Jul 12

What Went Wrong For Mets In First Half And Other Obstacles

On Monday I examined ten positives from the Mets’ first half. Today I look at ten things that either went wrong or must be overcome.

The Mets are tied with Miami six games behind Washington in the NL East. From injuries to poor performances, it was far from an idyllic first half.

SYNDERGAARD: Big question. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Big question. (AP)

It isn’t as if it all spiraled out of control, but numerous things must be overcome if the Mets are to make a second-half run:

1. HISTORY: The Mets have never reached the postseason in consecutive seasons, let alone the World Series. History has always been a tough nut to crack.

2. TEAM IDENTITY: The Mets are constructed in GM Sandy Alderson’s vision, which sometimes is no better than that of Mr. Magoo. Manager Terry Collins said Sunday “situational hitting” is the key things the Mets must improve on in the second half after repeatedly saying the season’s first three months they are a team built on power. Those are two incompatible concepts. The Mets won only five games in which they did not hit a homer. That must change.

3. RISP: This is linked to the first event. The Mets hit a paltry .213 with runners in scoring position with 180 strikeouts. The Mets average roughly eight runners left on base per game. Nearly 55 percent of the Mets’ scoring is attributable to home runs, and they only have a plus-20 run differential. Not good.

4. STRIKEOUTS: Alderson’s attraction to the new-wave statistics seemingly includes a disregard for striking out. It’s like he doesn’t care when a hitter strikes out, which is inexcusable. The Mets average 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, which is just shy of three innings. The Mets are giving away three innings of potential offense, meaning there are no sacrifice flies; no chance of reaching on a hit, error or walk; and no productive outs. Curtis Granderson is on pace to strike out 144 times, followed by Yoenis Cespedes (142) and Neil Walker (122). Before they went on the disabled list, David Wright and Lucas Duda were also on pace to strikeout over 120 times. Michael Conforto was on pace to strikeout over 100 times before he was optioned to the minors. That’s Alderson’s offense, and it is not conducive to winning.

5. ROTATION PROBLEMS: The Mets’ young starting rotation was to carry this team, but Matt Harvey is lost for the year; Noah Syndergaard has a bone spur in his right elbow and enters the second half as a significant question; Jacob deGrom went ten starts without a victory; and Steven Matz has a bone spur in his left elbow, but pitched well in his last three starts. The Mets hoped to plug Bartolo Colon into the bullpen and bring up Zack Wheeler. However, Wheeler has had several setbacks and won’t be available until mid-August.

6. WRIGHT IS LOST: Wright is gone for the year following neck surgery and his career is in jeopardy. Wright has been saddled with injuries for several years. In addition to a lack of production, his salary has hamstrung the Mets in making moves.

7. OTHER INJURIES: In addition to Harvey and Wright, Duda is out indefinitely with a fracture in his lower back. The Mets enter the second half with Cespedes out with a strained quad with no timetable for his return. Granderson is playing with a strained calf and Conforto was playing with an injured wrist when he was demoted. Reliever Jim Henderson is on the disabled list with a strained right biceps.

8. WEAK BULLPEN: Outside of Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed, there’s little reliability to the Mets’ bullpen. Losing Henderson and Josh Edgin hurt, and Antonio Bastardo offered nothing. Hansel Robles has been inconsistent.

9. DIVISION RECORD: The Mets are 19-22 vs. the NL East, including 4-9 against the Washington Nationals. They routed the Phillies and Braves last year, and had a winning record against Washington. Things are a lot tougher this year.

10. TOUGH ROAD AHEAD: Not only did the Mets limp into the break, but open the second half with a rugged schedule of nine games on the road, including three each in Chicago against the Cubs and three in Miami. They then come home with three against St. Louis. August brings four games with the Yankees, four at San Francisco, and three each at Detroit and St. Louis. If there isn’t a turnaround, their six games against the Nationals in September could be a moot point.

Jul 11

Top Ten First-Half Positives For Mets

As tempting as it might be to want to throw the first half of the Mets’ season into the dumpster because injuries and Daniel Murphy are forcing them in that direction, not everything has been a negative.

Since I’ve always been a beacon of positive thoughts when it comes to the Mets, I thought I’d open the break with the ten things that went right in the first half.

CESPEDES: First half Mets' MVP. (AP)

CESPEDES: First half Mets’ MVP. (AP)

1. It could be worse: That’s probably the biggest positive. They trail the Nationals by six games, but Washington also had its bumps to keep the Mets within spitting distance. From June 18-25, while the Nationals lost seven straight, the Mets won four of seven.

2. Replacing Murphy: Despite Murphy’s gaudy numbers, especially against the Mets, let’s not forget the power Neil Walker provided at second base with nine homers and 19 in April. Walker can leave after the season, but has been a reliable and productive bat.

3. Plugging the shortstop hole: Perhaps the Mets’ most important offseason acquisition has been the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year, $18.5-million contract. Nobody expected 12 homers and 29 RBI in the first half.

4. Resiliency: One of the Mets’ most important characteristics last season was their ability to adjust on the fly, especially with all their injuries. There have been no shortage of injuries this year, but the Mets plugged with Rene Rivera (for Travis d’Arnaud), James Loney (for Lucas Duda) and Wilmer Flores (for David Wright). The Mets also inserted Logan Verrett into their rotation and added Jose Reyes and Kelly Johnson, both of whom have already paid dividends.

5. A strong closer: Jeurys Familia has been spotty at times, but converted all 31 of his save opportunities. Addison Reed has also been a reliable bridge to Familia.

6. Bringing back Cespedes: Where would the Mets be without Yoenis Cespedes? Perhaps in a double-digit hole behind the Nationals. Cespedes has 21 of the Mets’ 122 homers, but pulled out of the All-Star Game with a strained right quad. Cespedes has had several brain cramps, but the Mets are contenders because of him.

7. Jacob deGrom finding it: It was a rough start for deGrom, which included ten straight winless starts. However, he’s back in a groove, which is imperative considering the loss of Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard’s health status entering the second half. Of course, Syndergaard’s All-Star first half was a positive.

8. Bartolo Colon never losing it: The 43-year-old Colon was named as a replacement to the NL All-Star team, and it is well deserved. The plan was to move him to the bullpen when Zack Wheeler is promoted. However, that won’t be until mid-August.

9. Promising young outfielders: Michael Conforto dazzled us in April, but sputtered and was sent to the minors. However, instead of sulking he appears to have regained his stroke. When Conforto was optioned Brandon Nimmo was promoted and excited us with his enthusiasm. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t see them together in the second-half outfield, but they will be paired soon enough.

10. Battling the Central Division: Last season the Mets were swept by both the Pirates and Cubs, but this season they are 3-3 against Pittsburgh and 4-0 so far against the Cubs. And, for good measure, they won two of three in Cleveland.

 

Jun 28

Mets Messing With Matz

I recently read something pretty funny about Mets pitcher Steven Matz. Actually, not so much funny as it was maddening. Matz, scratched from Wednesday’s start in Washington because of pain in his elbow caused by a bone spur, will now go Thursday against the Cubs.

That’s not the funny part. The punchline is the Mets say they have been assured by team doctors Matz can’t hurt himself any further, at least not to his elbow. How can that be? Are these some kind of special doctors who can see into the future?

MATZ: Doctors can't guarantee anything.  (Getty)

MATZ: Doctors can’t guarantee anything. (Getty)

There are no guarantees in life, especially when it comes to health and medicine. No doctor can project the future with an injury like this. Perhaps the weekend warrior or country club tennis player, can get by being treated with anti-inflammatories, rest or a cortisone injection.

However, Matz is a baseball pitcher, and what he does requires an incredible amount of tension and torque on the elbow.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s definition, a bone spur is when bony projections develop on the surface of the bone. They can cause swelling, pain and depending what rubs against it, tearing of tissue or tendons or ligaments. Reports are Matz’s MRI showed the spurs aren’t in an area where they can imminently rub against a ligament. But, who is to say that can’t change with a violent twist of the elbow?

GM Sandy Alderson described Matz’s condition as a matter of pain tolerance, which is comforting if you’re not named Steven Matz.

“At this point, it’s a function of whether he can tolerate the discomfort while continuing to pitch,” Alderson told reporters. “What we will do is monitor that level of discomfort.”

However, history is full of examples of pitchers who overcompensate for one injury by creating another. Pain in one’s elbow can cause a pitcher to subtly alter his mechanics to where it might impact his shoulder or elsewhere in the elbow.

No doctor can guarantee Matz won’t change his mechanics. Perhaps, the change is so slight nobody will notice, and Matz might not feel anything. At first.

Maybe Matz can give us a John Wayne and pitch through this initially, but it could prohibit him from effectively throwing his breaking balls or prevent him from dialing up his fastball.

There have already been reports Matz might require surgery this winter, so this is far from being nothing. And, considering the Mets’ history in handling injuries, from the Alderson administration to Omar MInaya’s to Steve Phillips, I’m not buying this “it can’t get worse,” theory. There have been too many cases of things going wrong.

Matz won’t pitch Wednesday, but pushing him back one day hardly will make much of a difference. Matz’s career has already been sidetracked by Tommy John surgery, so it’s beyond me why he’d even fool around with this.

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 21

What Do You Think, Should The Mets Go After Reyes?

Losing has a way of changing one’s perception. For the Mets in means dramatically softening their “you gotta be kidding me,” stance on bringing back Jose Reyes to `let’s think about it.” Losing third baseman David Wright and a team-wide offensive drought gave GM Sandy Alderson second thoughts.

He’s kicking the tires on the idea of a reunion.

Reyes has been on the radar of Mets’ fans almost from the moment he bolted for the Miami Marlins. It wasn’t long before he was traded to Toronto, and Colorado, before he was designated for assignment. The Rockies have until Saturday to trade him, or put him on release waivers where he’d become a free agent and they would have to eat his salary.

REYES: Reunion would be a good idea now. (AP)

REYES: Reunion would be a good idea now. (AP)

Compared to the $106 million Reyes got when he signed with Miami, the Mets would be on the hook for a prorated portion of the major-league minimum. That’s chump change for a temporary fix to their offensive problems.

We’re still four to five weeks from the trade deadline, but teams like the White Sox, who have Todd Frazier, and the Rays, who have Evan Longoria, will decide whether or not they want to trade. When you look at the standings, there are about ten teams you would be pretty confident saying won’t make the playoffs. Minnesota, the Angels and Oakland in the American League; the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Rockies, Arizona, San Diego and Reds in the National League.

However, with the wild card, playoff scenarios can be fluid. That means Reyes could be a Band-Aid until the Mets can trade for a tourniquet.

Manager Terry Collins didn’t seem to object to the idea when he spoke to reporters: “When we lost Jose, I thought, ‘Boy, this is a major piece gone.’  His energy to play the game, his love to play the game, his love to play the game in New York City, it’s hard to find. It’s hard to find those guys. We missed him. I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. Certainly, I always root for him.”

Even so, bringing back Reyes doesn’t come without baggage and issues:

* Most recently, there was a domestic-violence incident last Oct. 31 in Hawaii. He was arrested, but charges were dropped when his wife would not cooperate with authorities. The State of Hawaii couldn’t come up with a case and he served his suspension from Major League Baseball. In the eyes of the law, Reyes paid his debt and merits a second chance.

Today on talk-radio, a point was raised that Mets’ fans, if unhappy about Reyes based on the domestic issue, can influence the team’s decision. Don’t bet on that, because the thinking is if Reyes can help he’ll be signed. By now, I hope you realize the Mets will ignore the media – I’m used to that – and fans when it comes to building their team.

Word is Reyes wants to return, but it will be as a third baseman. If |the Mets want him to make public appearances against domestic violence, that’s part of the plan. Reyes would not push Asdrubal Cabrera off shortstop.

* It must also be noted the 2016 version of Reyes is greatly different than the player who beat out a bunt and walked off the field to preserve his batting title. I never liked that about Reyes and neither did the Mets. Apparently, their dire offensive situation gave them pause to move on.

I was against keeping Reyes at first, then bringing him back, because he’s a speed player who didn’t run his last year with the team and had two stints on the disabled list with hamstring pulls. If you’re thinking Reyes will come here and steal 30 bases for the Mets, well, can I interest you in some ocean front property in Arizona?

If Reyes returns he’ll still have the same issues of a mediocre on-base percentage and a lot of strikeouts. But, he would hit leadoff which would enable the Mets to drop Curtis Granderson to the middle of the order where he and Yoenis Cespedes would be back-to-back.

The way the Mets are presently constructed, having a healthy Reyes back, even though his skills might be diminished, would be an improvement.

Go for it.