Oct 01

Mets’ Quest For Power Might Be Misguided

We saw baseball in all its beauty last night, Dramatic and building tension; rallies; questionable decisions; and mistakes made by the athletes. And, pure athleticism.

We also saw the continuation of the long debate of power vs. speed, with speed winning. Six stolen bases trumping two home runs.

We all saw why baseball is still the greatest game, and for those in authority clamoring about the length of the games, could you please just shut up, go away and appreciate what you have and understand most of that tinkering is a waste. Tell me every minute wasn’t compelling.

And, for those saying all the Mets need is more power, I hope you were taking notes. The Mets hit 30 more homers than Kansas City, which hit a major league low 95 – the only team with fewer than 100. However, even with that deficit, the Royals generated 22 more runs, or roughly three more a month.

And, the Royals played in the league with the designated hitter.

Where Kansas City had it way over the Mets offensively was in a higher slugging percentage – which incorporates doubles – a higher batting average, a slightly higher on-base percentage, and struck out a whopping 279 fewer times.

That’s roughly six fewer a game, or two more innings on not touching the ball and subsequently making a productive out by moving a runner into scoring position. The Mets also left more runners on base.

This isn’t to say power isn’t important, just that it isn’t as vital of playing small ball, of using speed to manufacture runs. Hustling for runs usually puts more pressure on the defense than mashing.

The Royals rallied twice Tuesday night in the late innings to advance in the playoffs while playing in a smaller park. Meanwhile, the Mets are sitting home again figuring how much closer they should bring in the fences.

Citi Field was built with the idea of having a team concentrate on pitching, speed and defense. Actually, speed and defense win in all sports.

The Mets would be wise to get back to that line of thinking.

 

Sep 29

How Mets Answered 15 Key Questions In 2014

The Mets entered the season with 15 key questions facing GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins. Let’s examine how they were answered, and if they still need attention before spring training, 2015:

Q: CAN TRAVIS d’ARNAUD LIVE UP TO THE BILLING?

A: It took awhile, but d’Arnaud is coming and perhaps will be good for 20 homers over a full season. However, d’Arnaud’s future is far from settled with Kevin Plawecki emerging. Are the Mets better off trading d’Arnaud, who isn’t rated as highly by scouts? Can d’Arnaud play another position such as left field? If d’Arnaud can be moved to another position it could address both the outfield and catching questions. Status: Still undecided.

DUDA: A lot to cheer about.

DUDA: A lot to cheer about.

Q: WHO’S ON FIRST?

A: The decision between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda was answered quickly compared to 2013. The thinking in 2013 was to give Davis time to work on his myriad of flaws. When Alderson finally relented and sent Davis to Triple-A it was way too late. When Davis stumbled out of the gate this season, Alderson acted quickly – for him – and traded the non-slugger to Pittsburgh. Without the distraction of Davis, Duda emerged as a 30-homer slugger. With the fences to be shortened in right and right center, Duda might be even better in 2015. Status: Looks answered to me.

Q: WILMER FLORES OR RUBEN TEJADA AT SHORTSTOP?

A: To some, this is still an issue, but not for me. Unless the Mets obtain a top shortstop from the trade or free-agent markets, I believe Flores should get the job. He’s not great defensively, but showed promise. His lack of range can be made up with better positioning. Flores’ bat is better than Tejada’s and over a full season he could have double-digit power. Meanwhile, Tejada’s defense isn’t so superior that he must play. Status: Looks answered to me.

Q: WILL DAVID WRIGHT HAVE A BOUNCE BACK SEASON?

A: That question must be asked again next spring. Wright’s lackluster season was cut short by a shoulder injury. He subsequently said he’s learning how to better manage pain and injuries. We shall see. Wright hasn’t hit 30 homers since 2008, and only twice since then has hit 20. Wright played in just 134 games this year after playing in 112 in 2013. He’s a long way from his All-Star form. Status: To be determined.

Q: WHO WILL PLAY LEFT FIELD?

A: That’s still an unanswered question. Nine players were trotted out to left field: Eric Young, Chris Young, Matt den Dekker, Eric Campbell, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Andrew Brown, Curtis Granderson, Bobby Abreu and Lucas Duda. That screams of being unsettled. The Mets want power from the position, but nobody currently on the roster is capable of delivering. A trade will cost a top pitching prospect and the Mets don’t want to spend big. Eric Young has the potential to provide the most because of his speed, but the Mets won’t play him full time because he has too many holes in his game. The best defensive option is den Dekker, but the belief is he won’t hit. How will we know if he doesn’t get a long look? Of course, they could always bring back Chris Young for another $7.25 million. Status: To be determined.

Q: IS JUAN LAGARES THE REAL THING?

 A: Definitely with his glove, but his bat is suspect. He needs to cut his strikeouts and improve his on-base percentage. Lagares showed the instincts to be a good base stealer, but he must get on base more to win the leadoff job. Status: To be determined based on offense.

Q: WHO WILL BAT LEADOFF?

A: Mets’ leadoff hitters finished dead last in the majors with a .235 average and .308 on-base percentage. They added just eight homers and 40 RBI from the top of the order. Their leadoff hitters had only 63 walks and stuck out 147 times. Eleven players tried, and failed, leading off: Eric Young, Chris Young, den Dekker, Lagares, Tejada, Granderson, Daniel Murphy, Nieuwenhuis, Abreu, Brown and Campbell. From a power perspective, Granderson hit seven of his 20 homers leading off. However, he strikes out too much to be considered for the position fulltime. Eric Young is the best base stealer, but 46 strikeouts in 210 at-bats and a .302 on-base percentage say he’s not the answer, either. If Eric Young isn’t brought back, Lagares might get it by default. Status: Not answered.

Q; CAN BARTOLO COLON REPLACE MATT HARVEY?

A: Not in the long term, but Colon logged 200 innings while winning 15 games at age 41. There’s still something in his tank. Harvey is penciled in at No. 1 if healthy. Colon should start the season in the rotation ahead of Dillon Gee, but might be traded at the deadline. If the Mets are as close as they say, they shouldn’t be so eager to trade Colon. Currently, assuming all are healthy, Collins must select five from the following: Harvey, Colon, Zack Wheeler, Gee, Jacob de Grom and Jon Niese. The Mets wouldn’t mind trading Colon, Gee, Rafael Montero and Niese – in that order. Status: Answered in the positive.

Q: WILL MATT HARVEY HAVE A SETBACK IN HIS REHAB?

A: Repeatedly saying he wanted to pitch this year was a minor annoyance. Giving in to him and sustaining another injury would have been disastrous. Alderson said Harvey is on track to start spring training on time and with no restrictions, and nobody could have asked for more. Harvey is 12-10 in parts of two seasons. Anything less than 15 next year will be a disappointment. Status: Answered in the positive.

Q: HOW MUCH BETTER WILL ZACK WHEELER BE?

A: Wheeler finished at 11-11 in 15 more starts than in 2013 when he was 7-5. Wheeler struck out 187, but walked 79. His pitch count was way too high as he exceeded 90 pitches in all but four of 32 starts. Wheeler continually works too deep in the count, which is taxing for him, and subsequently, the bullpen. To reach the next level, Wheeler must pitch more to contact and trust his defense. The shorter Wheeler goes in games means the bullpen must go longer. Status: To be determined.

Q: WHAT’S GOING ON WITH JON NIESE?

A: We still don’t know. Young, left-handed and signed to a reasonable contract, Niese has been attractive to the Mets and opponents seeking to trade. However, he’s won as many as 13 games once in seven years (13-9 in 2012 in his only winning season). He was 9-11 this year and left his final start with a rapid heartbeat, something he’s had in the past. Niese is signed through 2018 (club option). He could be valuable to teams believing he needs a change of scenery, but they don’t figure to offer a lot. His real value to the Mets is in the hope he’ll live up to expectations, but hoping isn’t much of a plan. Status: Anybody’s guess.

Q: WILL THEY FINALLY FIX THE BULLPEN?

A: That’s an annual question, but there were positives this season, such as finally settling on a role for Jenrry Mejia and emergence of Jeurys Familia. There’s also a lot to like about Carlos Torres, Vic Black and Josh Edgin. Daisuke Matsuzaka could finish his career in Japan and Montero could also be slotted in. The Mets love Gonzalez German’s stuff, but his command is suspect. He’s raw, but worth the wait. Status: Looks good so far.

Q: CAN THE METS IMPROVE THEIR RECORD IN ONE-RUN GAMES AND IN THE DIVISION?

A: The Mets were 26-29 in one-run games and 38-38 in the NL East. They were 34-42 vs. the East in 2013, but 29-28 in one-run games. The Mets were 7-12 against Washington in 2013, but regressed to 4-15 this year. That last record needs to change drastically. Status: Still needs work.

Q: CAN THE METS WIN AT HOME?

A: The Mets were better at 40-41, but still haven’t found a way to make Citi Field to their advantage. The belief is moving the fences in again will be the answer, but that’s folly as the opponents will also gain an edge. If the Mets learned anything in their best record in six years (tied at 79-83 with the 2010) is they can compete with pitching and defense. Assuming the healthy returns of Harvey and Wright, and progressions of Wheeler and de Grom, they should have a reasonable expectation of further improvement without tinkering with the dimensions of Citi Field. Status: Still needs work.

Q: ARE THE METS READY TO TAKE THE TOWN FROM THE YANKEES?

A: These things go in cycles. The Mets won’t ever equal the Yankees in career victories and championships, as the Pinstripes have been around for more than five decades as the Mets. That’s a quite a head start. But, the Mets wrestled the town away in 1969 and in the mid- to late-1980s. Although neither made the playoffs this season, the eyes in the Apple would be focused on the Bronx because: 1) the Mets didn’t have Harvey; 2) the Yankees are always more willing to spend, and, above all, 3) this was Derek Jeter’s last season. Next season could be different, as the Yankees are no lock to reach October with a multitude of pitching issues. Status: Time to seize the moment.

Sep 28

Mets Finish 2014 With Next Year Looking Bright

A sign spotted in the bleachers pretty much said it all about the day and the season: “We Believe in 2015.’’ For the first time in six years, there’s a legitimate reason to believe the interlocking NY on the Mets’ cap does mean next year.

Seriously, without Matt Harvey, David Wright ailing and missing and questions in their rotation and bullpen, the Mets finished in second place (tied with Atlanta) and two games under .500. Nobody realistically could have anticipated such an improvement considering their issues at first base, catcher, shortstop, the bullpen and outfield.

I certainly didn’t.

There was so much to like about today. The sendoff to Bobby Abreu was special, but not like the one Derek Jeter received in Boston. Bartolo Colon threw over 200 innings and won 15 games, something I didn’t bet on either.

The Mets were 14-10 in September for their third winning month of the year. That hasn’t happened often.

Who didn’t enjoy watching Daniel Murphy smoke a double in his last at-bat? Would have liked to have seen him finish at .300. But Lucas Duda crushed another two run homer to give him 30 with 92 RBI. Ike Davis hit 11 homers with 51 RBI playing for the Mets and Pittsburgh. That was a decision that turned out right.

Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia showed us the bullpen is heading in the right direction.

The Mets are 79-83 and GM Sandy Alderson said they need to improve by another 10 or 12 victories. That’s possible.

However, what I’ll remember the most of this season was getting hurt just as I was getting ready for spring training, and how you welcomed me back from my absence.

That meant the world to me. Thank you again. I’ll be posting regularly in the offseason, which, for the first time in six years won’t be hollow.

Thanks.

Sep 27

It’s Clear Harvey Doesn’t Respect You Or Mets

Matt Harvey said respect is why he attended Derek Jeter’s last game in the Bronx. One thing for sure, Harvey doesn’t have respect for his teammates and Mets’ fans.

HARVEY: Disses Mets.

HARVEY: Disses Mets.

How could he, when he prefers to watch the Mets’ most hated rival instead of his own team? Who cares that the Mets were in Washington instead of Citi Field? That’s irrelevant. Had he wanted to be with his teammates, there’s no way they would have prevented him.

None.

Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams might have talked with them, but in the end both said they couldn’t have played for the rival Red Sox. It just wouldn’t feel right, they claimed.

Still, Harvey had no problem sitting right up front for the New York sports world to see. I’m not the only who was critical of Harvey’s decision, but Harvey doesn’t care what I think. He doesn’t care what anybody thinks.

The guarded reactions from GM Sandy Alderson, manager Terry Collins and several of his teammates, clearly indicated they were uncomfortable with what Harvey did.

For all of 12 major league victories, Harvey’s ego and sense of entitlement is out of control. Many have written Harvey will be out of here first chance he gets, likely signing with the Yankees.

Why wait?

It’s clear he doesn’t want to be here and even clearer that he couldn’t care less with what you feel or think. Why not bring him back for 2015, see how healthy he is, and then trade him?

It’s not as if he wants to be a Met.

Sep 26

The Obstacle In Trading For Power

It isn’t that Daniel Murphy doesn’t have value to another team in a straight trade; it is he won’t be able to bring back much in return by himself.

With the Mets’ greatest need power; Murphy is a line-drive gap hitter with limited power. To acquire a 30-homer bat, the Mets would have to sweeten the pot considerably. That would mean dealing one of their pitchers. The Mets don’t want to trade Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, as that is their core.

The most likely pitchers they’ll offer are Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Perhaps both. That probably won’t get it done, either.

The way I see it, to get a power bat the Mets must spend in the free-agent market or offer more in a trade. Because past history indicates they likely won’t do either, I see them hoping for bounce-back seasons from David Wright and Curtis Granderson, and improvement from Lucas Duda to get their power.

Otherwise, they’ll probably come back next season with roughly the same team.