Feb 18

DeGrom: Winning World Series The Goal For Mets

How can you not like Jacob deGrom? Not only is he good at what he does, but he’s also not afraid to show us he has true “Met colors.’’

DeGROM: World Series or bust.  (GETTY)

DeGROM: World Series or bust. (GETTY)

He was the first of the Mets’ dynamic rotation to express a willingness, perhaps even an eagerness, to embrace signing a long-term contract with the team. Matt Harvey did it the other day when he showed up at camp with a $150,000 sports car, but he wasn’t the first and I have this haunting feeling it was to be politically correct.

Then deGrom openly spoke of the World Series. In my list of Mets questions posed yesterday, the first was what did they learn from the experience. If deGrom’s words are any indication, the most important thing they learned is the desire to return. And, to be clear, getting there isn’t enough.

“I think there is more expectations this year,’’ deGrom told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “We expect to make it back to the World Series and win it this time. That’s everybody’s goal here.’’

It will be a challenge, because they have never won consecutive division titles in their history. They have the guns, and it appears the yearning of making this the first time.


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.

Feb 11

Mets Should Sign DeGrom First

OK, you’ve just been named general manager of the Mets and have the task of signing one of the Mets’ young pitchers to a long term contract. Who’s your choice to sign first? Rank for me your five in the order of which you’d sign him and give me a reason for your reason.

My five are:

Jacob deGrom: He told The New York Post he would be receptive to a long-term contract, which puts him ahead of class. He’s had his health issues, but he’s also had two good years, which puts him at the top for me.

Noah Syndergaard: He’s six years from free agency, but he’s also the hardest throwing of the group and showed in the World Series that he’s not afraid.

Steven Matz: Like Syndergaard, his free agent window is down the road. I like he’s left-handed.

Matt Harvey: Why so low? For the simple reason he will probably cost the most, and by his own admission wants to test the market after the 2018 season. I can’t shake the feeling he wants to leave as he’s never said he wants to remain a Met. He should have no innings limitations this year, and could be primed for a breakout year. If he does what is already a high price will get more expensive.

Zack Wheeler: His rehab from Tommy John has been positive by all accounts and he should be ready to come off the DL in late June or early July. Before his injury there were scouts who had him ranked ahead of Harvey. The main reason why I have him behind Harvey is because he needs to put another full year in to prove he’s healthy. As with Syndergaard and Matz, his free-agent year is enough down the road – plus he has a limited resume – which doesn’t make them immediate priorities.



Feb 04

Alderson Hints Cespedes Deal Could Lead To Bigger Things

Mets GM Sandy Alderson hinted at Wednesday’s press conference that the Yoenis Cespedes deal indicates a change in philosophy for the organization.

Let’s hope so. Long accused of running things on the cheap, Alderson said the $75-million contract should change that perception.

”Sometimes we have a habit – we do in an organization and fans as well – of thinking about the guys we have now, but thinking more about when we’re going to lose them than enjoying the moment,” Alderson said. ”That moment hopefully lasts two, three, four, five years. But I think maybe if the Cespedes signing says anything, is that there are no possibilities that will be dismissed out of hand strictly for financial reasons.”

In particular, let’s hope that will apply to signing their young pitching to long-term contracts. The popular sentiment is the Mets can’t keep them all, referring to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.

Maybe not, but the can try to keep them for as long as possible.

”When you’re talking about long-term deals with younger players, there needs to be sort of a mutual interest in doing so,” Alderson said. ”And typically we find out about that mutual interest a little bit later, closer to spring training or even in spring training. So, we’ll just see if that happens.”

Harvey, signed for $4.325 million, will be 27 in March and a free agent after the 2018 season. His agent is Scott Boras, whose reputation is to test the market and not leave money on the table. He’ll be the first test.

Then there is deGrom, (28 in June) who will be arbitration eligible next year and a free agent following the 2020 season. Syndergaard (24 in August) and Matz (25 in May) could become free agents after the 2021 season. Wheeler (26 in May) could become a free agent following the 2019 season.

Money will be coming off the books when the contracts for David Wright, Cespedes and Curtis Granderson expire, but the don’t the Mets have to replace those players as well?

The market for pitching doesn’t seem to show a ceiling, but if the Mets’ core perform to their potential, they’ll test it.

Jan 12

Collins Learns And Moves On From Game 5

Mets manager Terry Collins allowed himself three days to stew on his decision to let Matt Harvey pitch – and kick away – the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series. Undoubtedly, he’ll relive that decision when spring training begins in little over a month.

COLLINS: Trusted Harvey. (AP)

COLLINS: Trusted Harvey. (AP)

In the MLB Network documentary, “Terry Collins: A Life In Baseball,” which airs Tuesday night, he said: “I had my bad three days. You’ve got to move on.”

I never thought Collins should have let Harvey stay in, thinking he went away from his principles. But, it was Collins’ decision, not mine, and he has to live with what happened. We have no way of knowing what would have happened had Jeurys Familia entered the game. It isn’t a slam dunk Familia would have saved the game. Afterall, he already blew a save in the Series.

Even had Familia saved the game, the Royals would have had a 3-2 Series lead with Games 6 and 7 in Kansas City. There were no guarantees.

“I don’t know what would have happened, after [Game 5],” Collins said on the show. “But, in my mind , we should’ve made the change. … I trusted this young man. I think the world of him . I still do. We made it. It didn’t work. You’ve got to move forward from it.”

Collins has spent his entire life around baseball, and knows everything is a learning experience. Collins went against what he thought was best and trusted his player.

Here’s hoping he learned from that and will become a better manager for it.