May 10

Collins Gives No Confidence Vote To Conforto

Looking at the Mets’ lineup for Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring mistake. Perhaps it was just an oversight on manager Terry Collins’ part, but I’m not thrilled with Michael Conforto batting sixth, protected between the red hot Wilmer Flores (.170, one homer and two RBI) and the sizzling Kevin Plawecki (.229, one homer and three RBI).

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

The Mets touted Conforto as the team’s No. 3 hitter of the future when Collins moved him there in mid-April. The move, where he hit ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, jumpstarted the Mets’ offense and sparked their surge in the standings.

The Mets are 16-5 isince moving Conforto to third, which includes losing the first two games on this trip. Unquestionably, Conforto is on a significant slide, going 3-for-29 (.103) over his last eight games. Basically, that’s a bad week.

Although the Mets are facing a left-hander in Alex Wood, it should be noted he’s 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA. The message indicated a lack of confidence by Collins in Conforto, but the manager’s words flat out shout it loud.

Lefties are batting .367 this year against Wood, but the manager doesn’t think that’s relevant. Collins said batting Conforto sixth wouldn’t create pressure to perform, but he’s mistaken. There’s more pressure now.

Collins made a big deal saying Cespedes’ presence helped Conforto, but if you buy that logic, you must also accept he’s getting next to no protection between Flores and Plawecki. In addition, what must Conforto be thinking about this demotion?

As far as his reasoning for moving Conforto, Collins told reporters today: “I’d like to leave him in the three-hole if I thought he could do some damage.”

That’s another way of saying he doesn’t think he can do any damage against a pitcher with an ERA just under six. How’s that for a pat on the back?

No, I don’t like this decision. Confidence is essential in the development of a hitter, and this move screams Collins has doubts. When Collins moved Conforto, I wrote how important it was for him to stay with him during slumps. At least the first one.

If Conforto is to become the No. 3 hitter the Mets expect of him, he’ll have to endure dry stretches. So, what does Collins do? He bails at the first sign of a problem. Collins said Conforto will bat third against right-handers, but said nothing about lefties. You have to assume he won’t hit third against Clayton Kershaw.

It has only been eight games. Let Conforto work his way out of this, the same way he’s given a long leash to Matt Harvey.

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May 10

Mets Wrap: Another RBI, Another Brain Cramp By Cespedes

It is not piling on to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for getting doubled off second base to end the third inning Monday night in Los Angeles.

The play cost the Mets a run – Wright would have scored after tagging up – and consequently the game. The Mets came away lucky by beating the Dodgers, 4-2, but Cespedes shouldn’t come away blameless.

Manager Terry Collins called out Kevin Plawecki for not hitting. To be consistent, he needs to tell Cespedes to wake up.

Cespedes has all the tools – he has 11 homers already and is batting .303 with a .384 on-base percentage – but his hustle and concentration lapses are maddening to watch.

You can forgive a bad throw. You can forgive a dropped fly ball, unless, of course, when you hot dog it and try to make a one-handed catch.

But, you can’t forgive a brain cramp. You can’t forgive being lazy, which is what Ron Darling called him. However, Cespedes may have redeemed himself when he backed up Juan Lagares in the eighth when the latter dropped a fly ball.

I don’t expect perfection for $27.5 million, but I do expect him to think about what he’s doing in the field.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #31   Record: 20-11   Streak: W 3

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 137     Average per game: 4.4    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 12

SUMMARY:  Once again the Mets took an early lead – 3-0 after three innings – on homers by Curtis Granderson and Plawecki, and Cespedes’ RBI single, and Steven Matz made it stand up to improve his record to 5-1 this year and 9-1 overall in 12 career starts. Matz also helped his cause with a RBI double in the sixth.

KEY MOMENT:  After the Dodgers pulled within 3-2 on Trayce Thompson’s two-run homer in the fourth, Matz regrouped to strike out Howie Kendrick with the tying run on third.

THUMBS UP: Granderson homered to lead off the game. It’s the 37th game-opening homer of his career. … Plawecki hit a solo homer in the second, his first of the season. … Love that Collins had the hit-and-run on with Matz in the fourth. Didn’t work, but it was a good call. … Flores stole second in the fourth, but not without cutting his nose. … Matz gave up two runs in six innings with five strikeouts. … Cespedes leads the NL with 31 RBI. … Jim Henderson came back from being 2-0 in the count to strike out Yasiel Puig in the eighth. Henderson then got Thompson out on a pop up to end the inning. … Three hitless innings from the bullpen.

THUMBS DOWN: Cespedes being doubled off second in the third. … Matz throwing 98 pitches in six innings. As long as the Mets keep pulling their starters around 100 pitches, it is fair game to call them out on this. … Lagares’ error in the eighth. … Sunday’s hero, Antonio Bastardo, had a rocky eighth, hurt by Lagares’ error.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Chase Utley not in the starting lineup, which isn’t a surprise against the left Matz. … Bartolo Colon was named Co-NL Player of the Week with the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist. Remember him? … Did you know Mets’ pitchers have hit Utley 28 times with pitches?

QUOTEBOOK: [The issue of retaliation] was brought up. What happened, happened. We won the series; let’s not get anybody hurt,” – Collins on retaliation against Utley.

BY THE NUMBERS: 24-5: Mets’ scoring vs. opponents in the first inning.

NEXT FOR METS:  Jacob deGrom (3-1, 1.99) vs. Alex Wood (1-3, 5.18). Wednesday: Noah Syndergaard (2-2, 2.58) vs. RHP Kenta Maeds (3-1, 1.66). Thursday: Bartolo Colon (3-1, 2.82) vs. Kershaw (4-1, 2.02).

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May 09

Going After Utley A Bad Idea

The dumbest thing the Mets can do during their four-game series against the Dodgers – starting tonight in LA – is to go after Chase Utley with a beanball. Whether it be at his head, ribs, butt or knee, there’s no reason to start something that has already been finished.

It wouldn’t be smart even if Ruben Tejada was still on the Mets. He’s not, so what’s the purpose.

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let's move on. (AP)

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let’s move on. (AP)

MLB overreacted last October during the playoffs, which was substantiated when the suspension was dropped on appeal.

We can debate all we want on whether it was a dirty play. I’m saying it wasn’t, because: 1) Daniel Murphy did not make a good throw; 2) Tejada turned into the path of the runner, and 3) Utley was within close proximity of the bag, at least according to the rules in place. (See photo).

Also, it has always been an umpire’s discretion to eject a player if he deemed the play dirty. This did not happen and MLB behavior czar Joe Torre came down with the suspension to avoid Mets fans going ballistic when the NLDS moved to New York.

Was it aggressive? Yes. Was it dirty? Debateable. Is it worth it for the Mets to retaliate and possibly get a player injured or suspended? No.

The issue will be brought up tonight and I’m betting the over/under on the times SNY shows the play to be at least 12. That would be three times per game.

Suppose Steven Matz, or Matt Harvey, or Noah Syndergaard hit Utley and a brawl ensued. Why risk one of them being injured to prove a questionable point in protecting a player no longer on the team?

And, pitchers aren’t the only ones you could be injured. Cal Ripken nearly had his consecutive games streak snapped when the Orioles were involved in a brawl with Seattle. As it was, Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina took a few bruises.

Of course, it would be fascinating to see Yoenis Cespedes against Yassiel Puig in a WWE cage death match event. But, I digress.

The Dodgers aren’t playing good right now, so why wake them up? It could only hurt the Mets in the long run. Plus, the Mets and Dodgers could meet again in the playoffs. Why give the Dodgers ammunition to use in the future?

I felt bad Tejada didn’t get to play in the World Series. and that was his last play as a Met. However, the Mets didn’t think highly enough about him to keep him on the roster. Tejada is gone, demoted to a trivia question in Mets lore.

It’s over and time to move on.

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May 08

Mets Wrap: Harvey Comes Up With Best Effort Of Year

HARVEY: Best start of the year. (AP)

HARVEY: Best start of the year. (AP)

Matt Harvey touched 97 on the radar gun and struck out ten as the Mets beat San Diego, 4-3, Sunday afternoon. Couple that with the Cubs completing a sweep of Washington and the Mets are back in first place.

Seems like all is well again for the Mets.

A lot went right for the Mets, including another home run from Yoenis Cespedes, Kevin Plawecki is starting to hit, they were on the receiving end of a blown instant replay ruling, and Antonio Bastardo escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the eighth.

However, unquestionably the best thing that happened for the Mets was Harvey (3-4) coming up with his best outing of the season.

And, he knew it, too.

“I finally felt for the majority of the game a lot more comfortable,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I was able to pound the zone and throw all of my pitches.

“Mechanically it felt great. I just have to keep working on it. Everything felt good today.’’

In his four losses, Harvey’s fastball velocity was down to the low 90s and his breaking and off-speed pitches were off. Harvey knows he’s on his game not so much when he’s throwing in the high 90s, but “ when I can go inside and throw a change-up to a right-handed hitters.’’

Again Harvey stumbled in the fifth when he left a mediocre fastball over the plate Christian Bethancourt took deep into the second deck. However, unlike in previous games, Harvey rebounded in the sixth.

Harvey gave up two runs on four hits with two walks and ten strikeouts in six innings. Again, his pitch count was too high at 102.

Sunday was a definite positive for Harvey, but he knows for him to reach the level expected of him he has to give the Mets more innings for all those pitches.

However, on this day the concern level on Harvey was low. Just the way the Mets want it to be.

METS GAME WRAP


Game: #30   Record: 19-11   Streak: W 2

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 133     Average per game: 4.4    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 12

SUMMARY: Harvey pitched his best came of the season, and was backed by Cespedes’ homer and a pair of two-out RBI singles by Asdrubal Cabrera.

KEY MOMENT: The Mets received a controversial replay ruling in their favor in the fifth inning when the review upheld the original decision that Andrew Cashner was out at the plate. Had the call been reversed the Padres would have pulled within 4-3 and had a runner on third.

THUMBS UP: Bastardo entered the game in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs, and proceeded to strike out Derek Norris, got Melvin Upton on a pop-up and struck out Alexei Ramirez. … Three two-out RBI. … Cabrera continues to excel. … Two hits by Eric Campbell, who started in place of David Wright. … Ten saves in as many opportunities for Jeurys Familia.

THUMBS DOWN: The offense stranded 11 runners on base. … Jim Henderson balked a runner home. … Addison Reed was off, giving up two hits and not retiring a hitter.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets bussed to Los Angeles after the game. … Neil Walker did not start because of a bruised right shin, but pinch-hit and struck out. … Cespedes hit his 11th homer. He didn’t hit his 11th last year until July 6. … The Dodgers will use three lefties against the Mets. … TOPPS will put out a special edition baseball card commemorating Bartolo’s homer Saturday night. It will cost you $9.99.

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s only May,’’ – Collins in response to a question of the Mets jumping the Nationals for first place in the NL East.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-for-19: Walker’s current slide.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz starts Monday night for the Mets in Los Angeles.

May 07

Colon One Of A Kind

Bartolo Colon swings hard, so you figured if he ever caught a pitch just right it might go out. Well, it finally happened in the second inning Saturday night when Colon, 17 days shy of his 43rd birthday, connected against James Shields in the 226th at-bat of his career.

This wasn’t a “run for the roses,’’ as much as it was a 31-second jog around the bases, long enough for the Mets to vacate the bench, fans back home to text their friends with a “you’ll never believe what just happened,” message, and researchers to discover he became the oldest player to hit his first career homer.

Colon’s blast – and he did crush it – was one of four the Mets hit on the night. Yoenis Cespedes hit the first in the first inning, and David Wright and Michael Conforto went back-to-back in the ninth as the Mets regained their power stroke to beat the Padres, 6-3, and Colon won the 221st game of his splendid career.

COLON: One of a kind. (GETTY)

COLON: One of a kind. (GETTY)

Incidentally, the Mets also have the oldest player ever to hit a homer in Julio Franco at 47.

This is Colon’s third year with the Mets. He was originally signed to pick up the innings void when Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery. Colon won 15 and 14 games, respectively, in his first two years and worked over 190 innings each time.

Colon won over the hearts of Mets’ fans, not to mention his teammates, with his work ethic and outwardly unashamed signs of enjoying himself on the field. Colon also won everybody’s respect last year when he volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen during the playoffs.

Colon’s behind-the-back flip to first base last year in MIami was a sense of comic relief, but Saturday’s homer came at a time when the struggling Mets’ offense most needed a jolt.

However, the Mets didn’t get Colon to rake. They got him to pitch, and once again he came up with a quality outing, giving up three runs in 6.2 innings with five strikeouts. It marked the fourth time in six starts this year Colon (3-1) has gone at least six innings, and the 50th time in 68 starts with the Mets he’s gone that far.

Those, however, are numbers. He means far more than stats to this franchise. To watch his teammates mob him in the dugout, to hear how they love to tease him and enjoy his company, is a reflection how much they like and admire him. That’s a sign of respect not many players get to enjoy.

Colon has been a joy to watch during his short time here. He’ll go down as one of the most beloved Mets.