitted from playing the Giants in the 2014 World Series. Much of it is a team learning how to pace itself down the stretch and dealing with pressure in the postseason. Both players and managers learn about themselves, and the acquired knowledge can only help.

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

Q: Who is healthy and who isn’t?

A: David Wright’s back, of course, is the most important health question. Will Terry Collins have a concrete plan for Wright regarding playing time and rest? Lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin are on the mend. The target date for Zack Wheeler to come off the disabled list is late June.

Q: Will the starters have innings limitations?

A: Matt Harvey doesn’t want to hear anything about restrictions, which comes as no surprise. Harvey threw 216 innings last season – including the playoffs – and around the same number is what the Mets are hoping. There shouldn’t be any limits on Jacob deGrom, either, but the same probably won’t apply to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Presumably, Bartolo Colon will be the fifth starter until Wheeler is ready.

Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?

A: This is the position area of most concern. Jeurys Familia is the closer and Addison Reed gets the set-up role. If Blevins and Edgin are healthy, and Antonio Bastardo pitches to expectations, the lefty question that hindered them most of last season should be alleviated. Hansel Robles must mature as does Rafael Montero. Everybody else is a question mark. Getting back to the World Series is far from a given, but it will be more likely will a productive bullpen.

Q: Will the big bat feel any contract-related pressure?A: Hopefully, Yoenis Cespedes won’t be thinking about his opt-out clause after one year and instead will play free and easy as he did last August. Wouldn’t that be something?

Q: Will the double-play combination mesh?

A: Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are considered to be an upgrade over Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada. Pennant winners must be strong up the middle. The Mets were lucky regarding this last year. It will take some time.

Q: Who is trying to steal center field?

A: That’s the way it appeared when Travis d’Arnaud came off the disabled list last summer. Defense up the middle includes behind the plate and d’Arnaud’s ability to combat the running game. When a runner knows he can take liberties on a catcher, it goes beyond stealing bases, which puts him into scoring position. Those are potential runs.

Q: Will the lefty power show some consistency?

A: Lucas Duda can hit eight homers in two weeks, then not go deep for a month. Curtis Granderson excelled in the leadoff slot last year and with the absence of a prototypical No. 1 hitter, he’ll need to duplicate that performance. There’s also the matter of Michael Conforto not having a falloff from last year’s strong first impression.

Q: How strong is the bench?

A: GM Sandy Alderson finally promoted Conforto and traded for Cespedes after his limited bench showed the overall weakness of the Mets’ offense. The Mets’ bench enters spring training substantially better than the 2015 version. Juan Lagares provides Gold Glove caliber late inning defense coming off the bench. Flores will sub for Wright so he should get a lot of reps at third base. He’ll also need time at first base. Alejandro De Aza gives them a left-handed bat and the ability to play all three outfield positions.

Q: Will the Mets make a deal during spring training?

A: There’s always the possibility of adding a reliever. Most likely, it would be a free-agent signing of another team’s castoff at the end as the start of the season draws closer. Barring an injury, I don’t anticipate them making any significant moves as there are no position battles.

Dec 20

No Real News, But Plenty Of Issues For Mets

There’s no concrete breaking news on the Mets these days, but more than a few things are racing through my mind:

* Proving they have a sense of humor, the Mets included a $50,000 bonus in Bartolo Colon‘s contract if he wins the Silver Slugger Award for the best hitter at his position. It would be great to see Colon hit a homer or even draw a walk this year, something he’s never done during his 18-year career.

DUDA: Can he be the real deal? (AP)

DUDA: Can he be the real deal? (AP)

* One bat I’m concerned about is Lucas Duda. He’s extremely streaky and that’s something I don’t see changing.

* As well as he performed in the leadoff spot this summer, I still prefer Curtis Granderson hitting in run-producing spots in the middle of the order, especially if they don’t land an outfield bat. Then again, they really don’t have many other options in the leadoff spot. I’ll have to do some more thinking about this.

* David Wright’s back will continue to be an issue for the duration of his contract. He might eventually have to consider a position change. But to where?

* Some people think I don’t like Matt Harvey. Not true. What I don’t care for is his attitude and still think a trade might be something to seriously consider. They have numerous holes to fill and he could do it for them.

* This will be the season the Mets will likely choose between Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. I don’t think they’ll keep both.

* I’m very curious as to see how Michael Conforto will produce in his first full year.

* The Mets’ starter I think will be the first to win 20 games is Jacob deGrom.

Of course, I’ll go into greater depth on all of these topics, but for now just think of this as an appetizer, or in the spirit of the season, just a stocking stuffer.


Dec 02

Mets To Tender Contract To Mejia

One of the Mets’ most intriguing contract questions will be answered today when they are expected to tender reliever Jenrry Mejia a contract.

Mejia, who is serving his second suspension, will miss the first 100 games of the 2016 season. The 26-year-old Mejia was to earn $2.595 million last year, but only earned a prorated portion for the three weeks he played.

MEJIA: To be offered contract. (AP)

MEJIA: To be offered contract. (AP)

By virtue of the collective bargaining agreement, arbitration-eligible players tendered contracts must get at least 80 percent of their previous year’s salary, which would be $2.076 million in Mejia’s case. However, considering the time Mejia missed because of suspension, and the time he will miss next year, that figure according to ESPN will be about $1 million.

Of course, the Mets can offer whatever they want, and because their bullpen needs, it makes sense to keep Mejia around in hope he turns himself around.

Also no-brainers among the Mets’ arbitration-eligible players that will be tendered contracts are Matt Harvey, Lucas Duda And Jeurys Familia.

Because of their bullpen holes, I also expect the Mets to tender set-up reliever Addison Reed and relievers Carlos Torres and Josh Edgin.

However, remaining a question is shortstop Ruben Tejada, who made $1.88 million last year. Tejada would make a good insurance policy if his recovery from a broken leg sustained in the NL Division Series heals properly.

If they cut Tejada loose, it would mean confidence in Wilmer Flores, Dilson Herrera and Matt Reynolds. The conventional wisdom in keeping with those three is predicated on the Mets not re-signing Daniel Murphy.

There still remains the possibility of the Mets signing free agent Ben Zobrist.


Nov 16

Syndergaard Fourth In Rookie Voting

Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting today behind Chicago’s Kris Bryant (unanimous winner), Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang. The only Mets who realistically have a chance at winning postseason awards are Terry Collins (manager) and Sandy Alderson (executive).

ESPN, citing the Pace Law School in White Plains as its source, projects Matt Harvey to make $4.4 million in arbitration this winter, Other arbitration-eligible Mets are Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed.


Nov 02

Harvey Should Take Some Responsibility

There are a lot of reasons why the Mets aren’t in Kansas City today, why their unlikely season isn’t continuing. Terry Collins, being the man he is, took responsibility last night, but it’s not all on him.

Fingers are being pointed in all directions. At David Wright for cutting in front of shortstop Wilmer Flores on that grounder in the ninth. At Lucas Duda for his poor throw, and the bullpen and lack of hitting. All deserve responsibility, but nobody is blaming Matt Harvey, which is wrong.

HARVEY: Diva does it again (AP)

HARVEY: Diva does it again (AP)

Much of the storylines this season were about Harvey, and such was the case last night, when with the sporting world watching, he made it all about him. I don’t want to hear any of this Dark Knight crap. Hell, even Batman had to answer to Commissioner Gordon.

Harvey knew the cameras were on on him when pitching coach Dan Warthen told him he was done. He always knows where the cameras are it seems, and knew they would follow him to Collins.

I softened on Harvey lately, but not after last night. Not anymore, or to quote the Mets’ diva, “No way.’’

With the Mets desperately trying to prolong their season, Harvey made it all about him again.

“I want this game bad,’’ Harvey told his manager. Of course, the operative word in that sentence was “I.’’

Never mind his manager, who backed him and tried to protect him all year. Never mind his teammates. Never mind the frustrated Mets’ fan base. When a team wins a championship, it takes 25 players. All of them, but that’s not how Harvey sees it. He sees it as he being the superhero. He craves the glory.

We are in the ninth inning of the most important game of the Mets’ season and Harvey basically told his manager, “screw you … I am pitching.’’ He told his teammates he cared more about his personal glory than them.

Again, as he frequently has done, he made himself bigger than his team, and last night, bigger than the game.

He has that attitude because all his life people kissed his Bat Belt. In high school, in college, and now with the Mets. GM Sandy Alderson and Collins are to blame because they caved to his petulant demands, and the latter, to his dismay, did so again last night.

A hundred pitches is Harvey’s weakness. After 100 pitches opposing hitters are batting .373 off him with a .440 on-base percentage and .448 slugging percentage. Harvey was over 100 pitches when Collins sent Warthen to pull him.

Where Collins was wrong was not doing it himself and for waffling. Where Collins was wrong was in trusting Harvey more than his gut. Hopefully, Collins won’t make that mistake again.

I raised this point during the height of Harvey’s innings fiasco, and it is time to do so again. With Zack Wheeler coming back, and Yoenis Cespedes leaving, and Harvey being a selfish diva, it is time for the Mets to explore what they can get for him.

Yes, Harvey was sensational last night for eight innings, but in a flash his selfishness wiped that away and that’s my enduring image from this World Series.

I haven’t read any admission of taking responsibility from Harvey, but, I haven’t read The Player’s Tribune, yet. Surely, it is in there.