Oct 26

How About Darling As Pitching Coach?

I don’t know who is on Mickey Callaway‘s short list of pitching coach candidates, so I felt compelled to offer a suggestion. This guy knows pitching and is familiar with Mets’ pitchers and their problems over the years. Plus, he’s a combination of old school with a knowledge of analytics, and has strong ties to the Mets.

I’ve never asked Ron Darling if he has any interest in coaching, but he brings so much to the table. The current Mets pitchers are familiar with Darling and I presume he has their respect. He knows where Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler have struggled and why they’ve been injured.

In addition, he could be a perfect buffer in helping Callaway get acclimated to New York. He could certainly help in bringing Callaway and his new staff together.

One thing I know about Darling after listening to him all these years is his disdain for walks, something that crippled Mets’ pitchers this season.

I don’t know what Callaway is thinking, but it’s worth putting a call into Darling to find out what he’s thinking.

Oct 21

How Should Mets Handle Yankees’ Success?

So, how should the Mets handle the obvious news the Yankees are back to being the bullies on the New York City block?

No question, 2015 and 2016 was fun while it lasted, but the essence of winning is to sustain it, and do it again, and again. Whether the Yankees can do that remains to be seen, but they but have the necessary building blocks the Mets didn’t.

The Yankees have the young core of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius, while the Mets had only one young star the last time they saw October, and that was Michael Conforto.  The Mets have since added Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith.

The Yankees have a solid bullpen, while the Mets don’t. The Mets have the potential of a good, but not a great pen, but clearly, there’s a gap.

The Yankees have several good, young starters, while the Mets supposedly had the best young rotation in the majors. Suffice to say, that never happened, and Jacob deGrom is the only healthy arm the Mets can count on for next season.

The Yankees have a reputation with general manager Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner ownership group of not being handcuffed when it comes to a willingness to spend to reach the next level. The Mets’ reputation with GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons is the opposite.

That’s four categories with the Yankees holding the edge in each one.

So, if you’re the Mets, what should you do?

The Mets’ first decision is to ignore the Yankees, regardless what happens tonight in Houston. The Mets don’t compete with the Yankees for anything other than the back pages of the tabloids, which in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant. Let the Yankees enjoy their success and just concentrate on your own business.

The Mets’ second step – not surprisingly – is to hire a new manager, and I’m guessing it will be Manny Acta based on managerial experience.

Alderson has a lot of work to do, beginning with devising a rebuilding plan. It won’t be exactly going to Square One, but it is close. Alderson said he expects the Mets to be competitive in 2018, but hasn’t defined what that means. It should be noted the Mets finished 22 games below .500 this season.

It’s a stretch to think, even if they get all their players back that they’ll improve by 28 games, which would tie them at 87-75, the record of the Colorado Rockies, the second wild card in the National League.

That’s just for starters.

For that to happen, Alderson must add the following:

Starting pitching: The Mets can expect deGrom back and possibly Noah Syndergaard, the latter whom returned from the DL but is far from a given. The Mets probably have higher expectations of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo than they do Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. It would be reasonable to think Alderson would pursue at least one starter.

Bullpen: Alderson has never been able to build a reliable bullpen, but there’s potential with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. If one or two of the arms they acquired when they stripped themselves of their veterans at the trade deadline. Even so, they shouldn’t pass on getting a quality reliever in free agency.

Outfield: Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are recovering from significant injuries and both are questionable to be ready for the start of the season. That leaves Nimmo and Juan Lagares as the only reliable outfielders, and the Mets are sold on the latter.

Second/third base: The Mets are expected to bring back Jose Reyes and/or Asdrubal Cabrera, but both? That might be a stretch. I believe Cabrera is better at both positions and could be a better offensive threat. But, Reyes is a better shortstop replacement. Is that enough?

Should Alderson address all four in the positive the Mets should be better, but will it be enough for the playoffs?

 

Sep 25

Apple Doesn’t Rise On Record-Setting Homer

The Mets established a franchise record when Travis d’Arnaud hit the team’s 219th homer in the eighth inning. So, what accompanied the record-setting moment could best be described as “typical Mets’’ when the Home Run Apple failed to rise.

That prompted the scarce crowd to chant for the Apple, which resulted in a Bronx cheer when it finally was raised.

Just curious, but could the Apple have been damaged when Daniel Murphys homer struck the casing? It would have been apropos.

The homer gave the Mets a three-run lead, which turned out to be very important as the Braves scored twice in the ninth against Jeurys Familia.

Mets starters sharp: Chris Flexen’s line of four runs in five innings, looked worse than it really was. Three of those runs came in the sixth when Josh Smoker gave up those inherited runners, which was the decisive point in the 9-2 loss in Game 1 of the doubleheader.

What I don’t understand is why manager Terry Collins waited so long to replace Flexen. Why would Collins keep Flexen in the game to load the bases, with two of the runners coming on walks?

One criticism of Collins is that he has stuck with his starters too long, forcing the bullpen to enter with little-to-no wiggle room. Collins has to have a better understanding of how long his starters would pitch. He had to know Flexen wasn’t going to make it through the sixth after the leadoff hitter reached on a single.

In the second game, Seth Lugo struck out seven and gave up two hits in six scoreless innings.

Collins said Lugo will get another appearance to make another impression before the offseason, but wouldn’t say how.

If Collins sticks to the rotation order, it would be Saturday in Philadelphia, but he hasn’t defined how he’ll use Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey.

Sep 21

There’s No Use Pushing Syndergaard

Sure, it would be good to see Noah Syndergaard pitch again this season for the Mets, even if it is an inning of relief. However, that one inning won’t answer any important questions. It might even raise a couple if Syndergaard were to reinjure himself.

Ideally, the Mets wanted Syndergaard to start several times and build up to perhaps a dozen to 15 innings. That might have given the Mets an idea where Syndergaard stood in his rehab, and if nothing else, alleviate his anxiety.

That’s not happening now, but it doesn’t matter because those 15 innings would have only given the Mets an idea about Syndergaard’s partially torn lat muscle, but not answered fully all his questions.

After throwing 39 pitches in a simulated game Monday, Syndergaard could be given clearance to pitch. It’s really important to Syndergaard to get out there before the season ends a week from Sunday.

“It’s a personal thing for me,” Syndergaard told reporters. “I am getting really anxious. I spent three or four months rehabbing, and if at this point they are going to shut me down, what really was the whole point of all that? I feel I worked really hard in the rehab process and I just really want to get out there and prove I can come back from that kind of injury healthy.”

What was the whole point? It’s hard to believe he really said that, but then again, he’s said a lot of crazy things lately. When Syndergaard hurt himself, by his own stubbornness in first by bulking up without consulting the Mets, and secondly, with his refusal to undergo an MRI. His injury and lost season are totally on him.

If Syndergaard doesn’t pitch again this season, he’ll go into the winter with questions, and subsequently, spring training. That makes three significant questions including Zack Wheeler (stress reaction in his arm) and Steven Matz (elbow surgery).

“There is a process to get a player ready to play the game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “The only way we know what we are looking at all winter long is to see where we are at the end of the year, such as with two guys who can’t pitch right now, we don’t know where we are with them down the road.’’

The Mets are trying to learn what they can with Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero.

That’s seven potential starters, each with a significant question. That’s what the Mets are all about these days, and pitching is supposed to be their strong suit. So, while it would be good to see Syndergaard pitch  again this year, it isn’t imperative.

Sep 18

Is Harvey’s Career With Mets Coming To An End?

Matt Harvey was hit hard again tonight, but the Mets aren’t entertaining any thoughts of pulling the plug on his redemption tour and starting fresh in the spring.

As of now, Harvey will take his 6.59 and rising ERA to the mound at least two more times.

HARVEY: Hammered again. (AP)

HARVEY: Hammered again. (AP)

“When somebody tells me why he shouldn’t, we’ll consider it,’’ manager Terry Collins said when asked if the Mets should think about shutting Harvey down. “What do we have to lose?”

Collins said Harvey was effective in the first two innings – despite falling behind 1-0 in the first – “but in the third inning he lost command of his stuff.’’

In particular, Harvey’s slider had no bite, and drifted over the plate and right into Giancarlo Stanton’s wheelhouse, where he crushed it some 450 feet for a monstrous three-run homer that broke open the game.

“Everything,’’ Harvey said when asked what wasn’t working. “It’s embarrassing. Everybody is watching. It’s terrible. There’s nothing to say. Nothing is good.’’

Even so, Harvey doesn’t want to shut it down.

“No,’’ he said. “This is my job. I have to keep going and try to get better.’’

Sometimes an ERA can be misleading, but not in Harvey’s case. In 14.1 innings since coming off the disabled list, Harvey has given up 21 runs on 32 hits. Overall this year, he has a 1.67 WHIP, so he’s been stinking up the place with the new analytics, too.

Amazingly, hitters are batting .290 against him, some 53 points higher than his career average.

I can see why Harvey wants to make his final two starts. But, will they be his final two starts as a Met?