Sep 30

Mets Extend Collins; 2014 Season Has Begun

The New York Mets’ offseason began this afternoon at Citi Field with the expected announcement of Terry Collins’ contract extended for two years plus an option.

General manager Sandy Alderson there were three criteria for the extension:

* That the team hustled for Collins even during the lean times. “The club played hard for Terry and I think that was evident for everyone to see,’’ Alderson said.

* That he overcame a lot in terms of injuries and trades, and the young players generally improved. “He has helped out younger players get better,’’ Alderson said. “He’s a great motivator.’’

* That although the record wasn’t acceptable, the team showed improvement and played .500 over the last 100 games.

Alderson, Collins, COO Jeff Wilpon and the other members of the front office and coaching staff, will fly to Port St. Lucie today and begin organizational meetings to evaluate available free agents and trade options; player evaluations; and determining a budget.

“We have in mind what we can spend,’’ Wilpon said.

Alderson named Matt Harvey’s injury as the greatest disappointment, but also named the regression of Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, and inability to build a solid bullpen.

Both Collins and Alderson cited the club’s losing record at home, with the former saying the club’s offensive approach was a significant factor.

“We can’t lead the National League in strikeouts if we’re not going to hit with power,’’ Collins said. “Our approach with two strikes has to get better.’’

The Mets’ holes include the rotation, where Alderson named Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee as the only givens; first base, which for now has Ike Davis and Lucas Duda as the primary candidates; shortstop, where Tejada struggled, was injured and went on the disabled list, and then after an extended period in the minor leagues, returned and broke his leg; and the adding a significant bat in the outfield.

As Collins, Alderson and Wilpon spoke to the media, the grounds crew was working on the field, which looked in pristine, almost Opening Day, condition.

“I’m honored to be able to continue what we started,’’ Collins said about the future, which included Opening Day 2014. “The nucleus of young talent in our organization really came to the forefront this year. There is no doubt in my mind that we are headed in the right direction. The won-lost record is not what any of us wanted and that’s what we have to change, beginning in 2014.’’

And, 2014, has already begun.

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Sep 29

Mets Wrap: Putting A Bow On 2013

The New York Mets had as nice a day as they could have hoped for on the afternoon in which they said good-bye to another season steeped in frustration.

Injuries to their two best players – David Wright and Matt Harvey – lengthy slumps and a patchwork outfield and bullpen all contributed to a fifth straight losing season.

WRIGHT and PIAZZA

WRIGHT and PIAZZA

Even so, the day had an element of joy as Mike Piazza was inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame.

“I look back now, in retrospect, and realize it was just fate. I was just meant to be here,’’ said Piazza about playing with the Mets.

“You know, you can talk about agents and numbers and arguments and who’s right and who’s wrong. But if you look at the big picture of life, you realize that sometimes there’s just a destiny in things.

“And I truly feel it was my plan to be here, in one way, shape or form. It may not have been the most beautiful journey at the time, but it was meant to be.’’

The Mets said good-bye to their season before a capacity Citi Field crowd, the largest since the All-Star Game. First, they cheered Piazza on a sun-drenched afternoon, and then as the Mets scored twice in the eighth inning to beat Milwaukee.

The victory, coupled with Philadelphia’s loss to Atlanta, gave the Mets third place in the NL East, something Wright embraced with a yawn.

“We’re still going home (Monday),’’ Wright said. “I guess finishing in third in the Central would have been good this year, because they’re going to the playoffs.

“Like I said, that’s just those little things that if you want to use that to make you feel better about yourself, then that’s fine. I don’t necessarily think it’s all that important.
“We finished with a win. That’s always nice. But the bottom line is we’re going home, just like the majority of the teams in the National League tomorrow. There’s not too much to smile about with that.’’

Perhaps not, but it does represent some progress, enough which should give Terry Collins a contract extension. General manager Sandy Alderson will address that issue in a noon press conference Monday.

Alderson could also get questions on Harvey’s rehab from an elbow tear, and his plans to answer the questions at first base – Ike Davis or Lucas Duda? – shortstop with Ruben Tejada’s regression, the bullpen and rotation.

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Sep 29

Mets To Enter Winter Honoring Mike Piazza

There will be a twinge of sadness in the air for the New York Mets this afternoon at Citi Field, as the final day of the season means dreams and hopes long forgotten.

It means the expectations of spring have died, that there is no more time, that precious little – if anything – can be salvaged, and soon the plush green of the outfield will be covered by bitter snow.

PIAZZA: Mets Hall of Famer.

PIAZZA: Mets Hall of Famer.

Once again, the goal of this game – to compete in October – will go unfulfilled for the Mets as they succumbed to injuries, thin talent and long stretches of mediocrity to limp through a fifth straight losing season.

Yes, there will be sadness today at Citi Field, but also moments of reflection and perhaps optimism.

Today also includes the honoring of Mike Piazza, who will be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Gary Carter. Someday, Piazza could graduate from the Mets’ Hall of Fame by the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to the Hall in Cooperstown.

It would be fitting for the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history, and one of the central figures when the franchise last saw October.

The Mets will celebrate Piazza’s career with the Mets, the team he said he would like to honor by having the interlocking “NY’’ on the cap in his Hall of Fame plaque, that is if enough voters can see their way through the PED accusations and accompanying stigma.

There will be speakers lauding of Piazza’s brilliant career against the backdrop of photos of him in action. When it is over there will be another long deserved standing ovation before attention is turned to the Mets, who will try to avoid sliding into the offseason with a four-game losing streak.

Despite another disappointing season, which saw the promise of Matt Harvey shut down with an elbow injury that could prevent him from pitching before 2015, the Mets are expected to announce the extension of manager Terry Collins’ contract.

Extensions are given with the promise of better days to come, and for the Mets, with the contract of Johan Santana off the books, that should mean money spent on talented players.

Those players might not have the career of a Piazza, but there’s always hope, which is the essence of baseball, even after another long season.

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

Sep 27

Mets Wrap: Pitching Should Be Mets’ Offseason Priority

By definition, Carlos Torres gave the New York Mets a quality start tonight – three runs in six innings – which is usually good enough to win most starts.

However, the Mets aren’t scoring much these days, and didn’t again tonight in a second straight 4-2 loss to Milwaukee, a team they should beat.

Terry Collins started his 128th different batting order out of 160 games tonight, which is as telling a stat as there is to define the 2013 Mets. Most of that is attributable to injuries and poor performance – notably Ike Davis – but indicates a lack of offensive consistency and depth

TORRES: Could get spring training invite.

TORRES: Could get spring training invite..

The popular belief is the Mets need to upgrade their offense, which is true, but is it really their top priority?

Factoring having David Wright for a full season; improvement that comes from experience with Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker; having Eric Young for a full season; developing a consistent batting order; and, of course, the annual hope of whether Davis or Lucas Duda will find it, the Mets’ offense should be better in 2014.

Adding a bat is important, but is it imperative?

As is usually the case, pitching should be their primary concern, especially considering general manager Sandy Alderson has just three starters heading into spring training: Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler, the latter who was scratched from his final start with shoulder soreness.

Torres’ start tonight underscores the Mets’ need to add pitching. Theoretically, if the Mets pitch well their offense should improve enough to manufacture enough runs to be competitive.

The odds are long the Mets will have Matt Harvey for 2014, so they have two slots to fill in the rotation.

Torres has been valuable out of the bullpen in long relief and as a spot starter. He’s pitched well enough to get a spring training invite. What he did tonight is what the Mets need in a fifth starter, but he might be more valuable in long relief.

Saturday’s starter, Aaron Harang, should also be invited to spring training. I had my doubts, but Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched well recently and would likely also be invited to spring training.

Prior to the game Collins said he doesn’t anticipate Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard cracking the rotation coming out of spring training, which means adding a veteran arm, especially one who has a taste of playing on a winning team, should be their priority.

When Citi Field opened, the Mets said they would build around pitching, speed and defense. Power is great, but it isn’t essential in building a winner. The Mets should emphasize that mentality in constructing their 2014 team.

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Sep 27

Tact Not A Virtue Of Mets’ Terry Collins

Tact is not a strong suit of New York Mets manager Terry Collins when it comes to dealing with the media.

Collins has had several abrasive moments this season, notably when he said he didn’t care what the fans thought during in the Jordany Valdespin episode. Everything about the Valdespin incident was handled poorly, which I partially attribute to Collins’ lame duck status. Collins immediately spun into damage control and it didn’t hurt when the team started playing better soon after.

COLLINS: Lighten up.

COLLINS: Lighten up.

Then there was his dumbfounded denial of ever hearing of Matt Harvey’s sore forearm that led to his elbow injury. The manager gets an injury report from the training staff whenever a player has treatment, so Collins knew. Denial about injuries is not the way to go.

He’s had two more the past few weeks.

The first was when Ruben Tejada went down with a broken leg in the ninth inning of the Mets’ furious rally to beat San Francisco. Tejada was injured in the top of the ninth, yet finished the inning on the field. There was no announcement in the press box about the injury, and also no surprise when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

After the game, toward the end of the questioning session, a reporter asked how Tejada was feeling.

“He broke his leg,’’ snapped Collins, in a demeanor that elicited muffled laughter because nobody knew and the impression was the manager was being sarcastic.

Collins’ first words after every game, to alleviate any confusion, should be an updated injury report. The questions will be asked, so get it out of the way. The reporter asked an innocuous question because the Mets made no announcement and Collins didn’t volunteer the injury.

Lastly, last night came his barbed response to the question whether he would consider giving Dillon Gee an inning so he could reach the 200-inning milestone, something the pitcher deeply covets.

“Why?’’ Collins said. “I mean, seriously? I don’t think so.’’

He never said why he wouldn’t.

Collins was accused in his managerial stint with the Angels of not being in touch with his players. How could he not know this was important to Gee? If the concern was injury related, then say so. Or, he could have said something along the lines of “that’s 200 innings as a starter, it would cheapen the milestone to give him an inning as a reliever.’’

Instead, Collins came off as condescending. He’s been around long enough to know the question would be asked, so he should have had a better answer. The appearance was he was surprised, and bothered, by the question.

If all else fails, he could have simply said, “I don’t know. That’s something I will have to discuss with Dillon.’’

It is expected Collins will get an extension. Hopefully, he’ll come back more tactful and less sensitive.

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