Aug 04

Darling, Keith Call Out Cespedes

You have to hand it to Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. They weren’t afraid to call out Yoenis Cespedes tonight for his failure to hustle after a foul ball off the bat of Cody Bellinger. It didn’t factor in the outcome of the game – a 6-0 loss to the Dodgers – but it was “bad optics,’’ as the popular saying goes.

Would Cespedes have caught the ball had he hustled? I don’t know. But, could he have caught it? Yes. That’s what’s so maddening about watching this guy.

DE GROM: Off tonight. (AP)

DE GROM: Off tonight. (AP)

Darling called it a “Cadillac effort,’’ while Hernandez said “it was not much of an effort.’’

Gary Cohen said “it is obvious over the past couple of weeks that he’s picking his spots to run hard,’’ as a way of protecting himself from his leg injuries.

Darling then nailed it when he called the perception, “ugly.’’

And it is.

I know Cespedes has been injured – both this year and last – but I called him out for his lack of hustle before they extended him. It is one of the reasons why I wanted the Mets to pass on him, at least for the sum of $110 million.

Look, I know every player is entitled to a bad year, and hopefully the remaining three years of his contract he’ll play like the player the Mets hoped when GM Sandy Alderson decided to give him all that money.

But, you would think – and least I do – that for a player who is making $22.5 million this season, and only has 30 RBI, would give a little more effort. That means running out ground balls and hustling after foul pop-ups.

DE GROM OFF: Manager Terry Collins said Jacob deGrom “was off,’’ tonight. “This is two starts in a row that in the first two innings he scuffled,’’ Collins said. “We have to fix that.’’

Collins said deGrom relied on his fastball too much early in the game, but the pitcher refuted that, saying he mixed in sliders.

“My stuff was good, but I wasn’t able to locate it,’’ deGrom said. “They took advantage of the mistakes I made.’’

The Dodgers’ Chris Taylor set the tone of the game with a homer on the ninth pitch of his at-bat leading off.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Mets have lost seven straight games to the Dodgers, dating back to May 28, 2016. … Dodgers pitchers have thrown 11 shutouts this season; the Mets have been blanked five times. … De Grom leads all pitchers with 13 hits. … Amed Rosario has hit safely in all four games he’s played. He also stole his first career base. … Chase Utley hit the 39th homer of his career against the Mets.

Aug 03

Rosario Should Be Hitting Leadoff

The early returns on Amed Rosario are good, giving us a positive glimpse into 2018. With the Mets looking toward next season, with his speed shouldn’t Rosario be leading off?

ROSARIO: Hit him leadoff. (AP)

ROSARIO: Hit him leadoff. (AP)

Rosario has proven he can field the position, and his speed gives him the range the Mets haven’t had since Jose Reyes ten years ago. In three games, he already has two triples, going into third standing up both times. Speed can’t be taught. While that’s been impressive, what I like most about him has been his hustle coming out of the box.

I hope that never goes away.

Rosario should bat first with Michael Conforto dropped to third, which is a prime run-producing spot in the order. That’s the way it will be next year, so why not do it now?

The Mets have him batting seventh to alleviate the pressure of leading off.  But, I want him to experience the pressure to see how he handles it. How he deals with the pressures of leading off is something the Mets need to learn. And, he needs to hit first to learn how to handle that spot in the order, which includes being selective, working the count, bunting and stealing.

That’s what they are doing with playing Conforto is playing center field, which is where he’ll play next year assuming Jay Bruce is brought back. Conforto – who is the Mets’ best fundamental hitter – should be hitting third, with Yoenis Cespedes clean-up and Bruce fifth.

Since the Mets are gearing up for 2018, that should also mean Hansel Robles shouldn’t see the ninth inning. Yesterday I wrote how manager Terry Collins should return if he wants. I also wrote my primary criticism of Collins has been how he handles the bullpen, and that was the case in today’s 5-4 loss to the Rockies, on a bases-loaded walk from Robles, his third walk of the inning. He also hit a batter.

Robles seemed to injure his groin in the eighth, but he threw a couple of warm-ups and stayed in to strike out Trevor Story.

Collins had other options besides Robles, who never should have come out for the ninth, and definitely should have been pulled after he hit Jonathan Lucroy with a pitch leading off.

Robles has been a weak link for much of the season, and we won’t see him in the ninth next year, so why did we have to see him today?

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Aug 03

The Mets Should Consider Bringing Back Collins

The Mets have not played well this season, that much is a given. However, the overriding explanation for this year’s disappointment has been injuries – primarily to their starting pitching.

Ok. Let’s give them that … let’s say if Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz had been sound all year and joined Jacob deGrom and their vaunted rotation actually was a rotation, and it performed, then how good is this team?

BRUCE: Bring him back. (AP)

BRUCE: Bring him back. (AP)

Assuming GM Sandy Alderson can actually build a bullpen this winter, then are the Mets in a rebuild or just retooling?

There are indications they’ll bring back Jose Reyes – to serve as a mentor for Amed Rosario – and following their inability to deal them at the deadline, there have been reports of bringing back Jay Bruce, who hit his 29th homer in Wednesday’s 10-5 victory in Colorado, and Asdrubal Cabrera.

If all this is true, then what about Terry Collins? If Collins returns, then presumably much, if not all, his coaching staff would come back.

Much of what frustrates me about Collins is how he manages his bullpen, but most of that stems from what Alderson has given him to work with – which is why I questioned the Addison Reed trade. I know it was his walk year, but I wanted Alderson to make overtures of bringing him back, much like I want them to extend Bruce.

Collins is not the perfect manager, but for the most part his players hustle for him, and he’s been around long enough in the Mets’ system to have grown up with them.

I don’t know what Collins wants to do, but if it is to continue managing, then it should be with the Mets. Making a commitment to Collins and his staff would alleviate some of the indecision a losing team carries into the offseason.

If the conclusion is what happened this year is primarily because of injuries, then bring back Bruce, and Cabrera – to help groom Rosario and as a hedge for David Wright – and Collins.

But, those conversations should be going on now, not in October.

 

Aug 02

Mets Wrap: Rosario’s Misplay In Ninth Spoils Debut

All eyes were on Amed Rosario, whose Major League debut had mixed reviews tonight in Denver. The future of the Mets singled in four at-bats, but the game came down to his misplay of DJ LeMahieu’s hard grounder.

With Charlie Blackmon on first, LeMahieu grounded a ball to shortstop. Rosario took a quick step toward the bag, then broke back to his right. The ball deflected off his glove, but the Rockies had two runners on with no outs, and Nolan Arenado followed with a single to center to give Colorado a 5-4 victory.

ROSARIO and WALKER: Veteran schools rookie. (SNY)

ROSARIO and WALKER: Veteran schools rookie. (SNY)

Manager Terry Collins refused to throw Rosario under the bus, saying he didn’t know who was supposed to cover the bag, that Rosario and second baseman Neil Walker would decide before the pitch who was to cover the base.

However, basic fundamentals with a right-handed hitter at the plate dictate the second baseman cover the bag, but the only problem was Walker wasn’t close to the base.

After the game, both Walker and Jay Bruce met with Rosario to tell him to shake it off.

“It really means a lot,’’ Rosario said through a translator. “I’ve already shaken it off. I’ll come in tomorrow with a fresh mindset.’’

Collins said Rosario handled himself well the entire game, and didn’t hang his head.

“If you get caught, you get caught,’’ Collins said. “He’ll be fine. He shouldn’t be upset about not making the play. I thought he handled himself well. He’ll be fine.’’

Rosario collected his first major league hit in the eighth, just beating shortstop Trevor Story‘s throw wide of first. The play could’ve been scored an error, as a good throw would have gotten Rosario.

BRUCE KEEPS SLUGGING: They say there wasn’t a market for corner outfielders, but do you mean to say there wasn’t one AL contender that couldn’t have used Bruce as a DH?

Bruce hit his 28th homer tonight to temporarily give the Mets a 4-3 lead in the eighth. Don’t forget the home team gets to bat, too, and against that bullpen.

“Jay Bruce is a good player,’’ Collins said. “He comes to play every day. People just don’t give him enough credit.’’

GM Sandy Alderson is still trying to make a waiver deal for Bruce, but if the Mets are to contend as he hopes next season they’ll need to replace his power.

Bruce also had a RBI double.

MATZ LOSES IT QUICKLY: Steven Matz flirted with a no-hitter through four innings, pitched shutout ball after five, but four batters into the sixth was out of the game and losing after giving up a three-run homer to Arenado.

Matz said he threw the ball better tonight, but fell back into some bad habits in the sixth.

 

Aug 01

Today’s Question: Will Matz Snap Out Of It?

While all eyes will be on Amed Rosario tonight – and rightfully so – don’t forget to sneak a peak at Steven Matz. The Mets say they are a little concerned with Matz, who has a staggering 14.18 ERA over his last four starts and hasn’t worked longer than five innings in any of them. He’s 0-3 with a no-decision in that span. Can he snap out of it tonight against the powerful Rockies in their launching pad of a stadium in Coors Field.

There are a half-dozen other teams Matz would rather face, and in just as many ballparks.

MATZ:  Something isn't right. (AP)

MATZ: Something isn’t right. (AP)

Matz pitched most of last season with a bone spur in his left elbow, and after four months went on the DL for the rest of the year with shoulder tightness, presumably from altering his mechanics as compensation. He spent the first two months of this year on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.

It’s highly plausible the Mets pushed him last season or this year and he aggravated something. Perhaps he hit a wall and has a dead arm. That seems likely because manager Terry Collins said there’s no movement on his fastball. Matz is throwing hard, but of the three velocity isn’t as important and location and movement. Instead of sinking or tailing away, Matz’s pitches stay over the middle of the plate, making it easier for them to be hit – or crushed.

“You look at a lot of the replays of the hits, they were center-cut,” Collins said. “We have to get the ball off the middle of the plate.’’

Matz said if feels good, but didn’t we hear the same refrain from Matt Harvey, or Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler?

Should Matz get shelled tonight, it would be easy to blame Coors Field and the Rockies. It would also be foolish.