Apr 27

Syndergaard, Cespedes Lost … Is Season Far Behind?

Welcome, my friends, to Panic City, where your mayor, GM Sandy Alderson and his deputy, Terry Collins, have some serious scrambling to do before they take their last place Mets into Washington for a three-game series with the Nationals.

While Alderson was in his office after today’s 7-5 loss to the Braves – the Mets’ sixth straight – weighing his limited options, Collins was delivering his annual, closed doors, “nobody is going to feel sorry for you … it’s time to grind it out, starting now,” address to his shell-shocked team, losers of ten of their last 11 games.

CESPEDES: Yes, things can get worse. (AP)

CESPEDES: Yes, things can get worse. (AP)

Collins was in a testy mood following a day when starter Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes were lost.

Syndergaard has biceps tendinitis and the Mets hope he’ll be ready for Sunday, but they are accomplished at wishful thinking. Cespedes, whom the Mets gambled was back from a tight hamstring, significantly pulled it legging out a double in the fourth inning and will be lost for an extended period.

Cespedes will get another MRI Friday and likely will be placed on the disabled list before facing Max Scherzer in Washington. There, he will join Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, David Wright, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo and Brandon Nimmo.

Collins, his voice getting louder with each name, ticked them off one at a time, Duda, Wright, Matt Harvey, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Cespedes, Matz, Jacob deGrom and Travis d’Arnaud, and said the Mets eventually pulled it together to reach the playoffs.

“I told them, ‘We can do it again, but it’s got to start now,’ ” Collins said. “OK, so the weather is gonna start changing. That can no longer be the excuse. It’s now time to go out and grind it out as we did last year.

“It’s still April, I understand that, but, we can no longer sit back and say, ‘It’s ugly weather, we’ve got some guys hurt.’ No one cares. [The Braves] don’t care, the Nationals don’t care. The only thing that matters are the guys in [the clubhouse], because that’s the product. They’ve got to care. They’ve got to come out, play with some energy and get this going and I truly believe they can do it.”

When asked the timing for this message, Collins played the perception-reality card, Collins said he’s aware of the talk energy is down, but that’s to be expected when your team batting average is .184 and on-base percentage is .268 during this slide.

“Look, it’s just April, I get it, but it’s time,” Collins said. “We’ve got a tough road trip ahead. … We’ve got to grind it out. We can do it, but we’ve got to start now.”

Now, is best defined as Friday in Washington, where the Mets, currently 7.5 games behind the Nationals, will try to stop their free-fall. As of now, deGrom, Zack Wheeler and to-be-announced will start, but Collins can’t say whether the offense will show, especially with Cespedes out.

“We’ve got to go out there and have energy,” said third baseman Jose Reyes. “We know we are going to better than this. … We’re going to see what we’re made of. It’s only April, we have five more months. We don’t want to go too deep in the standings. We have a good ballclub and we’re going to turn it around.”

It’s going to be difficult without Cespedes and Syndergaard. Collins said losing Cespedes “is a big hole.”

Losing Cespedes could have been prevented had the Mets acted proactively, which they did not. Instead, they kept hoping he’d get better. By putting Cespedes immediately on the disabled list, he might have missed both Washington series. Instead, foolishly gambling on a player with a history of muscle pulls, they not only miss Cespedes for both Nationals series, and for possibly up to a month.

“No,” a defiant Collins said when asked if he had any regrets by not putting Cespedes on the disabled list a week ago.

“He did all the things that were required to get in the lineup,” Collins said. “It just happens. It’s easy to say you should have put him on the DL. Well, you know what? Every time you turn around for every little thing, if you keep putting guys on the DL, we can’t run anybody out there.

“The guy pulled a hamstring. He’s wound tight. I am going to go with that. Now he’s going to be out for awhile.”

In saying Cespedes is wound tight, and especially after last season, are specifically the reasons why he should have been put on the disabled list. But, Collins doesn’t make those decisions; he’s there to shield GM Sandy Alderson from the flack he deserves.

As for Syndergaard goes, the Mets can afford a few extra days in making a decision because as a pitcher he works every five days. Syndergaard was supposed to start Wednesday, but was scratched because “I wanted to,” said Collins, not because he felt something in his arm while shagging fly balls before the game.

Syndergaard said the discomfort is in his shoulder and biceps area and isn’t a reoccurrence of the bone spur that bothered him last season.

“It’s quite obvious we can’t take a chance on him,” Collins said. “He’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

Prior to the game, Syndergaard said, “it’s a little thing right now, but we definitely don’t want to become a big thing,” but after the game got testy with a team official for not preventing reporters from questioning him.

Harvey started in place of Syndergaard and was lit up by the Braves. He got a phone call early today saying he would start.

“I really physically prepared for starting today,” said Harvey, who lifted weights Wednesday. “Having those workouts that I did yesterday and the throwing that I did yesterday, I just definitely wasn’t prepared.”

That’s odd because had he paid attention Wednesday when Syndergaard’s arm was barking and he was scratched, should have realized something was going on. Of course, that wouldn’t have taken away the workout, but Harvey could have been more mentally prepared.

Should have, could have, would have can’t turn this thing around for the Mets, who are in desperate need of something to go right.

“We need to be cognizant, when things aren’t going your way, not to go through the motions,” said Jay Bruce, one of the few bright spots for the Mets. “We’re up to the challenge.”

They better be, because 21 games into a season they all believed a World Series was possible, they are looking at that opportunity slipping away.

Apr 23

Mets Have Few Options To Revive Offense

Pennants aren’t usually won in April, but can be lost, which is the prospect facing the Mets. After being swept by the Nationals – losing 6-3 to Max Scherzer – they are 5.5 games behind with a week remaining in the month.

There’s a lot of time remaining, but in addition to their myriad of injuries, the Mets aren’t hitting. They are in a deep and lengthy slump with few breakout signs and don’t have many options as to how they can turn it around.

CESPEDES: DL decision coming? (AP)

CESPEDES: DL decision coming? (AP)

There’s a 10-day disabled list now, so why aren’t the Mets using it with Yoenis Cespedes? They are using it with Lucas Duda (elbow) and Wilmer Flores (knee), but heading down the same road with Cespedes’ hamstring as they did last year with his quad, when a few games turned into weeks.

When they finally made the move, GM Sandy Alderson conceded they waited too long. However, the rules were 15 days then but a more manageable ten now.

Cespedes didn’t start tonight, which the Mets anticipated. However, if he’s not ready to go Tuesday against the Braves, then it could be time to make a retroactive move. However, they should guard against being foolish enough to use him in a pinch-hit role and risk starting the clock over. The game ended with him on the on-deck circle, which was reckless.

Admittedly, the Mets aren’t deep in the minors but have prospects Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario. They don’t want to bring up either now because they don’t want the arbitration clock to start ticking. Of the two, there should be serious thought to replacing Jose Reyes with Rosario.

Money also factored into why Michael Conforto started the season on the bench behind Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce, and, while we’re at it, in light of Daniel Murphy’s first-inning grand slam off Zack Wheeler, why he’s with the Nationals. Wheeler, by the way, put it together after the first.

The Mets’ mentality that favors bucks over baseball underscores an underlying cheapness that has been always disturbing. It isn’t the approach of a championship caliber organization.

Quite simply, Conforto needs to play, and with the offense on a hiatus, I don’t see why that’s even a question. He had three more hits tonight.

Another aspect of the Mets’ approach that is lacking regards injuries. When Alderson was hired, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon vowed an overhaul of their handling of injuries, which hasn’t happened.

It is well documented four of their starters are coming off various arm surgeries. Fate or coincidence?

Collins made a point of referring to Cespedes being tightly muscled in regards to being cautious. Considering his problems last season, I wonder how serious they thought about that before re-signing him.

It’s an oversimplification to think all injuries are a product of fate or are even avoidable. Both Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera have hamstring issues. Are they doing enough stretching? It’s a legitimate question, especially in the cold.

Whatever the answer, it won’t have an immediate impact on the Mets. What will have an impact is when they’ll start hitting.

Feb 09

Three Compelling Mets This Summer

We’re four days from Mets pitchers and catchers reporting in Port St. Lucie. Considering there’s a foot of snow on the ground, the wind is howling and temps are in the 20s, that’s a comforting thought. What’s not so comforting, however, is the potential future of these three Mets after this season.

WRIGHT: Facing pivotal year. (ABC)

WRIGHT: Facing pivotal year. (ABC)

David Wright: Reports are positive, but we’ll never know until the season begins. And, we don’t even have to get deep into the season before knowing some answers. Wright hasn’t played in a combined 100 games over the past two years because of back issues. Hopefully, Wright will bounce back. If he does, what’s to become of Jose Reyes. And, if Wright does play and Reyes’ time is reduced, what becomes of the leadoff hitter? However, if injuries sideline Wright again, there will be whispers – likely loud ones – of whether he should retire.

Matt Harvey: Twice since 2013 Harvey had a season cut short with an arm injury that required surgery. He’s been throwing and said he’s ready. That doesn’t mean he’s ready for 30 starts and 200-plus innings, which is the benchmark for a healthy starter. Harvey has a lifetime 29-28 record and will be a free-agent after the 2018 season. If he wants the big money as he suggested late in the 2015 season, he’d better start living up to his potential. If Harvey is healthy and has a strong year, his market value will undoubtedly increase, and with it possible trade rumors. With the Mets having a myriad of issues and assuming the rest of their rotation is healthy, it would be easier to trade Harvey,

Michael Conforto: Manager Terry Collins projected him to be the Mets’ No.3 hitter for the next ten years, but sputtered after a hot start and rode the Vegas shuttle. When Jay Bruce‘s option was picked up and Yoenis Cespedes re-signed, Conforto is without a spot. Bruce, Conforto and Curtis Granderson gives the Mets three left-handed hitters. Maybe that might work one night against Max Scherzer, but let’s face it, Cespedes will play most every night. And, with Juan Lagares the only true center fielder, Conforto is fifth on the outfield depth chart. With at-bats figuring to be scarce, could Conforto be ticketed for the minor leagues, or even possibly dangled as trade bait?

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 16

Five Reasons Nationals Have Pressing Need For Cespedes

According to multiple reports, the Mets still covet Yoenis Cespedes, and their plan appears to wait him out as they did last winter and gamble he’ll fall back into their laps. It paid off because for all the lip service Cespedes gave for liking New York, he wasn’t enamored with the Nationals’ offer of deferred salary.

It worked once, so why not twice?

HARPER: Needs help. (AP)

HARPER: Needs help. (AP)

Last winter there were two serious players for Cespedes, the Mets and Nationals. However, this offseason, San Franciso, the Dodgers, Toronto and Yankees have also been linked to Cespedes with varying degrees of interest.

The Nationals, who despite the addition of Daniel Murphy, overtook the Mets in the NL East in 2016, but once again were unable to get past the division series. Such mounting frustration could entice the Nationals to be a major competitor for Cespedes.

If Cespedes winds up in Washington, the Nationals will likely move Jayson Werth from left to right and Bryce Harper from right to center. A projected middle-of-the-order with Werth, Murphy, Cespedes, Harper is more than imposing.

Here’s why this could be a burning issue for the Nationals:

Mounting frustration: The Nationals have consistently failed to get past the division series, and this must be gnawing at them. It sure does when watching Harper. For the Mets, their frustration stemmed from six losing seasons. However, it’s different for the Nationals, who won – and often easily – the NL East, but stumbled in the first round of the playoffs. They’ve acquired quality pitching, but their offense has been stagnant and needs an infusion. Murphy helped, but it wasn’t enough as Werth and Harper had down years. Cespedes could be that guy, and as an added bonus to Washington, when the other bats are producing it will take pressure off him.

Need a buffer for Werth: This is Werth’s final season of a seven-year, $126-million contract (he’ll get $21 this year). He hasn’t lived up to the money as they hoped and combined with the decline of Ryan Zimmerman (signed through 2019), the Nationals need to bolster their right-handed offense.

Harper window closing: Harper is salary arbitration eligible for 2017, but will be a free agent after that season. This is a guy who’ll command major bucks. The Nationals must prepare to lose him, and Cespedes could be their safety net.

Don’t want to waste pitching: The Nationals have a strong staff with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and much like the Mets with their young rotation, they don’t want to waste their prime years.

Sticking it to the Mets: As they did with Daniel Murphy, the Nationals would relish the opportunity to stick it to the Mets. To the Nationals, 2015 was a fluke, and in their collective minds this is a chance to restore their world order. Of course, it is up to the Mets to prevent this, but it will cost them.

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May 17

May 17, Mets-Nats Lineups (Updated)

NOTE: Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has been updated to reflect David Wright being scratched. He was originally scheduled to bat second.

Well, it’s here. What we’ve all been waiting for this spring is a few hours away at Citi Field when the Mets host the Nationals. It is the first of 19 games between the teams, which figure to battle for NL East supremacy this summer unless the Phillies prove to be no fluke.

Tonight we’ll see a classic pitching duel between the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and Washington’s Max Scherzer, the latter who is coming off a 20-strikeout performance in his last start. Of course, Syndergaard has the stuff to reach that plateau some day.

The game will also feature the return of Mets’ 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy back to New York and the inevitable question of whether New York will pitch to Nationals’ MVP outfielder Bryce Harper.

Lucas Duda is not playing for the Mets because of a sore lower back.

Here are the lineups for both teams:

Mets

Curtis Granderson, RF

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Michael Conforto, LF

Yoenis Cespedes, CF

Neil Walker, 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Kevin Plawecki, C

Eric Campbell, 1B

Syndergaard, RP

Matt Reynolds, 3B

Nationals

Ben Revere,  CF

Jayson Werth, LF

Harper, RF

Murphy, 2B

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B

Anthony Rendon, 3B

Wilson Ramos, C

Danny Espinosa, SS

Scherzer, RP

ON DECK: Murphy deserves your cheers this week.