Oct 03

No Meaningful Change In Mets’ Purge

In looking at the big picture, what has Mets GM Sandy Alderson really accomplished since the end of the season?

Terry Collins, whom his staff disparaged in an article ripe with anonymous, scathing comments, was removed as manager and given a new position as special assistant to the general manager. Collins officially accepted the job this morning.

ALDERSON: No meaningful change so far. (AP)

ALDERSON: No meaningful change so far. (AP)

With the collapse of the pitching staff caused mostly by injuries, pitching coach Dan Warthen’s job was tenuous. His imminent departure became official this morning, but like Collins, Warthen was offered another job in the organization.

What is this? Keep your friends close but your enemies closer? If Collins and Warthen were so bad – each had faults but neither was the root of the Mets’ collapse – then why were they kept on?

My guess is that by giving them new jobs, they wouldn’t be in the position to publicly rip Alderson. Keeping them on insulates the general manager.

Neither Collins nor Warthen lit a fire under Mets’ fans like trainer Ray Ramirez, who was fired today one week after Alderson said he was staying.

Ramirez took a lot of heat for the Mets’ run of injuries over the past several seasons, but he was clearly not responsible for the pitching staff’s three most significant injuries.

When Matt Harvey struggled finding his velocity this spring following thoracic outlet surgery, Warthen said he wouldn’t regain his full strength until the end of May. However, with Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler not ready, the Mets pushed Harvey’s return.

That’s on Alderson, not Ramirez.

Then there was the Noah Syndergaard fiasco. Syndergaard bulked up in the offseason – not under Ramirez’s guidance and unbeknownst to Alderson and Warthen – and added 17 pounds with the hope of lasting longer in games. Syndergaard complained of soreness in his arm which was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis.

Syndergaard refused an MRI then sustained a partially torn lat muscle which prompted the gem from Alderson, “I can’t tie him down and throw him in the tube.’’

That was Alderson’s call, not Ramirez’s.

Finally, there was Jeurys Familia’s blood clot, which some tried to pin on overuse by Collins. However, there was being away from spring training for the WBC followed by his suspension. Perhaps after that, he was rushed back, but Collins doesn’t make those decisions.

Also training on his own was Yoenis Cespedes, who played in only 81 games. 

The thing about Ramirez’s job is he doesn’t diagnose the serious injuries. Ramirez’s staff and the conditioning staff remained intact, as were the Mets’ medical staff. Ramirez is far from perfect, but he’s been made a fall guy.

Today’s purge also included bench coach Dick Scott, first base coach Tom Goodwin and bullpen coach Ricky Bones. Staying on will be Kevin Long, Pat Roessler and Glenn Sherlock, which tells you the incoming manager will be assigned part of his staff.

Sep 28

Bravo For Collins Not Quitting

Several days ago I wrote Terry Collins shouldn’t make things easier for owner Fred Wilpon and GM Sandy Alderson, and if the Mets wanted him out they should be put in the awkward position of having to defend the decision to fire the longest-tenured and second-winningest manager in franchise history.

COLLINS: Treated shamefully. (AP)

COLLINS: Treated shamefully. (AP)

Yesterday, prior to the last game of the season at Citi Field, Collins did the right thing and said he has no intention of resigning.

“I said it a couple years ago, I didn’t know how long I wanted to manage, what could be my last year – I never said anything that I was going to retire,’’ Collins told reporters. “I always wanted to work until I was 70. That’s two more years … I can put something to rest: I’m not going to go home and go fishing. OK. Whatever anybody thinks about if I’m going to be here or not, I can’t answer that. But I’m going to be doing something.

“I’m going to be somewhere. If after we have discussions, if it feels I shouldn’t be here, then I won’t be. … We’ve created something here that’s pretty good. That’s my take. I haven’t talked to anybody about it so we’ll go from there.’’

Reportedly, the Mets are considering six candidates to replace Collins, but none with his resume.

There are also published reports pitching coach Dan Warthen is also on the way out. Of the five young arms that were to make up the core of the rotation, only Jacob deGrom hasn’t missed a start this season. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey spent considerable time on the disabled list, and Alderson must accept responsibility by rushing Harvey on the Opening Day roster two months before he was ready and by letting Syndergaard pitch without the MRI.

None of the five, which includes Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, have made a complete cycle through the rotation. Speaking of which 12 different pitchers started for the Mets this season, and that is more than partial explanation for the high number of walks.

Syndergaard and Alderson, and not Warthen or Collins, bear responsibility for bulking up last offseason. When Alderson took over prior to the 2011 season, he and Jeff Wilpon promised every aspect of the Mets’ training and medical staff would be evaluated.

That also applies to Yoenis Cespedes’ bulking up regime last winter. One would think a general manager to issues a $110-million contract to a player with an injury history would oversee the offseason conditioning program.

I have had issues with how Collins juggles his bullpen and batting order (149 different orders), but shouldn’t Alderson assume the lion’s share of the responsibility because he built this team then stripped it down of his veteran talent?

Collins has been undercut by Alderson at every turn. He said he wants to continue and believes he’s earned a considerable amount of respect throughout baseball.

Too bad he’s not getting any from his own team.

Sep 22

What Should Be Alderson’s 2017 Regrets

“I always think of things I could have done differently.’’ – Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Today at Citi Field

Yeah, me too, Sandy. There are plenty of things I wish you had done differently when it came to building the 2017 New York Mets.

ALDERSON: Regrets for 2017. (AP)

ALDERSON: Regrets for 2017. (AP)

The following decisions are what I wish Alderson had done differently:

Extending Yoenis Cespedes’ contract.

I didn’t like it then and after how this season unfolded, I certainly don’t like it now. I wrote at the time I thought it was a mistake based on: 1) the $110 million earmarked for Cespedes over four years would be better spent on other areas considering all their holes; 2) Cespedes’ injury history, including last season with the Mets; 3) his history of failing to hustle, which has hurt them on multiple occasions this season.

Failure to be patient with Matt Harvey.

When Harvey’s velocity was down during spring training, pitching coach Dan Warthen said based on his thoracic surgery, he wouldn’t be full strength until the end of May. So, instead of Harvey starting the season on the disabled list, his return was pushed and he was reinjured.

Letting Noah Syndergaard call his MRI shots.

Arguably the season’s dumbest quote belonged to Alderson when his response to why he didn’t force Syndergaard to undergo an MRI, he said he couldn’t force him into the tube. Well, he should have prevented Syndergaard from pitching until he took the MRI. Syndergaard made his next start, partially tore his right lat and spent the next four months on the DL The season was effectively over that day when Syndergaard was injured. Now, he’ll start Saturday and pitch one inning.

Failure to construct a quality bullpen.

Alderson has failed to build a bullpen every offseason since he was hired and last winter was no different.

Trading Jay Bruce.

Alderson said he expects the Mets to be competitive next summer, but if that’s to be the case, it stands to reason they’ll need a left-handed bat with power. In addition to Bruce, Alderson traded Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda and Addison Reed for a handful of middling relief prospects. It remains to be seen if any of them will be around next season.

Keeping Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith in the minors.

The season was already lost, but Rosario and Smith languished in Las Vegas. Why? The moment Duda was traded Smith should have been brought up. Ditto Rosario when Asdrubal Cabrera was injured. Just not a smart move by whom Alderson’s biographer calls the game’s smartest GM.

 

Sep 21

There’s No Use Pushing Syndergaard

Sure, it would be good to see Noah Syndergaard pitch again this season for the Mets, even if it is an inning of relief. However, that one inning won’t answer any important questions. It might even raise a couple if Syndergaard were to reinjure himself.

Ideally, the Mets wanted Syndergaard to start several times and build up to perhaps a dozen to 15 innings. That might have given the Mets an idea where Syndergaard stood in his rehab, and if nothing else, alleviate his anxiety.

That’s not happening now, but it doesn’t matter because those 15 innings would have only given the Mets an idea about Syndergaard’s partially torn lat muscle, but not answered fully all his questions.

After throwing 39 pitches in a simulated game Monday, Syndergaard could be given clearance to pitch. It’s really important to Syndergaard to get out there before the season ends a week from Sunday.

“It’s a personal thing for me,” Syndergaard told reporters. “I am getting really anxious. I spent three or four months rehabbing, and if at this point they are going to shut me down, what really was the whole point of all that? I feel I worked really hard in the rehab process and I just really want to get out there and prove I can come back from that kind of injury healthy.”

What was the whole point? It’s hard to believe he really said that, but then again, he’s said a lot of crazy things lately. When Syndergaard hurt himself, by his own stubbornness in first by bulking up without consulting the Mets, and secondly, with his refusal to undergo an MRI. His injury and lost season are totally on him.

If Syndergaard doesn’t pitch again this season, he’ll go into the winter with questions, and subsequently, spring training. That makes three significant questions including Zack Wheeler (stress reaction in his arm) and Steven Matz (elbow surgery).

“There is a process to get a player ready to play the game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “The only way we know what we are looking at all winter long is to see where we are at the end of the year, such as with two guys who can’t pitch right now, we don’t know where we are with them down the road.’’

The Mets are trying to learn what they can with Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero.

That’s seven potential starters, each with a significant question. That’s what the Mets are all about these days, and pitching is supposed to be their strong suit. So, while it would be good to see Syndergaard pitch  again this year, it isn’t imperative.

Sep 07

Harvey Takes Big Step; Nimmo Homers Twice

Matt Harvey didn’t have a great line, but was impressive nonetheless. The Reds got to Harvey for single runs in the first two innings, but he regrouped to throw three scoreless innings to win his first game in three months.

HARVEY: Needs to step up. (AP)

HARVEY: Major improvement. (AP)

What started as another potential blowout, ended in optimistic feelings. And, the Reds can hit, with five players having at least 20 homers.

The turnaround was a seven-pitch third inning, something we haven’t often seen from the one-time Mets’ ace. The Mets are searching for signs Harvey isn’t washed up at age 28, and if he can build on this, then maybe his future isn’t so bleak, after all.

To get him through five innings, it’s a huge step for him,’’ manager Terry Collins. “His command was a lot better. … He should feel good about himself. As the game wore on, he was better with his mechanics.’’

Consequently, he kept the ball down, and was effective with his secondary pitches, in particular, his slider.

“I’m not where I want to be with my mechanics, but it was a step in the right direction,’’ said Harvey. “I know it’s going to take time. It has been a rough two years. I felt it was good for me to get five innings.’’

Another positive was getting two shutout innings from Jeurys Familia.

“This guy has pitched in the World Series, so he’s familiar with pitching under pressure,’’ Collins said. “But, what’s more important is getting his arm strength back and putting that blood clot behind him.’’

NIMMO SHINES: Brandon Nimmo slugged two homers and made a spectacular lunging catch in left field. Juan Lagares also homered, and Jose Reyes’ two-run single put the Mets ahead to stay.

It will be interesting to see where Nimmo fits into the Mets’ outfield plans for next season.

You have to figure with the injury concerns surrounding Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Confortothat Nimmo will make the Opening Day roster

INJURY UPDATES: David Wright called his decision to have rotator cuff surgery a “no brainer, because I want to play catch with my kids.’’ Regarding retirement, Wright said he hasn’t thought when: “I have had enough. I still feel I have something more to give.’’ … Wilmer Flores underwent surgery to repair a broken nose and will be shut down for the remainder of the season. … Noah Syndergaard gave up three runs in two innings in his second rehab appearance. … Asdrubal Cabrera will undergo an MRI tomorrow on his hamstring.