Jul 21

Memo To Alderson: It Might Already Be Too Late For A Trade

Roughly a week prior to the All-Star break, in reference to the Mets’ dismal offense I wrote Michael Cuddyer should be placed on the disabled list and GM Sandy Alderson consider promoting outfielder Michael Conforto.

ALDERSON: Time is ticking away. (AP)

ALDERSON: Time is ticking away. (AP)

As the Mets prepared for their fifth game in what they said is a critical point to their season, Cuddyer was out of the lineup against Washington and Conforto remains in the minor leagues. However, Cuddyer appeared in Tuesday’s game as a pinch runner, which is a gamble because if he is disabled, the Mets would have to back-date it to tonight.

The players most linked to the Mets are San Diego’s Justin Upton and Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez – whom the Mets traded in the Johan Santana deal – and Gerardo Parra.

Of course, there’s a difference between mulling and doing something.

Upton could be a rental, with Gomez more costly because he’s not a free agent after this season. Getting Gomez might mean losing Juan Lagares, which shouldn’t be a problem. Several days ago I wrote Lagares wasn’t panning out, so losing him is no big deal to me. He’s certainly not a deal breaker. After all, in five or six years they could trade for him back.

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager, according to his biography – should be coming to the realization the asking price for a hitter is escalating, simply because teams know the Mets are desperate. The Mets have no leverage in trade talks because they have too many rigid parameters. Alderson has a long list of untouchables; is not willing to give up any top prospects; and has budget restraints.

Basically, he wants something for nothing.

Alderson made it clear he won’t deal from the group of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Jon Niese stepped it up in the wake of the Matz injury, Harvey’s slump and Bartolo Colon‘s collapse.

Teams have no interest in Colon or Dillon Gee, and frankly because Niese is pitching well I would be reluctant to give him away for a rental. I wouldn’t mind Upton, but would want to discuss an extension first. If that could be worked out, I would include Niese.

But, would I give up NIese for a two-month rental? I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, the Mets’ offense remains dismal. They are 2-3 coming out of the break and tonight was the first time they scored as many as five runs in that span. Of the 16 games they’ve played this month, they scored as many as five runs only three times.

On June 16, Harvey beat the Blue Jays and the Mets’ record rose to 36-30. After that game, the Mets lost their next seven and only once scored as many as five runs over the next 12 games.

That’s when I started souring on their chances because they lost all their goodwill from their 11-game winning streak in April and did nothing to improve their offense. Getting back Kirk Nieuwenhuis doesn’t count.

Travis  d’Arnaud started swinging a bat, but is he really the answer? He wasn’t exactly carrying the team when he was injured. Alderson has also done nothing to address David Wright‘s absence, and we all know he’s not coming back soon, if at all this year. By the time we see Wright it might be too late.

Hell, it’s probably too late now to do anything of substance. Whatever leverage the Mets might have had in the trade market is gone, so Alderson will simply do nothing and say the price if too high. And, not bringing in salary will make the Wilpons happy. And, of course, if the Mets go into a free-fall, manager Terry Collins will pay the price.

See how that works? Yet another season is about to go into the archives. That’s shameful because as bad as the Mets have played, they are still over .500 and in the hunt.

If I was a lifelong Mets fan as many of you are – remember, I grew up in Ohio, where I didn’t root for the Yankees – I would be angry.

Too many times the Mets asked for, and were given patience, by their fan base. They asked you to wait while Harvey was on the DL last year and pointed to 2015. Well, 2015 has come and is close to being gone. Tonight was fun to watch, but there remains the possibility the interlocking NY on their caps could again stand for “next year.”

Jul 20

Maybe Harvey Found Something With Strong Finish

There it was, the seventh incredible inning and Matt Harvey was still out there for the Mets. Who would have thought it possible when Harvey fell behind 5-0 after three innings? As the Nationals added to their lead, I briefly thought this could have been one of those games the Mets might have yanked him early to reduce his workload.

HARVEY: Finishes strong. (Getty)

HARVEY: Finishes strong. (Getty)

The only problem was after Sunday’s 18-inning victory in St. Louis that taxed the bullpen, the pitcher whose innings the Mets are trying to preserve, may ironically have saved the pen for the remainder of this important series.

Harvey, who hadn’t pitched in nine days because of the All-Star break, came out throwing exceptionally hard in the high 90s, but again lacking in command evidenced by four walks. Harvey bought himself a chance to stay in the game with a two-run single in the fourth. We probably shouldn’t have been surprised that was the extent of the Mets’ offense.

Then, Harvey did more than just hang on, he dominated retiring the final 14 hitters he faced. He actually gave the Mets a chance to win the game if not for their dismal offense. The Mets stranded 25 runners Sunday and ten more Monday night.

The Mets stacked their rotation to go with Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the Washington series. Harvey lost tonight, falling to a lackluster 8-7 record. However, the bullpen was preserved for deGrom and Syndergaard in the next two games, and possibly Harvey found something that could turn his season around.

 

Jul 19

Did Mets Save Their Season Sunday?

Let’s assume the Mets find their way into October. If so, they might look at Sunday as a watershed moment to their season.

The Mets outlasted St. Louis 3-1 in 18 innings, but played poorly enough offensively to lose three games. Their hitters struck out 15 times, went 1-for-26 with runners in scoring position and stranded 25 runners.

iThere was a time this afternoon when I thought Cardinals manager Mike Matheny would better off just intentionally walking the first two hitters of the inning and going from there.

If nothing else it might have cut the time of the game to a brisk four hours.

But, how the Mets responded after losing the first two games of the series – including being pasted Saturday night – to avoid totally limping into Washington tomorrow was essential to their season.

And, it all began with the pitcher the Mets were almost desperate to unload, Jon Niese, who has given up nine runs over his last six starts. He’s also gone at least six innings in each of his last eight starts.

Part of the reason why the Mets toyed with a six-man rotation was to showcase Niese, and he’s pitched like a beast the past two months. He’s as much a reason as anyone as to why the Mets are just two games behind the Nationals.

Sometimes when a team makes a run at a season they need to steal a game like today and have an all-but-dismissed player like a Niese provide a lift.

The Mets seem to have more issues than a dozen years of Sports Illustrated, but they’ll wake up Monday morning in Washington exhausted – but in a pennant race.

And, isn’t that what we all want? And, if it stays that way, today could be the reason.

 

Jul 18

Lagares Deal Not Panning Out

The Juan Lagares I saw last night couldn’t have been the same player the Mets signed to a five-year, $23-million contract. Could it be?

Two balls were hit over his head. There probably weren’t two balls hit over his head every two months last season. If that many. He’s not Paul Blair; he’s not good enough to play that shallow.

LAGARES: What happened? (AP)

LAGARES: What happened? (AP)

We know something is wrong with his arm. We’ve known that all year. He has no chance at getting a runner at home, and they routinely challenge him first-to-third and second-to-home.

However, it makes you wonder how badly his elbow impacts him at the plate. The Mets are saying it isn’t an issue. If it isn’t, then what is?

I can’t help but think being yanked from the leadoff spot must have some effect. After spending all spring training developing patience and an eye at the plate in the leadoff spot, he was dropped to sixth. There was some debate as to whom made the call, manager Terry Collins or GM Sandy Alderson, but we really know, don’t we? Lagares has hit everywhere south of fifth, including ninth behind the pitcher.

The Mets, at least publicly, hesitated moving Wilmer Flores off shortstop for feat of bruising his psyche. How come they didn’t show the same thought process with Lagares?

Surely, the game’s smartest general manager must have an explanation. Instead, he’s waiting for Lagares to kick into full gear, like he’s waiting for David Wright to return, like he’s waiting for Travis d’Arnaud to comeback, like he’s waiting for Michael Cuddyer to hit, like he’s waiting for the offense it pick up, like he’s waiting for Matt Harvey to pitch like an ace.

And waiting, and waiting, and eventually the trade deadline would have passed and another season would have faded away.

 

Jul 17

Oddsmakers, And Numbers, Don’t Like Mets

Last year’s National League champions, San Francisco, won 88 games to qualify as a wild-card entry. For the Mets to win that many games, they must go 41-32, nine games over .500.

Oddsmakers have the Mets at 33-1 to win the World Series, this after being 25-1 on July 1. Evidently, that four-game winning streak entering the break carried little goodwill.

We shall see what the Mets are made of after the first three series of the second half – at St. Louis and Washington, and home to the Dodgers.

The Mets are stacking their rotation for the Washington series, with Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. And, since Syndergaard goes tonight at St. Louis, it computes to the five-man rotation.

That means Harvey will get his way, for at least for the near future. You wanted it big boy, now just pitch.

“For us to stay in this race, we’ve got to beat Washington,’’ said Collins. “That is why we aligned the rotation the way we did.’’

Sure, the Washington games are important, but if the Mets lose in St. Louis but beat the Nationals, what have they gained?

The bottom line is all the games are important to the Mets, who will attempt to reach the postseason for the first time since 2006, but with an offense ranked 28th in scoring at 310 runs, which is roughly 3.5 a game.

With a 3.23 ERA, there is virtually no margin for error, and making it all the more difficult is there’s no imminent help on the horizon, whether from outside the organization; in the minor leagues; or from the return of the injured David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets’ primary competition for the wild-card at Pittsburgh, Chicago and San Francisco. They currently trail the Pirates and Cubs, but are one game up on the Giants. Also, all three teams are .500 or better on the road while the Mets have been dismal away from home. And, of course, the Giants have a championship pedigree.

GM Sandy Alderson has taken heat, and deservedly so, for not being aggressive in the trade market.

He did an admirable job cutting payroll and jettisoning the likes of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and others, but somewhere in his contract his job description there needs to be a clause about putting a winning team on the field, not a cheap one.