Sep 16

Three Mets’ Storylines: Pushing It With DeGrom?

In announcing Jacob deGrom‘s return to the Mets’ rotation, manager Terry Collins said he’ll have a pitch count ceiling of 75 and the expectations are minimal. Again, it appears the Mets’ plan is built on hope, which smacks of pushing the envelope too far.

COLON: Terrific again. (AP)

COLON: Terrific again. (AP)

Collins said he’d like to get deGrom three starts prior to the playoffs, but what’s wrong with more rehab work and two starts?

“Our expectations right now are to kind of build him back up a little bit,” Collins said prior to the Mets’ 3-0 victory over Minnesota. “I think he will dictate a lot by how he feels. We certainly think he’s going to be fine, but we don’t have a crystal ball here to know what’s going to happen after he throws Sunday.”

Building him back up means he not there, yet.

I always fall on the side of caution when it comes to a pitcher’s injury because too often things backfire when he’s rushed back. The Mets have been lucky so far with Noah Syndergaard‘s elbow bone spur, but we still don’t know what will happen this winter.

We’ve seen the Mets get bit with Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. The Mets have too much to play for to just be hoping for the best with deGrom. Give him some more time. He’s worth the wait.

The Mets’ other storylines Friday were Bartolo Colon and back-to-back power.

COLON TERRIFIC AGAIN: With deGrom and Matz injured, Colon has helped carried the Mets, going 5-1 (14 earned runs in 57 innings) in nine starts since Aug. 1.

“With all that’s happened with our rotation, I don’t know where we’d be without him,” Collins said.

Colon was terrific, giving up three hits in seven scoreless innings, throwing an economical 94 pitches in the process as he improved to a team-high 14-7 while lowering his ERA to 3.14.

For the 43-year-old Colon, it is his 40th start that he’s given up one run or less since turning 40. Amazing. The victory was the 232nd of his career.

Colon could get three more starts this year, including the season finale.

POWER PLUS: Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera hit back-to-back solo homers in the fourth, the 11th time this year they’ve done so.

Collins said Reyes had hit for more power (seven homers) than what he anticipated. Tonight’s homer was Reyes’ fourth in 31 games since coming off the disabled list.

Cabrera has been on a tear in 26 games since coming off the disabled list with seven homers and 16 RBI. He was named the NL Player of the Week for Aug. 22-28.

The Mets have hit 199 homers, one shy of the franchise record established in 2006.

Of the Mets’ 579 runs, over 53 percent have been accounted for by home runs.

EXTRA INNINGS: Cabrera left the game in the ninth with a cramp in his right leg (not the one he had surgery on). … Yoenis Cespedes dropped a can-of-corn pop fly on a 100 percent hot dog play. When asked if he’d talk with Cespedes, Collins said, “these things speak for themselves.’’ … Addison Reed registered his 37th hold throwing nine pitches in a 1-2-3 eighth.

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Aug 21

Is There Connection Between Elbow And Shoulder For Matz?

In ascertaining Steven Matz’s shoulder issue, perhaps the Mets should revisit their earlier proclamation the left-hander’s bone spur injury was simply a matter of pain tolerance, as suggested by both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.

On June 28 – nearly two months ago – I wrote that was nonsense. Everybody knows, and I should lump Alderson into that group, any injury with a pitcher should be considered more serious than it is and, injuries/hurts leads to overcompensation with another part of the body.

MATZ: Is there connection between elbow and shoulder? (AP)

MATZ: Is there connection between elbow and shoulder? (AP)

I undoubtedly admire Matz’s warrior spirit, but let’s face it, this is his first full season in the major leagues and he doesn’t have the resume to call his own shots. He wants to pitch, I get that, but like most young players he doesn’t have the smarts or backbone to tell his real feelings to Collins or management.

As baseball lifers, both Collins and Alderson should realize what was going on with Matz and protect him.

This is what Alderson said in late June: “At this point, it’s a function of whether he can tolerate the discomfort while continuing to pitch. What we will do is monitor that level of discomfort.”

I take two things from that statement. The first is, and I said it at the time, Alderson’s comment was garbage, that pain tolerance is simply a misguided assumption. You can’t assume anything with an injury. Can’t be done.

The second is if Matz’s shoulder is now an issue their level of monitoring leaves a lot to be desired.

Look, I can’t say with 100 percent certainty there is a connection between the elbow and the shoulder, but the flip side Alderson can’t say with 100 percent absoluteness it isn’t.

I believe, and this comes from years of following the Mets, they too frequently play fast and loose with injuries.

The Mets’ first course of action with injuries should always be caution. They weren’t with Matz and the same it appears is happening with Noah Syndergaard. They weren’t with Matt Harvey.

Matz will travel to New York Monday to be examined by team doctors, something that should have been done as soon as he was scratched from his last start.

Nobody knows what the doctors will find with Matz, but the Mets’ appropriate response should be getting him better and stronger, not seeing if he can throw five innings next weekend against the Phillies.

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Aug 13

Mets Need DeGrom To Pitch Like An Ace Tonight

The word “ace” has been thrown around a lot lately regarding the Mets’ young rotation. The label was applied – erroneously, perhaps to Matt Harvey – and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz have come up short.

DE GROM: Mets need him tonight. (AP)

DE GROM: Mets need him tonight. (AP)

That leaves us with Jacob deGrom (7-5, 2.35 ERA), who after a stretch of 10 winless starts from May through June, has pitched well winning four of five decisions.

Of all those young arms, I was always highest on deGrom, and he’s pitched like an ace. It’s not a reach to say he’s kept the Mets afloat.

During those two bad months, his command was off and velocity down. He looked tired and drained physically with his pitch-count was too high compared to the number of innings pitched.

However, he’s turned things around and in his last eight starts has a near two mph., bump in his velocity. While the movement on his fastball is better, so is the command of his secondary pitches. During that span he has a 1.52 ERA and threw a one-hit shutout over the Phillies, July 17.

DeGrom is pitching to the level the Mets always hoped he’d reach, but more importantly to the level they must get from him.

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Aug 12

What’s Your Confidence Level In Mets After Collins’ Rant

The key to a successful managerial rant and closed door meeting is to have a quality starter going next, but the Mets have Logan Verrett tonight against San Diego. Then again, Noah Syndergaard was supposed to turn things around Thursday.

COLLINS: Did he convince you things would change? (Getty)

COLLINS: Did he convince you things would change? (Getty)

Manager Terry Collins was correct in much of his assessment of his team but whiffed on a very important point: the topic of grinding out at-bats. Such nonsense. Collins said “this team has been about grinding out at-bats the past few years.”

Evidently, he hasn’t watched the same team I have been. With the exception of a few hitters, this team doesn’t grind out at-bats. Grinding out at-bats would entail drawing a few walks, but they are ninth in the National League with 342 walks. Conversely, they are fifth highest with 947 strikeouts.

And please, if I hear one more time things will get better once Yoenis Cespedes gets back I will scream. He can hit baseballs a long way, but he also strikes out too damn much. He might be the Mets’ least disciplined hitter.

To turn things around, the Mets must show signs of life, yet they haven’t won successive games since before the All-Star break. Collins went on about playing baseball “the right way,” but don’t you remember all those times in April and May when he said, almost with pride, “that this team doesn’t play small ball?”

Small ball is playing the game the right way. Small ball is recognizing the value of 27 outs and not giving away eight of them a game with strikeouts. A productive out should not be celebrated, but common place for a winning team. Advancing runners into scoring position is essential, but then again, the Mets are last in the majors hitting with a man in scoring position, so, does it really matter?

This is a team without an offensive clue, and that’s an organizational philosophy. Playing small ball is boring and not in line with the new-age sabremetrics favored by the architect of this team, GM Sandy Alderson, who cares about home runs and doesn’t give strikeouts anything more than a passing glance.

Defensively, there’s little range and players are out of position.

On the mound, the Mets’ rotation – once touted as the best in baseball – is a house of cards. Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon are the only reliable starters. Syndergaard and Steven Matz have struggled with bone spurs and if the Mets fall behind any further, consideration should be made to shut them down.

There’s been a long list of injuries, but every team has injuries. The Dodgers don’t have Clayton Kershaw and the Cardinals went without Matt Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Stephen Strasburg went on Washington’s DL, but catching the Nationals won’t happen. Didn’t the Marlins lose Giancarlo Stanton for awhile?

Championship caliber teams overcome and the Mets don’t. James Loney has helped and so has Kelly Johnson, but Jose Reyes was never the answer, Reyes was a grasp at the past in the hope of forgetting the present. They waited too long before going after Jay Bruce.

Collins promised us that starting today, with Verrett, the Mets were “going after it.”

Collins has promised a lot of things. He promised Michael Conforto would bat third, hit against lefties and play every day. Then he promised he would play in center. Collins promised regular at-bats for Wilmer Flores. He promised he would care for the rotation, but aren’t you waiting for Syndergaard and Matz to pack it in for the year like Matt Harvey?

The Mets were supposed to have an easy second-half schedule, but August will see them in San Francisco and St. Louis, before the get another crack at Miami and Washington.

Collins ranted a good game Thursday, but in the end did nothing to raise my confidence in this team. How about you?

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Jul 27

Three Mets’ Storylines: Loss A Gut Check

The Mets’ 2015 signature was resiliency; their ability to bounce back from adversity and seemingly crushing defeat.

It was around this time last season when Jeurys Familia blew his last save in a rain-soaked, thought-to-be devastating loss to San Diego. The night before Wilmer Flores endeared himself to Mets Nation when he shed tears out at shortstop after thinking he’d been traded.

What happened next will forever be a part of Mets’ lore. GM Sandy Alderson got Yoenis Cespedes in a trade, Flores homered to beat Washington and become an iconic presence, and the Mets sizzled into the World Series. In their champagne drenched clubhouses in Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field, to a man, the Mets trumpeted their ability to get off the mat as to what their team about.

CESPEDES: Can't do it all. (AP)

CESPEDES: Can’t do it all. (AP)

It’s time to show that quality again, following the season’s most disappointing and potentially devastating loss of the season, 5-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday night after Familia’s first blown save.

“This is really a tough one to take,” drained Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters. “When you come back on Adam Wainwright and have a chance to win the game, that’s a pretty big night. And then to have your closer, who just has been lights out, give up two, that’s a little tougher to take.”

Will it turn bitter and send them on an out-of-control slide or force that character to the surface?

Logan Verrett gave the Mets a chance to win, giving up three runs in seven innings. But, in the bottom half of the inning and a run already in to pull the Mets within a run, on the ninth-pitch of a heavyweight battle, Cespedes swung to create two unmistakable sounds.

There was the crack of the bat that punctuates a Cespedes home run and the explosion of emotion that engulfed Citi Field, which hadn’t been this loud since last October.

Cespedes wasn’t even back in the dugout when the inevitable thought was raised: Could this be the at-bat, the game, to propel the Mets?

With Familia riding a streak of 52 consecutive saves, it was a logical conclusion.

Addison Reed stuffed the Cardinals, 1-2-3 in the eighth, but it wasn’t long before Familia, who has given us jitters before, showed he didn’t have it.

Familia got the first hitter, but then walked Jedd Gyorko on four pitches. Gyorko homered swinging at first-pitch fastballs in both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader, so Familia was going to be careful. He was too careful with sliders away.

Then Yadier Molina, who has broken Mets’ hearts before, doubled over the head of center fielder Juan Lagares and pinch-runner Randal Grichuk scored standing up to tie the game.

“I think I left it a little bit in the middle, and he made a good swing,” the stand-up Familia told reporters of the pitch to Molina.

The Mets appeared off the hook with no less than a tie when Molina was caught going to third on Jeremy Hazelbaker’s bouncer back to the mound. However, Hazelbaker quickly stole second and scored on Kolten Wong’s pinch-hit double.

Citi Field was now as quiet as it was in the last inning of Game 5 of the World Series.

The Mets’ season ended that night. What will become of it after Wednesday night?

“We’re hoping,” Collins said on bouncing back. “This is something we haven’t had happen for a long time … Jeurys Familia with a blown save. We have to back tomorrow.”

It might be imperative.

The emotional turmoil was the first of three main storylines. The others were:

ESSENCE OF CESPEDES: Cespedes is clearly hobbling, but plays anyway for the chance at what happened in the seventh when he hit his first homer since July 5.

Cespedes’ importance to the Mets is further underscored in that they were 2-for-14 with RISP Wednesday, and just 4-for-33 in the series.

“We didn’t get past that,” Collins said the Mets’ primary issue this season. “We had a lot of opportunities to score some runs.”

If there was a bright spot to the offense – outside of Cespedes – it was a Neil Walker sighting.

Walker entered the game on a 2-for-39 slide, but reached base four times on three hits and a walk.

VERRETT START WASTED: Last season at Colorado, in replacing an injured Matt Harvey, Verrett might have come up with the most important start of the season for the Mets.

Verrett always says his job is to give his team a chance to win and he did that by giving up three runs in seven innings.

As the trade deadline approaches there’s concern by some the Mets might need another starter, but that won’t be the case if he keeps pitching the way he has in his last two starts.