Sep 16

Mets Must Take Advantage Of Schedule

We’ve heard for the past month what an easy schedule the Mets have down the stretch compared to St. Louis and San Francisco.

However, it doesn’t matter how easy the Mets theoretically might have it if they don’t win. With the Cardinals and Giants beating each other this weekend, the Mets have three games with the Twins, who have the worst record in the majors.

“We’re going home in the wild-card hunt,” manager Terry Collins said after the Washington series. “Our fans should be excited. It’s the last homestand. … We caught up a lot in the last couple of weeks. We’ve got ourselves right where we need to be.”

There will be a myriad of reasons to blame if the Mets don’t make it, not the least of which is their record against several of the National League’s cupcakes. They are a combined 17-24 against Colorado (1-6), Arizona (1-5), Philadelphia (6-6), and Atlanta (9-7).

Their combined 2-11 record against the Diamondbacks and Rockies, by itself, could derail the Mets.

Here are the remaining schedules of the Mets, Cardinals and Giants:

Sept. 16: Twins at Mets; Cardinals at Giants.

Sept. 17: Twins at Mets; Cardinals at Giants.

Sept. 18: Twins at Mets; Cardinals at Giants.

Sept. 19: Braves at Mets; Cardinals at Rockies; Giants at Dodgers.

Sept. 20: Braves at Mets; Cardinals at Rockies; Giants at Dodgers.

Sept. 21: Braves at Mets; Cardinals at Rockies; Giants at Dodgers.

Sept. 22: Phillies at Mets; Cardinals OFF; Giants at Padres.

Sept. 23: Phillies at Mets; Cardinals at Cubs; Giants at Padres.

Sept. 24: Phillies at Mets; Cardinals at Cubs; Giants at Padres.

Sept. 25: Phillies at Mets; Cardinals at Cubs; Giants at Padres.

Sept. 26: Mets at Marlins; Reds at Cardinals; Giants OFF.

Sept. 27: Mets at Marlins; Reds at Cardinals; Rockies at Giants.

Sept. 28: Mets at Marlins; Reds at Cardinals; Rockies at Giants.

Sept. 29: Mets OFF; Reds at Cardinals; Rockies at Giants.

Sept. 30: Mets at Phillies; Pirates at Cardinals; Dodgers at Giants.

Oct. 1: Mets at Phillies; Pirates at Cardinals; Dodgers at Giants.

Oct. 2: Mets at Phillies; Pirates at Cardinals; Dodgers at Giants.

Please follow me on Twitter

Sep 15

Mets Should Give Verrett Sunday’s Start

The Mets are undecided as to Sunday’s starter against Minnesota, but manager Terry Collins has several options – all of them lacking.

Of their potential choices, rushing Jacob deGrom or Steven Matz – or even splitting a start by using both – is the least appealing in my mind.

VERRETT: My choice for Sunday. (AP)

VERRETT: My choice for Sunday. (AP)

The Mets have to ask this question: If this were May, would they rush them back?

I’m saying no. Under normal circumstances, both would get more rehab time, including a rehab assignment in the minor leagues. However, with the minor league season over, the latter isn’t an option.

As it is, Matz will have surgery to treat the bone spur in his elbow this winter. As much as they want to pitch, and for how badly the Mets – and these players – want to reach the postseason, the last thing they should do is gamble with their health.

Beating the Twins isn’t as important as waiting longer and having them ready for the final two weeks and the postseason. Should they lose Sunday to the Twins and miss the playoffs by a game, well, that’s the risk they’ll have to take.

Is winning worth the risk of deGrom possibly having Tommy John surgery and maybe missing 2017?

What are Collins’ other choices?

* Collins could move up Noah Syndergaard a day, but Collins said he doesn’t want that option. And, let’s not forget Syndergaard also has a bone spur and surgery hasn’t been discounted.

* That turn in the rotation belongs to Rafael Montero. After his last start, Collins immediately said Montero wouldn’t pitch. While, I’m not against that, Collins probably should have waited a day or two before committing to not using Montero. He could go back on his initial decision, but that would make him look bad. Very bad.

* A third option is going back to Logan Verrett, who has pitched well as a spot starter in the past. Verrett was shelled in his last start, Aug. 12 against San Diego, when he gave up eight runs in 2.2 innings. However, he has started 12 of the 33 games in which he’s pitched. Collins has gotten good starts from Verrett in the past, and surely he’d take five innings, something he’s done six times already this year.

* Another option is lefty Sean Gilmartin, who produced as a Rule Five draft pick last year. Gilmartin has one career start for the Mets, and that was last season.

* Gabriel Ynoa is a possibility, but his 15.19 ERA and 2.44 WHIP in six appearances (5.1 innings) is hardly endorsement worthy.

* Collins’ final option is to start either Gilmartin or Montero and using the other as the first reliever out of the pen.

My first option would be Verrett based on experience and previous success in that role. My second choice would be a combination of Verrett, Montero and Gilmartin.

I don’t want to gamble with deGrom and/or Matz, or move Syndergaard. Let’s face it, regardless of whom the Mets start, they should be expected to beat the Twins, who have the worst record in the majors.

Please follow me on Twitter

Sep 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Gsellman Hope For Future, And Present

The Mets got all they could have hoped for this afternoon – and season – from Robert Gsellman. The Mets’ rookie, who along with Seth Lugo kept them in the wild-card race and was again superb Wednesday afternoon.

GSELLMAN: Hope for future, and present. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Hope for future, and present. (AP)

Gsellman threw 5.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, but couldn’t overcome his anemic offense in the 1-0 loss to the Washington Nationals.

“We didn’t lose any ground,” was manager Terry Collins’ backwards logic because the National League’s wild-card race remained stagnant because both St. Louis and San Francisco also lost.

“I thought he threw the ball very well,” Collins said. “He threw strikes. He had the sinker working and had worked both sides. He didn’t have anything to work with.”

Gsellman and Lugo weren’t on the Mets’ radar entering the season, but have kept them afloat with Jacob deGrom (forearm) and Steven Matz (shoulder) went on the disabled list.

Their performances should give the Mets a sense of comfort heading into the offseason and next year, but it is somewhat limited considering the myriad of pitching questions they’ll have this winter:

* How well will Matt Harvey recover from his shoulder surgery?

* As well as Lugo and Gsellman have pitched, has their window been open enough to give the Mets a definitive idea of what they can expect in 2017, and in what roles?

* How well will Matz recover from his expected elbow surgery?

* Will Noah Syndergaard’s bone spur require surgery, and if so, how will he recover?

* With all this in mind, will they bring back Bartolo Colon?

While the Mets’ pitching questions for 2017 was a storyline, the others today were their anemic offense and Wilmer Flores’ injury.

ANEMIC OFFENSE: Three hits won’t cut it most games and it didn’t today.

After back-to-back singles from Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera to open the game against Tanner Roarck, the Mets eventually loaded the bases but came away empty.

The Mets’ only other hit was Jay Bruce’s single in the sixth. He was erased on a double-play and the Mets didn’t have another runner the rest of the game.

FLORES HURTING: Flores hasn’t played since injured in a home plate collision Saturday in Atlanta. Collins assumed responsibility for not running for Flores.

Flores said what is keeping him out isn’t his neck or head, but his right wrist.

“My wrist is bothering me,” Flores said. “I can’t swing the bat. The neck is fine. I could play with the neck. It’s just the wrist.”

Please follow me on Twitter

Sep 13

Mets’ Three Storylines: T.J. Rivera Steps Up

Pennant races aren’t just for guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Bryce Harper. They also belong to guys like T.J. Rivera, a undrafted free agent who carried the Mets on this night over their closest rivals.

RIVERA: Blast lifts Mets over Nats. (AP)

RIVERA: Blast lifts Mets over Nats. (AP)

Getting his first start in three weeks, Rivera had three hits including a tenth-inning homer that lifted the Mets over the Nationals, 4-3 in 10 innings, at Nationals Park Tuesday night. The victory, coupled with the Cardinals beating the Cubs in St. Louis, kept the Mets with a half-game lead for the second wild-card (they are even in the loss column).

“Somebody you don’t expect has to step up and tonight it was T.J.,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s hit everywhere he’s been. He has a simple, short swing.”

In 45 at-bats since joining the Mets, Rivera his hitting .333 with his first career homer and six RBI. He’s also been solid defensively, regardless of where Collins starts him.

“It’s definitely not to hit a home run,” Rivera said of his thinking heading to the plate against Nationals closer Mark Melancon. “I just wanted to put the bat on the ball. When you haven’t been around the team much you want to contribute.”

With Neil Walker out for the season with a back injury and Wilmer Flores currently hurting following a home plate collision Saturday in Atlanta, Rivera should get more opportunities to play. Collins said it was a gut feeling to start Rivera, who won the Triple-A batting title for Las Vegas.

It’s probably a stretch to say Rivera could make the postseason roster, but he’s made enough of an impression to where he can compete for a job next spring.

Rivera was the main storyline, with the others being Noah Syndergaard’s wasted effort and Jerry Blevins picking up for Jeurys Familia.

TOUGH LUCK NOAH: Collins said with the Mets starting their best pitcher, this was a game they had to win. Syndergaard was poised to win his 14th game until Familia blew his fourth save opportunity in the ninth.

Syndergaard gave up one run on four hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts – including his 200th of the season – in one of his best outings of the season. Unlike previous outings where he ran up his pitch count, Syndergaard was extremely pitch efficient throwing 99.

“He was amped up,” Collins said. “He knew we needed to win this game.”

Syndergaard became the second-fastest Met behind Dwight Gooden to reach 200 strikeouts.

BLEVINS PICKS UP FAMILIA:  Familia blew his fourth save opportunity when the Nationals tied it on RBI singles by Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos (an infield chopper over Familia’s head).

After Rivera’s drive, the Nationals to tie the game again, but Blevins struck out Daniel Murphy on a wicked curveball to end the game.

It was his first save since 2012.

Please follow me on Twitter

Sep 13

Backman Tells His Side; Could Have Helped Collins This Week

Speaking on WFAN this afternoon, deposed Las Vegas manager Wally Backman insisted the decision to leave was his, and he vehemently refuted published reports citing unnamed Mets’ sources claiming he was insubordinate.

Backman said he would have accepted a coaching position on Terry Collins‘ staff or stayed with Vegas if asked. Whether he would have fired if he didn’t leave hasn’t been reported, but based on what Backman told WFAN one can presume he would have been canned by GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: In center of Backman sacking.  (AP)

ALDERSON: In center of Backman sacking. (AP)

Backman, who managed in the Mets’ farm system for seven years, including the last five on the Triple-A level with Buffalo and Las Vegas, said he wants to pursue options to manage in the major leagues but didn’t say he had anything immediately on his radar.

“I left on my own,” Backman said. “It didn’t look like there was any future for me in New York. When you work for an organization and do everything, you want to be respected for what you do. I just felt for my time being there the respect wasn’t there. I could be wrong. They could say different.”

Backman defined respect as more than simply guiding Las Vegas to three consecutive winning seasons prior to this year. He said it should include being acknowledged by Alderson in directing the Mets to James Loney, Rene Rivera and Jose Reyes; the last coming after a two-hour conversation that acted as a screening process.

All three paid dividends this summer.

In addition, many current Mets – from Noah Syndergaard to Michael Conforto to Jacob deGrom – played under Backman. He also was instrumental in turning around Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud when they were on rehab assignments last year.

Backman was livid at reports citing unnamed sources he went rogue and disobeyed instructions on playing Conforto against left-handed pitching and batting Brandon Nimmo in the leadoff spot.

“Whoever put that out there, the source within the system, they lied,” a clearly agitated Backman said. “And that’s the part that pisses me off because I did nothing but try to help these guys.”

As for not playing Conforto against left-handers, Backman said he played in 31 of 33 games, hitting .488 (20-for-41) with three home runs against lefties. One game that Conforto didn’t play in was a day he was sent down and didn’t arrive until the fourth inning. The other came on a day prior to an off-day as to give Conforto two straight days off, which is commonplace.

Backman also said Nimmo hit first or second in 84 out of 97 games.

Backman said he got along with Collins and spoke to him frequently. Regarding his relationship Alderson, Backman took a diplomatic approach.

“I’m not going to say we never got along,” Backman said. “I thought he respected me as a baseball person. I guess I wasn’t the prototypical guy he liked.”

That became clear when the Mets bypassed Backman in favor of Dick Scott last December to be Collins’ bench coach.

We haven’t heard much about Scott this year until this past week, which hasn’t been a great one for Collins, who had three major brain cramps, all of which should have been preventable.

First, on Saturday he failed to pinch-run for Wilmer Flores, who was then subsequently thrown out at the plate, injured and hasn’t played since. On Sunday, he admitted screwing up. He said he was preoccupied talking with pitching coach Dan Warthen about setting up his pitching.

Finally, when it was apparent Rafael Montero didn’t have it Monday, Collins kept the shell-shocked starter in the game too long. He could have pulled Montero in the first or pinch-hit for him. He did neither and Montero let the game away. Would the Mets have won had Montero been pulled? Who knows, but it can’t make Collins feel any less angst.

All three events should fall under the responsibility of a bench coach, but not once did Collins point blame in his direction. That fits in with Collins’ makeup. He’s not one to throw his staff or players under the bus. For that matter, he doesn’t take shots at Alderson for leaving him shorthanded at times.

Frankly, too many times.

We don’t know what Scott said, or didn’t say. What we do know, based on reputation, Backman – no shrinking violet – wouldn’t have been shy to make a suggestion.

Please follow me on Twitter