Feb 22

Mets Instruct D’Arnaud Not To Block Plate

Miami Marlins vs New York Mets

Travis d’Arnaud told reporters that regardless of what rule goes into effect regarding blocking the plate, Mets personnel have instructed him today that he is to stand in fair territory and give base runners the whole plate.

The rule, which is not official yet, is to allow runners a lane to part of the plate so as to avoid contact and collisions with the catcher.

Mets bench coach Bob Geren said that he is working with all the Mets catchers about positioning and making sure they tag across the plate.

Last week, Keith Law of ESPN listed Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud among his top twenty impact prospects for 2014, but says he is “the archetypal GWH player” — Good When Healthy.

D’Arnaud can catch, throw, and hit for power, but has to stay on the field. The Mets don’t have a heavy-use backup on the 40-man, so they’re counting on d’Arnaud to catch 120 games this year, which should mean 15-20 homers and excellent defense if he can stay out of the trainers’ room.

Yesterday, Adam Rubin spoke with hitting coach Dave Hudgens about how TDA can shorten his swing and make more contact without the need for conscious mechanical adjustments.

“I think cutting down his swing just means not trying so hard,” Hudgens told Rubin. “I think when he came up last year he was trying, maybe not in his mind, but it looked like he was trying to hit every ball out of the ballpark and over swinging a little bit and probably just trying to do too much. Watching him this year, so far early in camp, his swing has been easy. He’s been staying in the middle of the field. And that will lend to less effort and less bat wrap.”

Last season with the Mets, d’Arnaud batted .202/.286/.263, with one homer, five RBIs, and 21 strikeouts in 99 at-bats.

Rubin asks Hudgens to quantify d’Arnaud’s offensive capability? Is it .270 or .280 with 20 homers?

“Who knows?” Hudgens tells Rubins. “I’m not putting any numbers on guys. He’s got a chance to be a very good offensive player. I mean, he’s got very quick hands. He’s got a good idea at the plate. I think it’s just experience and confidence and getting that playing time. I think last year when he came up he hadn’t played that much. So I think a big thing is just staying healthy.”

If the fans are looking for d’Arnaud to be the next saving grace as Mike Piazza was for the Mets, Hudgens shares with Rubin, that would be asking too much. ”Piazza, I guess, was the greatest hitting catcher who ever lived. I just want Travis to be Travis.”

D’Arnaud acknowledged that he has some work to do and can’t come up to the plate thinking longball everytime. ”That was more me trying to hit the ball 600 feet,” he said. “When I would try to do that, I would overwrap or overswing pretty much, and it would just dig me in a bigger hole.”

Now it’s up to him to fix it.

Feb 22

Mets Re-Financing In Place

Outside a miraculous recovery by Matt Harvey, the New York Mets have the best possible news today. On the day of their first full squad workout, the Mets finalized their refinancing, reported The New York Post.

So, if Fred and Jeff Wilpon are spotted smiling on one of the fields in Port St. Lucie, you’ll know why.

The Wilpon family, stung in the Ponzi scandal, were five weeks from having to make a $250 million payment on an expiring loan. Had the loan been called, it is questionable whether the Mets could have come up with the money.

Reportedly, the Mets lost $10 million last season, but with their payroll to be under $100 million for a third straight year and Major League Baseball’s new television contract, they could turn a profit this season.

The new loan, which is for five years and headed by Bank of America, is for the Libor average plus 3.25 percent. According to the report, the Mets did not have to pay down their former loan to make this one happen.

The Mets, who are currently valued at $1 billion, still need to have Major League Baseball approve the deal, which will be a formality.

Irving Picard, who was assigned to recovering funds for victims in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandal, initially sued the Wilpons for $1 billion, which would have necessitated selling the Mets. However, the courts reduced that to $386 million.

The Mets’ financial restraints were loosened this winter with the signings of Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young.

While that was an encouraging sign, as is the re-financing, don’t expect a spending spree next winter and the team to return to the days of a $143 million payroll.

If the Mets are competitive this season with a $90 million payroll, they will likely increase spending in small increments.

ON DECK: I’ll have a notebook pertaining to the first full-squad workout.



Feb 21

Three Mets Players to Watch This Spring Training

COLLINS: Issues to address.

The Mets begin their first full squad workout in St. Lucie on Saturday, February 22 and for us fans there’s nothing better than watching the news filter out of the camp, knowing the first day of the season is getting ever so closer.

Spring training usually sets the benchmark for how a team will perform in the regular season. New additions show off their talent, last year’s rookies return with confidence, old-timers find ways to hang on and those recovering from injury face the uncertainty of testing out their bodies once more.

It’s a fascinating time for baseball fans, but also for those who set the MLB odds for each team and try to predict who will be the division and wild card winners. As rosters begin to take shape in the next six weeks, every team goes into Opening Day in a tie for first place. The tough part will be staying there.

For the Mets, their 2014 journey begins tomorrow. The Mets have many issues ranging from the muddled situation at first base and the yet to be contested battles for the fifth spot in the rotation and who will be the leadoff hitter. But there are three more things to watch for in spring training:

1. Bartolo Colon needs to deliver

Ever since our ace underwent Tommy John surgery late last year – ruling him out for the entirety of 2014 – many are betting and wondering who will replace the majestic Matt Harvey. All eyes will be on Bartolo Colon who was signed to a two year deal worth $20 million and has been the front office’s solution to replacing Harvey’s loss in the rotation. While we all keep our fingers crossed and hope for improved command from Zack Wheeler and the mid-season debut of the promising Noah Syndergaard, the Mets need to hit big it with Colon – Alderson’s highest paid pitcher in four years. They’ll also need to see Dillon Gee and Jon Niese look like the pitchers we saw in the second half of last season.

2. Travis d’Arnaud must step up

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of articles and features on framing pitches, and I’m looking forward to articles on D’Arnaud mashing pitches. TDA didn’t get his billing at top catching prospect for getting one or two extra strike call per nine innings. The rookie catcher played 31 games in the close of last season, but often showed how pressure can get to him. Yet despite his poor form that saw him finish 2013 batting .202, d’Arnaud has the capabilities to be a solid performer in the Mets roster and must prove himself in spring training. At 25-years old it’s time to show-off the offensive package we’ve been hearing about for the last four years.

3. Chris Young against RHP

I’m not worried about Curtis Granderson, we all know what he can do. But as long as Chris Young is being handed an everyday job after a season that saw him bat .200 with a .280 OBP – both lower than Juan Lagares – he’s the man under the microscope.  What scares me more about him – aside from Billy Beane casting him away and proclaiming him a platoon player – is his horrendous .225 career batting average against right handed pitching in 2,825 plate appearances. Is that sample size big enough for you? He has declined every year since 2010 except for his strikeout rate, that continues to climb. He’s pushing a promising prospect to the bench, he better pay us back in spades.

Feb 21

Looking At Mets’ Leadoff Situation

The primary objective for the New York Mets in their quest for a leadoff hitter is the combination of speed, base-running ability and on-base percentage.

Eric Young has the first two, but manager Terry Collins wants him to improve his on-base percentage. Young’s career on-base percentage is .325, and Collins is thinking of at least 25 more points.

YOUNG: Should bunt more.

YOUNG: Should bunt more.

“Ideally, you’d wish he’d have a .350 on-base,’’ Collins said earlier this week. “I don’t know if he’s going to, but you hope he does.

“All I know is what an impact this guy made on our team when we got him. He got some big hits, made some great plays defensively in the outfield. And when he got on, exciting things happened and we scored runs.

“So we’re certainly going to focus a lot on trying to get Eric to bunt a little bit more, maybe be a little more selective at the plate.’’

Even at .350, that pales compared to Rickey Henderson (.401) and Pete Rose (.375), two of the greatest leadoff hitters in history.

The Mets want Young to improve his walks-to-strikeouts ratio, which was a poor 35-67 last season in only 418 plate appearances and to bunt more.

With his speed, if Young averaged one bunt hit a week, that would be 26 additional for the season. Give Young 26 more hits over the same number of at-bats last year and his average would have been .320.

Collins prefers Young in the leadoff role over Daniel Murphy (lacks speed), Chris Young or Juan Lagares (low on-base percentage and too many strikeouts), or Ruben Tejada (low on-base percentage).


Feb 20

Wrapping The Day: Harvey Cleared; Parnell Takes It Slow

Unquestionably, the most important item coming out of the New York Mets’ spring training camp in Port St. Lucie was the news recovering pitcher Matt Harvey was cleared to throw.

“[Dr. David Altchek] said everything was fine and basically that I can start throwing,’’ Harvey told reporters today. “So I don’t know exactly which date that is, but in the next couple of days. That was obviously good news for me.’’

Harvey acknowledged he can’t afford to rush his rehab, and spoke specifically with Altchek about that issue.

In addition:

* Closer Bobby Parnell is taking it slowly in his rehab (Harvey, please take note). Parnell was supposed to throw off the mound today, but pushed it back until tomorrow.

* Manager Terry Collins said reliever Jeurys Familia has the stuff to be a closer. However, does he have the command and mental make-up?

* ESPN reported the Mets are monitoring the Seattle Mariners about shortstop Nick Franklin. Mets’ back-up shortstop Omar Quintanilla reported to camp.

* Position players will have their physicals Friday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Saturday.