Oct 15

Will Another $10 Million In Payroll Make Much Difference?

As it usually is this time of year, the issue is money, specifically how much are the Mets willing to spend.

The days of $140 million payrolls for them are long since gone. It was around $83 last season and ESPN’s Adam Rubin said they might go as high as $93 million. I trust Rubin’s reporting. As far as I am concerned, he’s the best reporter on the Mets’ beat.

searchIt’s not how much you spend, but how it is supposed to be spent. Therein lies the problem, in that none of us know what GM Sandy Alderson is capable of doing with a lot of money.

He was hired to cut payroll, not add to it and dip into the free-agent market. Assuming a $10 bump in payroll, most will go to raises and arbitration cases. Another $10 million won’t substantially improve the Mets, who have questions at shortstop, left field and maintenance of their bullpen.

This also doesn’t account for on-the-fly patching, which could not only be at catcher – where Travis d’Arnaud is no sure thing – but any position.

The Mets’ problems have been identified, but another $10 million won’t make much difference. Not if they want to be competitive.

Oct 14

Hitting Coach Update; Hope It Includes Approach

The New York Mets’ search for a hitting coach is apparently down to Dave Magadan and Kevin Long, both of whom preach patience and using the entire field. Both also are experienced on the major league level; Magadan with Texas and Long with the Yankees.

Regardless of theirs, or anybody else’s hitting philosophy, it comes down to the hitters buying into what they are saying and how well they execute.

For the most part, the Mets don’t have a lot of hitters with the discipline to take a pitch and go to the opposite field – exactly what Kansas City and San Francisco are doing in the playoffs.

As the Mets build toward 2015, this is the approach they must take. They still don’t have a leadoff hitter, but that could be Juan Lagares if he walks more and strikes out less.

We saw what happened this season when Lucas Duda became more selective. It was what the deposed Dave Hudgens wanted them to take. His message was good, but perhaps it was how it was delivered that was at fault.

Patience and plate presence is a more direct path to team success than power. History is loaded with power laden teams that fizzled in October because they couldn’t do a simple thing as advance a runner and hit a fly ball with a runner at third. When you look at this year’s playoff field, consider Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles.

This is the message the Mets should be teaching all their players on all levels. It should be an organizational approach and it is not.

 

Oct 13

How Mets Should Handle Matt Harvey’s Innings

Operating under the assumption Matt Harvey will be ready for spring training and subsequently the start of the season, there will undoubtedly be an innings limitation.

In theory, the Mets want him ready for a postseason push. They haven’t announced what the cap would be, but let’s figure on 175-180 innings – which is at least three starts shy of the hoped for 200.

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

So, what are their options?

The first is to do nothing and let him pitch … pitch … and pitch. Undoubtedly, that’s Harvey’s choice, but it won’t happen. Why risk another injury?

Another is to pitch him without game or innings restrictions, then cut him in September if the Mets aren’t in contention. However, if they go that route and the Mets are in the race, they would be doing a disservice to their players and fans, and actually the integrity of the game because they wouldn’t be putting their best team on the field.
That’s not ideal, and neither is the pick-and-choose method, which would be to juggle him with off days and selected starts.

Also, not preferred is to pull him if the Mets are winning late in a game. Harvey will moan about this, and his noise would be amplified if the Mets’ bullpen blew the game.

One option because of the off days in April and the high probability of bad weather is to bag that month entirely or at least the first two weeks.

On the positive, it would keep him out of the cold weather. On the negative, he would still pile up innings in extended spring training games.

Finally, and I think it is the best – it’s something the Nationals didn’t do with Stephen Strasburg – is to have their figure in mind from the start and schedule accordingly.

That would mean making a schedule for the entire season and not deviate. Rainouts would only help the Mets because it would push him back.

In this format, the Mets could schedule skip days now for Harvey and not go on the fly. In addition, they could put him a rigid innings cap, but that would irritate him and lead to an occasional blown save.

However, if the Mets and Harvey knew from the outset his cap would be seven innings both parties could plan accordingly.

Harvey wouldn’t necessarily have to pace himself and Collins would know his bullpen options before the game started. They would accept the blown save as part of the deal.

This format would require discipline from Collins and acceptance from Harvey, which would be more likely because there wouldn’t be any surprises.

Like it or not, this is the hand the Mets have been dealt and must play.

In addition, they might consider plans for Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.

All of this proves the cliché “you can never have too much pitching.’’

As frustrating as this might be, the Mets are set up for this complicated option because they have Rafael Montero, Carlos Torres and sometime in June, Noah Syndergaard. They also have depth with Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.

 

Oct 11

Moving Fences In Not A Good Move

If we were playing one of those games where you match a word to an action, you might choose “embarrassing,’’ for the Mets’ decision to change the dimensions for the third time since Citi Field opened in 2009.

Three times in six years is a clear indication this team doesn’t have a grasp as to its desired identity.

When Citi Field opened, the Mets wanted to build on pitching, defense and speed. Even so, their first signing was Jason Bay, who turned into an $80 million bust.

When David Wright was injured, Bay floundered and Ike Davis failed to hit management moved in the fences. Bay and Davis are gone, Wright is still injured and last year’s signing Curtis Granderson came up with a mediocre year, they are moving the fences in again.

That seems counterproductive considering the Mets finally have some good, young pitching, and there’s the speedy Juan Lagares in center field. The Mets don’t have significant power outside of Lucas Duda, but there’s potential with Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets have some speed, but traditionally lack patience and ability to hit in the clutch. Those two attributes are more important than pure power.

However, this doesn’t mean home runs can’t be hit in Citi Field. There were 130 homers hit there last season, of which 59 were hit by the Mets and 71 by the opposition.

Assuming a healthy Wright, a full season from Duda, and improvement from Granderson, d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores, it is reasonable to expect that gap to close. And, the Mets are expecting Matt Harvey’s return and the continued development from Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

The opposition also gets to hit, so whatever advantage gained by the Mets’ offense is neutralized by what it takes from their pitching. Moving in the fences is designed to jack up the home run numbers, but in the end that’s not what gets a team into October.

Oct 10

Neither Niese Nor Gee Will Bring A Bat; Not Even Together

I read several articles, both on blogs and in the mainstream media, debating whether the Mets should trade either Jon Niese or Dillon Gee in an attempt to add a power bat, preferably to play left field.

There’s a flaw here, namely in the belief either pitcher could bring a bat in return. That won’t happen as neither has a track record that would have another team salivating. Even if you packaged them both it wouldn’t be enough to get them a masher.

To get a slugger, the Mets would have to add considerably to the package and include one of their young arms. Niese’s trade value is limited and Gee’s isn’t any better. Getting a slugger would entail giving up much more, and even then there’s the matter of extending the contract of the hitter.

The Mets currently aren’t inclined to give up their young pitching and not willing to sign a hitter, whether it be a free agent or one included in a trade, to a long-term, contract in the $100 million range. That’s not their mindset, so subsequently don’t be surprised if next year’s team resembles the 2014 model.

The Mets’ current thinking is hoping for Matt Harvey’s return, Zack Wheeler’s development and a bounce-back year from David Wright.