May 07

Colon One Of A Kind

Bartolo Colon swings hard, so you figured if he ever caught a pitch just right it might go out. Well, it finally happened in the second inning Saturday night when Colon, 17 days shy of his 43rd birthday, connected against James Shields in the 226th at-bat of his career.

This wasn’t a “run for the roses,’’ as much as it was a 31-second jog around the bases, long enough for the Mets to vacate the bench, fans back home to text their friends with a “you’ll never believe what just happened,” message, and researchers to discover he became the oldest player to hit his first career homer.

Colon’s blast – and he did crush it – was one of four the Mets hit on the night. Yoenis Cespedes hit the first in the first inning, and David Wright and Michael Conforto went back-to-back in the ninth as the Mets regained their power stroke to beat the Padres, 6-3, and Colon won the 221st game of his splendid career.

COLON: One of a kind. (GETTY)

COLON: One of a kind. (GETTY)

Incidentally, the Mets also have the oldest player ever to hit a homer in Julio Franco at 47.

This is Colon’s third year with the Mets. He was originally signed to pick up the innings void when Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery. Colon won 15 and 14 games, respectively, in his first two years and worked over 190 innings each time.

Colon won over the hearts of Mets’ fans, not to mention his teammates, with his work ethic and outwardly unashamed signs of enjoying himself on the field. Colon also won everybody’s respect last year when he volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen during the playoffs.

Colon’s behind-the-back flip to first base last year in MIami was a sense of comic relief, but Saturday’s homer came at a time when the struggling Mets’ offense most needed a jolt.

However, the Mets didn’t get Colon to rake. They got him to pitch, and once again he came up with a quality outing, giving up three runs in 6.2 innings with five strikeouts. It marked the fourth time in six starts this year Colon (3-1) has gone at least six innings, and the 50th time in 68 starts with the Mets he’s gone that far.

Those, however, are numbers. He means far more than stats to this franchise. To watch his teammates mob him in the dugout, to hear how they love to tease him and enjoy his company, is a reflection how much they like and admire him. That’s a sign of respect not many players get to enjoy.

Colon has been a joy to watch during his short time here. He’ll go down as one of the most beloved Mets.

 

May 04

If Issue Is 2015 Innings, Harvey Deserves Responsibility

I couldn’t help but laugh after hearing Terry Collins last night talking about Matt Harvey’s problems.

Collins, who admitted the Mets don’t have a real answer as to Harvey’s mechanical issues, but threw out it could be “one of those years where it’s due to all of the innings last year, we’re going to see the effects of it.’’

HARVEY: Must accept responsibility. (ESPN).

HARVEY: Must accept responsibility. (ESPN).

Apparently, one of the effects is a loss of memory, at least by Collins.

If we can rewind a moment to the end of last spring training, I wrote how the Mets needed to come up with a definitive innings plan for Harvey and offered a couple of suggestions, none of which they adopted.

Instead, GM Sandy Alderson – echoed by Collins – a “fly by the seat of his pants,’’ approach. Their approach was to acquiesce to Harvey’s whims, from where to do his rehab and delaying when to have surgery.

I made a big deal about this at the time how important it was to have a concrete plan, which included limiting his innings in blowout games, skipping occasional starts, and definitely pulling him out of games in which he was hurting or ill.

Do you remember the start against the Yankees when he insisted on going after a complete game shutout when he had a huge lead?

And, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the strep throat game when he wanted to pitch and Collins gave in when the smart thing would’ve have been to skip him.

Then, fast-forward to late August when agent Scott Boras leaked out the limit was 180 innings. Harvey first said he would follow his agent, then after the backlash against him he said wanted to pitch.

This made everybody connected with the Mets look bad.

Neither Alderson nor Collins had the backbone to stand up to Harvey, which ultimately brings us to the ninth inning of Game 5.

Harvey threw 216 innings last year – 36 more than Boras’ number. I estimated skipping one start a month would have saved Harvey at least that number, and even more if they pulled him early from blowout games.

So now, Collins is telling us Harvey threw too many innings in 2015. Well, whose fault is that? If Collins stood up to Harvey, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Now, we learn Harvey was ill before he pitched Tuesday night. Didn’t Collins learn anything from last year?

Obviously not.

 

May 03

Conforto Comparisons, Contract Speculation Premature

When Michael Conforto finished second to Bryce Harper for NL Player of the Month honors for April came the inevitable comparisons and with them predictable comments the Mets might be wise to consider signing him to a long-term contract.

That won’t happen anytime soon.

CONFORTO: Too soon to talk contract. (AP)

CONFORTO: Too soon to talk contract. (AP)

While the thought of securing Conforto is appealing, it’s not on the Mets’ priority list for a variety of reasons.

If the Mets sign a player to a long-term deal before declaring free-agency, they will be inclined to do so with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, although I still maintain the last one will eschew any early contract negotiations and wait until he’s on the market.

The Mets have the money to sign all four pitchers, plus Conforto, if they are inclined, but that’s not the way they do business. It’s early in all their careers and so much can happen, such as injuries and poor performance that could derail plans all together on long-term contracts.

Let’s not forget Tuesday night’s game against the Braves was the 80th of Conforto’s promising, yet still very young career. Conversely, Harper – a three-time All-Star – is in his fifth season and has played in 535 games. Putting the brakes on the comparison even further, Harper has 106 career homers while Conforto has 75 career hits.

It’s way too soon to compare Conforto to Harper or Mike Trout, or to a lot of people. Eighty games, people. That’s half a season.

I like Conforto. There’s so much about his game to like, including his potential. His career is off to a good start, but the reality of it is it’s way too soon to be talking about such things as long-term contracts.

May 02

Mets Wrap: Colon Superb Again

I understand where Terry Collins was coming from, but personally, unless Bartolo Colon was injured, I would have liked to have seen him go after the shutout. Colon retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced and threw just 99 pitches in the Mets’ 4-1 victory over Atlanta.

Colon retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced and threw just 99 pitches. With the bullpen not taxed and Colon’s pitch count reasonable, what was Collins thinking?

“We thought about it,” Collins told reporters why he pulled Colon. “He’s got to come back in four days and he’s not the youngest pitcher on our staff. … We decided going in 100 would be his limit.”

I wanted Colon to get the shutout, but going into the season I wrote how I wanted Collins to stay true to his pre-game judgments.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #24 Record: 16-8  Streak: W 1

 SUMMARY: David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda homered in the first to back the strong pitching of Colon, who threw eight scoreless innings to earn his 220th career victory. With the win Colon passed Pedro Martinez to move into second place for victories by a Dominican-born pitcher. Hall of Famer Juan Marichal is first with 243.

KEY MOMENT: The first inning.

THUMBS UP: Colon struck out seven, gave up seven hits and didn’t walk a hitter. … Asdrubal Cabrera continues to play a stellar shortstop and added two hits. … Two hits by Wright, including his first homer this year at Citi Field. … Michael Conforto rebounded from Sunday’s 0-for-5 against the Giants by going 1-for-4.

THUMBS DOWN: Not much.

 EXTRA INNINGS: Travis d’Arnaud’s brother, Chase, appeared in the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and singled to right. … This was the first game this season that the Mets didn’t use as many as three pitchers.

QUOTEBOOK: “This lineup is deep and it can be dangerous,” – Wright on the Mets’ lineup.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Times the Mets have hit back-to-back homers this year. Cespedes and Duda have done it twice, and Duda was involved four times.

NEXT FOR METS: Tomorrow: Matt Harvey (2-3, 4.76) starts against Atlanta’s Matt Wisler (0-2, 4.26); Wednesday, Steve Matz (3-1, 3.86) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (1-1, 3.27).

 

May 02

Mets’ April Review And Looking At May

Just as they did last season, the Mets won 15 games in April, and again the spark was a long winning streak. Last year it was 11 games; this year it was eight.

WALKER: My Mets' MVP for April. (AP)

WALKER: My Mets’ MVP for April. (AP)

As much as the Mets like to boast about their young pitching – as well they should – the springboard this time was power. It was not, as has been suggested, Terry Collins’ knee jerk managing in the eighth game of the season.

Yes, they won that game and have gone on to win five straight series. That’s purely coincidental.

The Mets tied a club record with 33 homers for the month, which enabled them to overcome Jacob deGrom’s two missed starts because of a strained lat muscle and Matt Harvey’s 0-3 start.

A key that can’t be underestimated has been the Mets’ ability to get an early lead, as they scored first in 10 of their last 14 games in April. Overall, they are 13-3 when they scored first this year.

The Mets crushed three homers and took a 4-0 lead in the first inning Monday against the Braves.

APRIL MVP

Contrary to the popular opinion of Yoenis Cespedes, I’m going with Neil Walker, who was hitting before Michael Conforto was moved to third in the order. Walker is tied for third in the majors with nine homers and finished the month with a career-high 19 for April.

Conforto would be my second choice and Cespedes third.

PITCHER OF THE MONTH

Noah Syndergaard took a pounding Sunday, but has been overpowering with 38 strikeouts with a 1.69 ERA for the month.

KEY GAME OF THE MONTH

Matt Harvey lost his first three starts, but finally won, April 22, 6-3, at Atlanta. He wasn’t totally on his game, but he pitched out of trouble enough times to turn it around. Sure, the game when Cespedes hit a three-run pinch-hit homer was more dramatic, but in the big picture getting Harvey going was more important.

KEY MOVE OF THE MONTH

On April 15 in Cleveland, Collins moved Conforto to the No. 3 spot in the batting order and the Mets have sizzled since going 12-3. When hitting third or fourth, Conforto is batting .373 with nine doubles, four homers and 15 RBI.

RED FLAGS ENDURED

Jacob deGrom missed two starts because of a strained right lat; Harvey lost his first three starts; closer Jeurys Familia sustained a rocky stretch, but has converted all eight of this save opportunities.

KEY ISSUE RESOLVED

Shortstop and the bullpen were two significant issues facing the Mets entering the season, but Asdrubal Cabrera has been superb both in the field and at the plate. The bullpen converted nine of 11 save opportunities and stranded 26 of 35 runners.

HEALTH ISSUES

Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff. … Cespedes missed close to a week with a bruised right leg. … David Wright ended the month without a problem, but his back remains an issue.

SIX QUESTIONS RAISED

Will the power continue?

Power of not, can Conforto keep it up?

Can Wright stay healthy?

Will the new guys, Walker and Cabrera, keep hitting?

Will we see deGrom and Harvey go on a roll?

Can the bullpen keep it up?

BY THE NUMBERS

.333: Walker’s average with RISP.

4: Times the Mets hit back-to-back homers.

5: Consecutive series the Mets won to close the month.

9: Consecutive games in which Cespedes had at least one extra-base hit.

22: Strikeouts by Cespedes.

29: Strikeouts by Wright.

33: Homers hit by the month.

LOOKING AT MAY’S SCHEDULE

They began May losing to Madison Bumgarner Sunday and close their current homestand against Atlanta.

The Mets are on a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, including their first West Coast trip, with four games in San Diego and Los Angeles and three in Colorado.

They’ll return home for a pair of three-games series against Washington (May 17-19) and Milwaukee (May 20-22), then go to Washington (May 23-25) for three more against the Nationals.

They’ll close out the month with three at home against the Dodgers (May 27-29) and two against the Chicago White Sox (a three-game series that ends June 1).