Apr 12

Mets Not In “Panic City”

This column is in response to Adam Rubin’s question at the bottom of today’s Morning Briefing, I will say no. Rubin asked his readers if they were yet a resident of “Panic City,’’ what GM Sandy Alderson called some Mets fan when the team floundered last season before regrouping to reach the World Series.

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

My readers know me for calling it straight. Many of them believe I might be too critical of the team. The over/under for Mets’ victories I posted Opening Day was 92, believing they could improve on last season by having Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes full time.

That’s still very possible.

It’s very easy to spot the problems six games into the season: the offense has not produced and their vaunted starting pitching hasn’t lived up to expectations. The bullpen was overworked in Matz’s start, but giving up three runs in 7.1 innings isn’t that bad.

The three best starts were made by Syndergaard in Kansas City, Jacob deGrom in the home opener and Bartolo Colon Saturday night. Matt Harvey has been roughed up twice and Matz was torched Monday night.

I want to go back to a column I posted earlier suggesting the rotation didn’t get enough work during spring training. Normally starters work about 30 innings during spring training, but no Met pitcher worked more than 15. This was done with the objective of protecting those young arms, and the immediate by-product has been location.

The only real concern here is with deGrom’s tight right lat muscle. Perhaps he wasn’t in his best condition before of the shortage of work. His velocity has been off. Is that injury or lack of work? We don’t know yet.

I posted last night I wasn’t concerned with Matz, but let’s go back early in spring training when he was worried about results and manager Terry Collins questioned whether he was in his best condition.

The lack of work will eventually resolve itself as the season continues. After all, they can’t go back to spring training.

Hopefully, Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will learn from this and tweak their offseason and spring training workout programs. There’s nothing they can do now.

Offensively, we’re seeing signs of life from Cespedes and Wright.

Curtis Granderson hasn’t produced, but the same thing happened last year. His track record is he’ll get better. The Mets have only two homers in six games, but that will change. There have been too many strikeouts and missed scoring opportunities.

You can blame the weather, but it was just as cold for the Royals, Phillies and Marlins. It won’t get any easier tonight against Jose Fernandez or over the weekend in Cleveland.

We also should remember something Wright said at the start, and that’s the Mets will have a bullseye on their backs all year. Philadelphia and the Marlins, not surprisingly want a piece of the Mets. They were the National League champs, every team should want to knock them down a peg.

Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has only two hitters – Granderson and Lucas Duda – who were with the team all of 2015.

The others were either injured and missed significant time – Wright and d’Arnaud – or are in their first full seasons with the team. That would be Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera.

You can’t tell much about a team or a player after six games. Let’s see how things are at the end of the month. We all knew getting back to the Series wouldn’t be a breeze.

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Apr 11

Mets Wrap: Let’s Not Worry About Matz

If you’re of the belief Steven Matz will be a good pitcher, one worthy of winning the NL Rookie of the Year, then there’s nothing to worry about. After all, disastrous starts will happen, and that was the case Monday night.

MATZ: Rocked by Marlins. (AP)

MATZ: Rocked by Marlins. (AP)

Matz was rocked for seven runs in 1.2 innings as the Mets were routed 10-3 by Miami. And, what would a loss to the Marlins be without a Giancarlo Stanton bomb?

Matz did a lot of things wrong. He walked two to start the second inning; he got the ball up; he gave up four hits after getting two strikes.

What Matz didn’t do was make excuses and quickly dismissed a postgame question about being rusty from going 10 days between starts.

“I don’t think so,’’ Matz told reporters. “The second inning got away from me really quickly. … It wasn’t very good.’’

But every pitcher gets ripped from time to time, no matter how good they are.

Matz said he would look at video to check his mechanics. He’ll also work in the bullpen with pitching coach Dan Warthen.Matz said he’s usually very hard on himself, but he will be better served if he tries to grasp something catcher Travis d’Arnaud said: “It happens to everyone.’’

Matz said he’s usually very hard on himself, but he will be better served if he tries to grasp something catcher Travis d’Arnaud said: “It happens to everyone.’’

If anything, the Mets should be more concerned about their bullpen – which worked 7.2 innings – than Matz.But, let’s not worry about Matz. It’s way too early to panic.

But, let’s not worry about Matz. It’s way too early to panic.

GAME WRAP

Here are the nuts-and-bolts about the Mets’ third straight loss:

GAME #6:  Marlins 10, at Mets 3.  Record: 2-4. Streak: L 3

SUMMARY: Matz gave up seven runs in the second inning. The listless Mets’ offense had seven hits.

KEY MOMENT: Stanton’s two-run homer in the second chased Matz.

THUMBS UP: You want to hold me to this? OK. Yoenis Cespedes had two more hits for continued breakout signs. … David Wright also had two hits. … Addison Reed struck out four in 1.2 innings in relief. … Jacob deGrom’s wife finally went into labor.

THUMBS DOWN: Pretty much everything else. Didn’t I write that, yesterday? … Another 0-for-4 from Curtis Granderson. … The Mets were 1-for-7 RISP and stranded eight runners. … Eight more strikeouts.

QUOTEBOOK: We know he’s better than that.’’ – Manager Terry Collins on Matz.

BY THE NUMBERS: 29: Strikeouts by Mets’ hitters in the last three games.

NEXT FOR METS: Noah Syndergaard goes against Jose Hernandez in a matchup of fireballers.

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Oct 14

Mets Face Daunting, Not Insurmountable Task

They wouldn’t be the Mets if it were easy, now would they? Seriously, how many of you thought the Mets would put away the Dodgers to avoid a Game 5 Jacob deGrom against Zack Greinke showdown?

When the Dodgers gave Clayton Kershaw three runs in the third inning Tuesday night, I pretty much thought it was over. I mean, that game was over, not the NLDS. Not by a long shot.

DeGROM: Wouldn't want any other Mets starter tomorrow. (GETTY)

DeGROM: Wouldn’t want any other Mets starter tomorrow. (GETTY)

As I wrote at the start of this series, I believe the Mets can win this, the next round, and the World Series. I still do, very much so. I’m not ready to let go of the summer and get off this ride, and neither should you.

This is not the time to stew over lost opportunities. Whether or not the Dodgers would have won Game 2 without Chase Utley’s slide isn’t the issue. Frankly, I don’t think Ruben Tejada would have gotten the runner at first anyway, but that’s a moot point.

It’s only fitting this series go down to a final game, and with it, probably a final at-bat. Maybe even extra innings.

The Mets can win because they have deGrom on full rest. This All-Star should win a Cy Young Award before he’s through. The only question is whether he’ll win one before Noah Syndergaard or Matt Harvey. On that note, the Mets should also have Syndergaard available coming out of the bullpen. He’ll be on normal rest.

Although manager Terry Collins said he will not use Harvey, don’t bet against it. Thursday would normally be his between-starts throw day and if Collins needs an out he shouldn’t hesitate. The objective is to win tomorrow and worry about the NLCS later.

Honestly, I have more faith in him, and Bartolo Colon for that matter coming out of the bullpen than I do Tyler Clippard or Hansel Robles or Erik Goeddel.

The only unavailable pitcher should be Steven Matz.

There are no doubts in my mind deGrom can tune out the Game 5 pressures and pitch big. My concerns are the bullpen and dormant bats, both of which have been erratic all summer.

The offense is producing nothing now. Yoenis Cespedes has gone deep, but he’s not attacking Dodger pitching the way he did National League arms in August. Also, David Wright and Lucas Duda are a combined 3-for-27 with 14 strikeouts. That represents a lot of empty at-bats and stranded runners. A few more hits and they could be preparing for the Cubs today.

Certainly a Game 5 against Greinke in Los Angeles is a monster task. But, we can’t think of lost opportunities or not getting the home advantage. That’s over and fruitless. Worrying about that is as pointless as fretting about the high school girlfriend who broke up with you or what happened against the Marlins in May.

If promised the above scenario on Opening Day you would have taken it gladly, no questions asked, and not wanting to string up Utley.

Now, don’t worry, just enjoy history. It has been a terrific series and promises to be so again tomorrow.

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Sep 16

Despite Loss, Colon Deserves Spot In Playoff Rotation

Despite losing Wednesday night, Bartolo Colon deserves a spot in the Mets’ playoff rotation, ahead of Jon Niese and Steven Matz. Colon gave up three runs in 5.2 innings (one out shy of a quality start), this after four stellar starts.

Even so, he’s been far superior recently over Niese, and Matz has only made four career starts. Regardless of Colon’s record outside the NL East, I trust him him more in a crucial start over the other two.

COLON: Deserves spot in playoff  rotation. (AP)

COLON: Deserves spot in playoff rotation. (AP)

Of the three, Colon has been the best, which means screwing around with him is a bad idea.

In the interim, the Mets’ bullpen remains a question, with the lack of a left-handed reliever again an issue. It’s the seventh inning and Adrian Gonzalez is up in a critical situation and the Mets need a strikeout. Who would be the best choice to come out of the bullpen to get it?

Of the three, Matz is the one who throws consistently in the mid-90s and has the best chance of blowing away a hitter. I don’t know if Colon or Nlese has the ability to get ready quickly to enter a game.

Does Matz? I’m not sure of that either, but he’s the youngest and probably has the best chance of doing so.

To me, it’s ridiculous the Mets haven’t tried Matz out of the bullpen. The only viable reason for not doing so is because they aren’t sure they’ll have Matt Harvey for the playoffs and are thinking of Matz as his replacement.

This dilemma points us once again to the Mets not having a plan for Harvey as an issue.

At the trade deadline manager Terry Collins decreed, “if you don’t hit, you sit.” The same should apply to pitching. Colon has pitched well; he deserves to pitch in the playoff rotation.

Someday, Matz might be a playoff starter for the Mets, but this shouldn’t be the year. Colon has 14 victories, tied for the club lead. This should be his time to start.

Sep 15

No Surprise Cespedes Was Plunked

Some things shouldn’t come as a surprise, such at the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes getting plunked in the first inning.

For as hot as he’s been, it’s puzzling nobody went after Cespedes before tonight. You’d think somebody would have buzzed him.

CESPEDES : Heads to first after being hit. (AP)

CESPEDES : Heads to first after being hit. (AP)

Moving Cespedes off the plate should be a given. What’s also a given – and a cause for throwing inside – is Cespedes’ rampant styling after hitting a homer. Eventually, all that posturing, and his underhand flips into the infield, will rub other teams the wrong way.

The Mets had a chance to rock the Marlins early, but couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. All the starch seemed to go out of the Mets with that pitch and you can bet other teams took notice.

This is something that bears watching. Cespedes has always been a good player, but he’s on a historic roll and hasn’t carried a team like this before. It will be interesting to see how he responds when he gets a few in the ribs.

So, the only questions about Cespedes getting hit is what took so long? And, when will it happen again?