Aug 06

Three Mets’ Storylines: Looks Bad Collins Didn’t Challenge

Another day, another head-scratching moment for the Mets. There were all those lost opportunities during the game, but the most puzzling moment came after the game’s final play when manager Terry Collins eschewed the opportunity to use his challenge.

As long as there’s a chance, and replay gave the Mets that chance, you go for it, but Collins did not. Earlier this week in dealing with the issue of perception vs. reality in the Yoenis Cespedes golf matter, Collins angrily said he didn’t care about perception and dealt in reality.

In not appealing, the perception is Collins doesn’t care – which I know isn’t true – against the reality, which he admitted that he wasn’t thinking.

BRUCE: Game ends in controversy. (AP)

BRUCE: Game ends in controversy. (AP)

The Mets finally appeared to get a hit with a runner in scoring position when Travis d’Arnaud grounded a single into right field, but Jay Bruce was thrown out at the plate to end the game when his cleat was caught in the dirt.

Once down 6-1, the Mets’ comeback fizzled at 6-5, but in this day of instant replay – when you never really know – Collins didn’t even bother to challenge the call. Replays showed Bruce was out, but clearcut replays have been reversed before, so why not?

It’s like on fourth-and-18, instead of throwing into the end zone you just take a knee.

“It was a tough way to end it,” Collins told reporters. “I thought for sure he was going to make it.”

Would Collins accept a base runner’s explanation he “thought for sure,” the ball was foul as to why he didn’t run? I don’t think so.

“That might be one of those plays where you might as well just take the chance anyway and see what happens,” Collins said. “I didn’t think about it.”

That’s a terrible thing for a manager to admit.

Bruce couldn’t say whether he was safe or out.

“I’ve seen it challenged before, but that’s not my decision,” Bruce said. “It’s a judgment call and I wasn’t part of the judgment call.”

It has been a rough season and a rough week for Collins, but that’s no excuse. Instant Replay, at least in Cespedes’ world, is a mulligan and Collins should have used it.

Not doing so, along with the Mets’ ineptitude to hit with RISP (2-for-12, 10 LOB, three double plays) was the main storyline. The others are the Mets’ fifth spot in the rotation and Zack Wheeler‘s rehab game.

TAKING THE FIFTH: For the most part, Logan Verrett has given the Mets a chance to win most of his starts in place of Matt Harvey. He didn’t Saturday night in giving up six runs in 3.2 innings. Considering how poorly the Mets’ offense has been, he gave them very little chance.

“I talked with [GM] Sandy [Alderson] about some things and we’re going to certainly look at some options,” Collins said when asked whether Verrett will stay in the rotation.

An option to replace him is Jon Niese, who pitched a scoreless 2.1 innings in relief.

WHEELER MAKES REHAB START:  With the Mets nine games behind Washington and 2.5 behind Miami, and tied with Pittsburgh for two games behind the final wild-card berth, the season is rapidly fading.

Given that, they would be foolish to wait for Wheeler’s return from the disabled list, because by the time he’s ready the season could be over. Wheeler threw 17 pitches in a rain-shortened rehab assignment with Class A St. Lucie. His fastball ranged from 90-96 mph.

Wheeler’s rehab assignment, barring a setback, will end the first week in September.

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Aug 05

Three Mets’ Storylines: What’s Wrong With Syndergaard?

Noah Syndergaard only gave up four runs tonight, and it is an oversimplification to say the problem is the Mets didn’t score for him. But, something just isn’t right.

The issue isn’t him not being able to throw hard. He still throws very hard, but velocity isn’t the most variable for a pitcher. A successful pitcher needs movement, location and velocity, with speed being the third most important. You can even drop that to fourth if you want to include having a variety of secondary pitches.

SYNDERGAARD: Off his game. (AP)

               SYNDERGAARD: Off his game. (AP)

While throwing in the high 90s and even touching triple digits in the Mets’ 4-3 loss at Detroit, Syndergaard, as he has been for much of the season – or at least since the issue of his bone spur surfaced – is far from pitch efficient.

Syndergaard threw 112 pitches, but only worked six innings. It was the fourth straight game in which he threw over 100 pitches yet didn’t go past the sixth. He hasn’t gone seven innings since July 3; of his 21 starts, he’s gone seven or more innings just eight times.

I don’t care Syndergaard is throwing a lot of pitches; I care he’s not efficient or effective with them. I care he seems to be running in place.

“It has been a battle,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He’s had to work very hard. You have to learn how to pitch at this level and through tough times.”

While much is made of Syndergaard’s overpowering stuff, he’s only had four double-digit strikeout games with his last being June 15 against Pittsburgh nine starts ago.

We’ve been hearing a lot of the high number of foul balls off him (26 tonight), which comes from not being able to put away hitters. His curveball didn’t surface until the fifth inning. Until then, it was mostly straight fastballs – mostly to the outside against right-handed pitchers.

“I’m thinking right now I’m trying to be too fine with my pitches,” Syndergaard said. “It’s like I’m throwing darts out there. It’s frustrating because the past month I feel that I have the stuff to dominate, but it hasn’t been clicking.”

Do you remember when Syndergaard went high and tight during the World Series? Then he challenged the Royals saying they could find him 60 feet, six inches from the plate.

Collins insists Syndergaard still has swagger, but you rarely see him work the inner half of the plate. You don’t see that biting slider. You don’t see him effectively holding runners (Ian Kinsler singled, stole his way to third and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s single in the first). You don’t see a lot of the things that earned him a comic book hero nickname.

The problem isn’t 100 percent the bone spur because of the velocity, but it makes you wonder if the pain prevents him from being what he needs to be, and what he has been.

Syndergaard is still a young stud, but he’s not as polished as Justin Verlander was last night and has been for years. Hope Syndergaard was taking notes.

Syndergaard was the night’s biggest storyline. The others were the non-existent offense and Collins’ lineup.

THE SILENT BATS: A positive is the Mets only left three runners on base. The flip side is they barely sniffed Verlander.

Mets hitters only had five hits and one walk and struck out 12 times. Kelly Johnson hit a two-run homer in the fourth and the Mets scratched out a cosmetic run in the ninth.

THE LINEUP: I haven’t agreed with Collins on a lot of things lately, including last night’s lineup. Your best power hitter – Yoenis Cespedes – is out for at least two weeks, so one would think Curtis Granderson would be dropped down to the middle of the order.

Alejandro De Aza played center, which I liked, but where was Michael Conforto? Collins made a big deal of saying he would play center. And, if Conforto isn’t playing, why is he here?

Arguably the hottest Mets’ hitter in July was Wilmer Flores, but he sat again.

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Aug 04

Three Mets’ Storylines: Colon Is Headliner

There’s not much more one can say about Bartolo Colon that hasn’t been said, so let’s pile on more of the superlatives we’ve been saying in his three years with the Mets.

COLON: Leads rotation. (AP)

COLON: Leads rotation. (AP)

Colon, despite averaging about 10 mph., less on his fastball than Noah Syndergaard, was stupendous in Thursday night’s 4-1 victory at Yankee Stadium. The guy is 43, but the Mets’ most durable starter and leads the rotation he wasn’t even supposed to be a part of at this time with ten victories.

“I didn’t see myself being a starter at this point,” Colon told an interpreter. “I think just from conversations we’ve had, I saw myself in the bullpen at this point of the season. Thank God I’ve had that opportunity.”

Colon threw 90 pitches, of which 84 were fastballs, which is an extraordinary ratio. He gave up one run on six hits with no walks in 6.2 innings.

“I thought maybe had his best stuff of the year,” manager Terry Collins said. “It’s amazing what he’s done.”

What he’s done is keep the Mets in the wild-card race. They trail St. Louis and Miami for the second wild-card spot by one game heading into a three-game series in Detroit.

The two other Mets’ storylines were Jay Bruce’s three-run homer and the steady contributions of Kelly Johnson.

BRUCE IS LOOSE: The newly-acquired Mets’ right fielder broke his 0-for-10 start with the team with a three-run homer in the fifth inning to give the cruising Colon a 4-0 lead.

“I told some guys it felt like my first major league home run running around the bases,” Bruce said. “It was good to make an impact that way. It ended up being a big spot.”

And, with Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list, there will be a lot more big spots for Bruce.

“I try to think small,” said Bruce about his approach with runners on base. “I don’t try to do too much and put added pressure on myself.”

JOHNSON COMES UP BIG: Johnson gave the Mets a spark last year after coming over from the Braves last year, and he’s been doing it again in his second stint with them.

Johnson homered in the fifth and made a nifty play to start a game-ending double play.

It takes stars like Cespedes and Bruce to carry a team, but the contributions of guys like Johnson can’t be underestimated.

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Aug 04

Cespedes Golf Issue Shows Disconnect Between Alderson And Collins

In listening to the contrasting versions of the Yoenis Cespedes injury/golf issue between Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins illustrates the gap and lack of communication in their working relationship and how ultimately things won’t end well for the latter.

CESPEDES:  Laughing at Mets.  (AP)

CESPEDES: Laughing at Mets. (AP)

Collins spoke first Thursday afternoon and initially seemed composed in his press conference, but quickly became testy and controversial, interrupted questions and getting angry with reporters.

Collins’ ears perked up when the word “golf’’ was mentioned.

“Don’t go there,” said Collins, cutting off the question before it was asked. “Golf had nothing to do with it. He’s a baseball player.”

When the question was rerouted to being about perception, Collins went off, and frankly said some things that were embarrassing.

“I don’t care about perception,” Collins snapped. “I care about reality. The reality is, he was OK. He was OK to play [Wednesday] night. The reality is, he came up after his last at-bat and said, ‘My leg’s bothering me again.’

“It happened from when he got on base. He ran the bases. It didn’t hurt him in the fourth inning; it didn’t hurt him in the sixth inning. It hurt him in the ninth inning. That’s reality. That’s what we have to deal with. We can’t worry about what happened at 12 in the afternoon. We’ve got to worry about what happened at 10 o’clock [Wednesday] night. That’s when he hurt his leg.”

Collins was so far off, just as he was when asked why Cespedes wasn’t placed on the disabled list the first week of July.

“Because he wasn’t hurt that bad,” Collins said. “He didn’t complain about it.”

Listening to Alderson later, it was as if he heard Collins and then said the opposite.

“Let’s face it,” Alderson said. “Playing golf during the day and then going out and getting injured in the evening, it’s a bad visual. I think [Cespedes] recognizes it at this point and we’ll go from there.”

What Alderson said next clearly undercut Collins’ earlier comments.It’s been a trying month or so with Yoenis and the injury and in retrospect, we probably should have just put him on the DL in the beginning of this episode,” Alderson said. “On the other hand, he wanted to try to play through it.’’

“It’s been a trying month or so with Yoenis and the injury and in retrospect, we probably should have just put him on the DL in the beginning of this episode,” Alderson said. “On the other hand, he wanted to try to play through it.”

I don’t have a problem with not putting Cespedes on the DL immediately. He was hurt before the All-Star break and it made sense to take the calculated gamble of seeing if the rest during the break could have helped him.

But, was Cespedes getting any rest if he was on the golf course every day. There are reports he likes to play four or five times a week. However, whether he used a cart or not doesn’t matter. There’s still a lot of standing and walking, and Bobby Valentine made an interesting comment when he compared the muscle movements and torque of the baseball swing.

It might not be as taxing as playing basketball, but there is a strain which is compounded when it’s hot. Neither Alderson nor Collins said it, but when Cespedes is on the golf course for three hours, he’s not getting treatment, is he?

I wonder how David Wright, who used to spend up to two hours getting ready to play, feels about this.

All that is the reality Collins wanted to deal in.

The reality is Cespedes was not getting as much treatment as he should have been getting.

The reality is if Collins was trying to preserve Cespedes for these games in AL parks when he could have used the DH, then he shouldn’t have used him as a pinch-hitter when the Mets held a five-run lead.

The reality is if Cespedes tweaked his quad Tuesday night as a pinch-hitter, he shouldn’t have been on a golf course Wednesday afternoon.

The reality is if Cespedes takes fewer swings before a game, then he shouldn’t be taking more and more golf swings.

The reality is if Cespedes can’t play left field to preserve his legs he shouldn’t be playing 18 rounds several times a week.

The reality is when Alderson said he conferred with Cespedes’ representatives about not playing golf when on the DL, he’s admitting no control over his player.

Collins is right about one thing, and that is Cespedes is a baseball player. And, the reality is he’s being paid $27 million to play for the Mets and isn’t giving his employer his best effort.

The reality is there is a disconnect between Alderson and Collins and this won’t end well for the manager.

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Aug 03

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Goes From Golf Course To DL

With how the Mets played Wednesday, it’s as if they fell out of an Ugly Tree and hit every branch on the way down. The thud at the end was the sound of Yoenis Cespedes landing on the disabled list with a strained right quad, a move that should have been made weeks ago.

The Mets were counting on the combination of Cespedes and Jay Bruce jumpstarting their stagnant offense, but they went a combined 1-for-9 with three strikeouts in a 9-5 loss at Yankee Stadium, including 0-for-4 with RISP. The number I don’t have is what Cespedes shot during his 18 holes earlier in the day.

CESPEDES: Goes on DL ... finally. (AP)

CESPEDES: Goes on DL … finally. (AP)

Manager Terry Collins said prior to the game he was OK with Cespedes playing golf the day of a game despite the Mets’ efforts to keep him off his feet and preserve his energy since the All-Star break.

“Was he running on the course or was he walking? Did he ride a cart or was he jogging?” Collins told reporters “I don’t have any problem with it.”

This wasn’t the first time Cespedes’ penchant for golfing had been an issue. Cespedes golfed the day of Game 4 of the NLCS, then left the game with a shoulder injury. Collins didn’t have a problem with it then, either.

Collins and the Mets mishandled Cespedes’ injury from the beginning. The first mistake was playing him out of position in center. The injury occurred in early July when Cespedes misplayed a ball hit over his head and landed awkwardly.

Sure, it could have happened in left, but what happened later is where the Mets blew it. The Mets didn’t put him on the DL at the time and opted to wait until after the All-Star break, but did nothing when it was clear Cespedes was hurting.

The Mets weren’t hitting, but hoped Cespedes would run into a pitch, like he did against St. Louis, but that moment was lost in Jeurys Familia‘s first blown save.

Collins pointed to these five DH games as a chance to use Cespedes’ bat and keep him off the field. So, what did Collins do? He foolishly used him as a pinch-hitter Tuesday and Cespedes aggravated the quad with an awkward swing.

After Tuesday’s game, Cespedes said he felt something, so he did the responsible thing and played golf Wednesday – with the photos on the Internet – and was given a pass by Collins.

Others though different.

“You’re being rested for a reason,” said SNY analyst Nelson Figueroa. “When they are trying to give you time off, you shouldn’t be on a golf course.”

Added Bobby Valentine: “He should be worried about his RBI’s not his handicap. He’s a paid professional in one sport. … He’s in New York, he shouldn’t do it.”

Whether he used a cart or not is irrelevant. When you play 18 holes you’re still spending a lot of time on your feet and your legs get tired. Then to play a baseball game later is draining.

“I think the best option is just rest, about 10 days or so,” Cespedes told reporters through an interpreter. “Because if I continue playing hurt, I’m never going to recover.”

Too bad Mets GM Sandy Alderson, who brought up Brandon Nimmo to replace Cespedes, couldn’t figure that out weeks ago.

Cespedes injury was clearly the story of the night and will continue to be for a long time.

The other storylines were Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira being hit by a Steven Matz pitch to almost ignite a brawl, then getting in the head of reliever Hansel Robles. That came after the news Lucas Duda had a setback in his back rehab and will probably be lost for the rest of the season.

TEIXEIRA vs. METS PITCHERS:  Matz had a rough start, giving up six runs in six innings, including a homer by Teixeira. The damage was done in the first two innings, but Matz regrouped to retire 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.

The one he didn’t was Teixeira, who was plunked on the leg. It was clear Matz wasn’t throwing at Teixeira, because he immediately turned his back to the plate. When a pitcher intentionally hits a batter he doesn’t turn his back because he doesn’t want to give the hitter a free run at him.

Collins said there was no intent.

“We know Steven Matz wasn’t throwing at anybody,” Collins said. “If his command is that good we wouldn’t have been behind 6-3.”

Even so, to Teixeira perception was reality.

“I know Matz is a good kid,” Teixeira said. “`I’ve talked to him a few times. But listen, when you hit a home run and the next pitch is not even close and hits you it just looks bad. So I just told him, I didn’t appreciate it.”

And, Robles didn’t appreciate Teixeira when the Yankees blew open the game in the seventh inning. When Teixeira was on second, Robles became incensed because he thought he was stealing signs. Robles became angrier when Teixeira mocked him, even to the point where he laughed and pretended to give a set of signs.

“I’ve never gotten inside someone’s head by standing there,” Teixeira said. “After three or four pitches, I realize he’s staring at me. I was trying to have some fun with him. If you think I have your signs, then change your signs.”

Collins conceded Teixeira wasn’t doing anything, but Robles was still upset.

“I think he was trying to pick up signs,” Robles said. “That’s not the way you play baseball. … Just play baseball, you don’t need to pick up signs.”

DUDA HAS SETBACK:  Duda, who had been on the DL since May 23 with a stress fracture in his lower back, was still feeling discomfort and was re-examined by Los Angeles-based orthopedic surgeon Robert Watkins, who suggested 30 days rest. After that, figuring another two to three weeks of rehab, then you’re talking the end of the season.

Duda is making $6.75 million this year. There’s a good chance the Mets will non-tender him in December. The clear option is to bring back James Loney next season, but Alderson said it is possible Michael Conforto or Bruce might be tested at first.

Yeah, that will work.

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