Feb 23

Callaway Benches Smith; Shows Who Is Boss

Today wasn’t just a milestone day for new Mets manager Mickey Callaway simply because it was his first game, it was in that he firmly established who is in charge.

From the moment he was introduced, Callaway stressed accountability and responsibility.

It wasn’t always that way under Terry Collins, who, in all fairness, didn’t get support from GM Sandy Alderson. Obviously, Alderson wouldn’t undercut Callaway over Dominic Smith, but it was encouraging to see the rookie manager pull the prospect from the starting lineup after he showed up late to a team meeting.

Callaway doesn’t have many rules, but being on time is one of them. It’s not all that hard to show up on time, and it is head scratching for someone trying to make the roster being late for the first game of the year.

Players supposed to show up for an 8:45 a.m., meeting and Smith was late. Maybe he overslept, maybe he got stuck in traffic, maybe he didn’t set his alarm properly. Whatever the reason, it didn’t fly with Callaway, nor should it.

Smith is a professional, and while he might have a lot to learn about playing the game, he should already know how to set an alarm clock.

Perhaps it would have been more impressive if it was Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard – all who tested the limits under Collins – but Callaway wouldn’t wilt in his first disciplinary test.

Good for him.

To his credit, Smith made no excuses, was contrite and admitted he was wrong.

“I shouldn’t be cutting it close like that,’’ Smith told reporters. “I’m a professional. This is my job. This is my career. It’s my livelihood. I felt like I definitely let them down today.

“He asked me what I thought the decision should be and I agreed with him. That’s the only way it should be. They shouldn’t give me a pass or whatever. They shouldn’t give anybody a pass. That’s what he’s been preaching since Day 1 – accountability. You got to be accountable for yourself, your actions.’’

Yes, it was only a Triple-A prospect. It wasn’t Cespedes, who is erratic in his hustle and blew off treatment of a quad injury to play golf; it wasn’t Harvey, who blew off a game last year nursing a hangover; and it wasn’t Syndergaard, who refused to take an MRI and subsequently tore a lat muscle last April which basically cost the Mets their season.

Some might ask why this is a big deal, that what difference does a few minutes make.

It’s because being late shows a lack of discipline. It shows a lack of respect for the rules and your teammates. It’s because little things can grow into bad habits that can cost a team games if left unchecked.

Basically, it’s learning how to win, something the Mets don’t know how to do.

Feb 06

Frazier Helps Mets Four Ways

Unquestionably, the Mets are better today after reportedly agreeing to terms with third baseman Todd Frazier on a two-year, $17-million deal.

Frazier improves the Mets four ways:

  • He gives them a proven, veteran third baseman for the next two seasons.
  • He alleviates the David Wright issue. There’s no reason to think about him returning now.
  • He allows Asdrubal Cabrera to play second base, which he prefers.
  • He strengthens the bench because it enables them to concentrate on Jose Reyes in a platoon at second and third.

Frazier hit 67 homers in the last two years, but Mets manager Mickey Callaway told The Post there’s more to him than just power.

“He’s a baseball player,’’ Callaway said. “And you know what he did at the end of the season when we were preparing to play the Yankees, he made some adjustments at the plate. He stopped chasing balls.

“He stopped trying to go down there and flick that ball to left, he was laying off balls that he was going after in the past. You look at his average (.213), but that’s going to change if he continues to do what he did the last month of the season.’’

“He’s a great defender. He’s a great baserunner, too. He can really, really run the bases. Every time we’d go into town and played him, our bench coach, who controlled the running game, would come up to me and say, ‘We’ve got to make sure to keep Frazier close at first, he gets that running lead.’ He puts pressure on the other team.’’

Frazier improves the Mets, but does he make them overcome the 22 games needed to reach .500?

Hardly.

Feb 01

It’s Truck Day

The equipment truck left for Port St. Lucie this afternoon with the bats and balls, and of course, the hopes of Mets’ fans everywhere. Spring training is the best time of year because it is when dreams are born.

GM Sandy Alderson was there to say goodbye and address the smattering of fans, many of them who consider the truck a seasonal rite of passage.

“It’s been a slow offseason,’’ Alderson told the small group of fans. “But I want to put that in context because that has been true across all of baseball. In fact, the Mets have really been as active as anybody.’’

Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes are returning to a team that finished 22 games below .500, and along with them Anthony Swarzak and an over-the-hill Adrian Gonzalez.

Unless the Mets’ young and battered pitching staff return healthy and live up to expectations, it’s hard to fathom those four additions lifting Mickey Callaway’s team to contending status. That likely won’t happen even if they add Todd Frazier or Eduardo Nunez or even a reunion with Neil Walker.

The Mets’ payroll is currently $137 million with little wiggle room.

Even if the Mets were to sign Mike Moustakas – which Alderson dismissed – that’s not nearly enough to put them over the top.

A big-ticket free-agent would cost the Mets draft-choice compensation and the loss of international pool money, something Alderson said is essential in “improving what is now a less-than-robust farm system.’’

Building from within is the most reliable and cost-effective way of building a team. The Mets tried that with their young pitching but have been derailed because of injuries.

The other ways of building are through trades and free-agency and Alderson has already said the latter is out. Quite frankly, the Mets have very few tradable assets other than their young – and most injured – pitching.

Are they willing to go there?

Jan 12

Thanks Mark Phelan For The Kick In The Ass

Sometimes I need a kick in the ass and I got one today from reader Mark Phelan, who wrote my “obsession” for David Wright contributing to the Mets “screws up” my ability to recognize how troubled this lineup really is. Well, Mark, I don’t agree with you on the word “obsession,” but I am hoping Wright can go out on his own terms, which is rare for an athlete.

“Hoping,” after all is a right for any Mets fan.

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

If the Mets sign Todd Frazier that tells me they are convinced Wright is done. If they sign Jose Reyes it tells me they also are holding out hope.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at their troubled lineup:

CATCHER: They are trying it again with Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. There’s nothing inspiring about that prospect. Talk about beating a dead horse.

FIRST BASE: The fact they are considering a reunion with Lucas Duda says they aren’t thrilled with Dominic Smith. That they brought back Jay Bruce to play some first base also says they aren’t happy with Smith. That they won’t play Wilmer Flores there tells me they want him off the bench, which is stupid.

I would also like to revisit what I wrote during the World Series that they passed on Cody Bellinger in the draft.

SECOND BASE: Asdrubal Cabrera? That tells me they don’t want to spend the money on Jason Kipnis. Cabrera is injury prone and we’ll see Flores there soon enough. Cabrera also says they won’t give T.J. Rivera a chance. Two words: Daniel Murphy.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario is there to stay, but he has problems throwing as he continues to pump his glove, which takes time. He has a lot to learn about playing the position. Offensively, he has a lot of speed but poor plate discipline and strikes out too much. Ideally, he has the speed to be a leadoff hitter but has too many holes in the offensive part of the game.

THIRD BASE: Frazier or Reyes or Cabrera? Of the three, I’d take Frazier. That means the Wright Era would officially be over unless he moves to first. At that stage of his career, it would be difficult. Back to Rivera for a second. Because he’s being ignored it says the Mets aren’t sure of him physically. The black hole at third has long been a Mets’ tradition. This time it underscores GM Sandy Alderson’s terrible decision to get rid of Justin Turner.

LEFT FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes had six great weeks in 2015, which seduced Alderson into bringing him back, completely overlooking his absence during the World Series. Cespedes did hit homers in 2016, but not enough to warrant his injuries, lack of hustle, and drama. The Mets represent Cespedes’ fourth team before the age of 30 says a lot, but something Alderson ignored. As imposing as he can be when healthy, Cespedes has too many leg injuries. He was brought back to play center but now refuses, in large part because of his pulled muscles. Cespedes hustles when he feels like it, which pisses me off no end. The worst part of the Cespedes’ $110 million contract is it screws up the Mets’ budget. Will Cespedes be ready for Opening Day? Who knows?

CENTER FIELD: It’s Michael Conforto if healthy. If not Juan Lagares will start. The Mets gave Lagares a multi-year contract but have no place to put him. He has the speed to hit leadoff, but like Rosario doesn’t have the plate discipline. He’ll likely be the Opening Day starter because Conforto might not be ready.

RIGHT FIELD: Hello again, Mr. Bruce. Did the Mets panic or did Bruce because of the slow market? They should never have traded him. As of now, he could be their lone power hitter in the lineup.

BULLPEN: Alderson traded Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Duda and Addison Reed for relief help but none of the five relievers brought in turned any heads last year or threaten to make the roster now. Reed remains unsigned. Closer Jeurys Familia is recovering from surgery; AJ Ramos was spotty in his window of opportunity and Jerry Blevins is the overworked situational lefty. Hansel Robles is a nightmare and the rest are all questions. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo could find their way into the bullpen if they don’t end up in the rotation.

STARTERS: It’s Jacob deGrom and a bunch of questions. … Can Noah Syndergaard recover from a torn lat muscle caused because he foolishly thought lifting weights would help him get stronger so he could last longer in games? The problem with Syndergaard’s high pitch count is because his command is inconsistent. Just throw the damn ball, stay off Twitter and don’t think so much. … Matt Harvey never became the ace we all hoped. Harvey needs a big year because he’ll be a free agent next winter. Odds are he’ll leave to give us the memories of one fine moment in 2013, followed by hiding an injury leading to surgery and subsequently landing on the disabled list and bitching about where he’ll rehab.There’s also the stories about him dating the Supermodel of the Day. However, his lasting image will be shouting down Terry Collins in the dugout in the ninth inning of Game 5 to stay in the game, which he subsequently blew. … Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are coming off injuries. You can substitute Gsellman, Lugo or Rafael Montero at any time. … This rotation has yet to pitch a complete full cycle.

BENCH: Flores is still searching for a place to play and a backup outfielder is needed if it isn’t Lagares. … There’s no power threat for the late innings.

MANAGER: Mickey Callaway is unproven but comes with Terry Francona’s endorsement. Nobody knows what he can do under pressure. Let’s hope his ideas about keeping the rotation healthy pan out.

So Mark, there you have it. This is my take on the Mets’ lineup which doesn’t include Wright. When you look at the rest of the lineup please indulge me the thought of hoping arguably one of the three best position players in Mets history can come back despite it being a long shot. When you look at the Mets, the only proven position is Bruce in right.

So, thank you, Mark, for reading, your comments and being my inspiration today. Personally, I think Wright is done and I nailed it with the lineup.

Jan 08

This Is What I Hope For From The Mets

It’s ten degrees outside and there’s a foot of snow outside and the Mets, of course, are doing nothing for me to take my mind off of what has been the most dismal of winters. They’ve done nothing to encourage hope for this summer. Seriously, they’ve done zero to make me feel optimistic about the season, but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to Opening Day and the six months following.

It will be baseball season, and for that alone, I’m anxious to see what happens. While the future is a mystery, what I want to see unfold is another thing. Here’s what I’m rooting for:

* For Mickey Callaway to get it early and miss the bumps that derail most first-year managers.

* That Dave Eiland‘s off-season throwing program produces some immediate and tangible results.

* That David Wright‘s recovery program takes. To see him charge and barehand a slow roller and fire a seed to first, then come to the plate a line a gapper to right-center and leg out a double.

* I can’t wait to see Jacob deGrom go nine. Hell, I hope he goes nine lots of times and this year he wins 20 and starts the All-Star Game. Basically, I’d like to find out if he can still pitch with the new haircut.

* That Noah Syndergaard‘s lat gives him zero problems and he pitches the way comic book heroes are supposed to pitch.

* That all that I’ve heard this winter are true. That Matt Harvey is in great shape. I’ve never cared to hear about what supermodels he is dating, but that he’s happy. Seriously, I do.

* That Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler come back sound, and the Fabulous Five make it through the cycle at least once. Maybe two or three times.

* That GM Sandy Alderson’s trades last year for bullpen help pay off and some of these arms pan out.

* That maybe Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki form a productive platoon.

* That Dominic Smith shows up in shape and hits line drives.

* For Asdrubal Cabrera plays a solid second, or third. Hopefully at second and the Mets find their third baseman in Wright. I can’t help it, I like the guy and hope he makes it back.

* For Amed Rosario to hit .300 and steal 30 bases.

* For Yoenis Cespedes to prove me wrong … stay healthy and hit 35 dingers.

* For the bulked-up Juan Lagares hits up to his glove.

* Michael Conforto‘s shoulder to hold up and he comes back soon and he posts MVP-type numbers. Big ones.

Of course, I would love to see the Mets win the World Series, obviously against the Yankees. But, I would settle for them to be competitive and play the way we all hope.