Jul 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Matz Struggles

What, you expected the Mets to run the table against the Cubs?

After winning four straight in the NLCS and four in a series at Citi Field prior to the break, the Cubs were due and Steven Matz wasn’t good enough to prevent Monday’s 5-1 loss at Wrigley Field.

MATZ: Didn't have it. (Getty)

MATZ: Didn’t have it. (Getty)

Matz threw 102 pitches in five innings, of which 26 were foul balls. That says he wasn’t able to put away hitters. Part of it is bone-spur related, and that will continue to be the case until he has surgery.

Matz said he didn’t feel any pain and wouldn’t use that as an excuse.

“I don’t think I had my best command,” Matz said, especially of his breaking pitches. With that, you have to wonder how much of it is the elbow.  Matz was done in on a three-run homer to Anthony Rizzo when he hung a change-up over the middle of the plate.

“I don’t think it was a bad pitch [selection],” Matz said of the pitch to Rizzo. “It was poor execution.”

When Matz was missing, it wasn’t outside where he wanted, but over the plate.

“You have to make them chase a little bit,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “I didn’t think he had his Grade A stuff. Hopefully, he’ll good after this.”

Collins wouldn’t say if Matz was hurting, but acknowledged he didn’t have it Monday.

“There are going to be times when he pitches through discomfort,” Collins said. “Other times he’s going to feel good.”

Matz’s performance reflected the uncertainty of what the Mets can expect from him in the second half. In his previous two starts, Matz worked seven innings in each and gave up a combined five runs.

Matz has hammered in his first start this year, reeled off seven straight victories, and has now lost five straight.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to what the Mets might do at the trade deadline. Bullpen? Yeah, that’s needed. Another bat, preferably one who can hit with runners in scoring position? Definitely.

However, with Matt Harvey gone for the year – he had surgery Monday – and the heads-or-tails prognosis of Matz and Tuesday’s starter Noah Syndergaard, adding another arm to the rotation could be their biggest need.

With the loss, coupled with Miami’s victory in Philadelphia, the Mets fell 6.5 games behind Washington in the NL East and trail Los Angeles and the Marlins for the wild-card.

Monday’s other two story lines are:

THE OUTFIELD DILEMMA: As expected, Yoenis Cespedes played left field, which means he came out of Sunday’s game with no problems. That’s the good news.

Cespedes was hitless in three at-bats against Jon Lester, but nobody could time him. Cespedes threw out a runner out at the plate and almost nailed another at second base.

Prior to the game Collins anticipated playing Cespedes in center Tuesday with Michael Conforto in left. However, after the game Collins said he didn’t think Cespedes moved well.

Conforto appeared as a pinch-hitter in the ninth and delivered an opposite-field single.

That was a terrific sign because prior to the game he admitted being pull-happy in May and June when his average nose-dived.

Collins said he wants to use Cespedes in left to save his legs. He also said Conforto could get time in center, where he’s never played.

I wrote in spring training how I wanted to see Conforto get some time in center, but that never happened. Instead, they might do it during a pennant race, even though Curtis Granderson has played over 1,000 games in center.

Then again, at 35, Granderson’s legs aren’t what they used to be.

FLORES PLAYS: Against the left-hander Lester, Wilmer Flores was in the lineup against James Loney, which I speculated earlier today. Flores singled and homered.

It was Flores’ ninth homer of the year and sixth in July to lead the National League. Yet, manager Terry Collins still doesn’t have a sense of urgency to get his bat in his offensively starved lineup.

I’ll say this again; Flores needs to play even if he’s not the sexy choice of GM Sandy Alderson. In for Loney one game; in for Neil Walker the next; then Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes.

That way, they all play and all get a game off a week.

Why is that so hard to understand?

Jul 10

Three Mets’ Storylines: Loss Defines First Half

If ever a game was a microcosm of the Mets’ disappointing first half, it was Sunday’s loss to the Nationals.

The Mets were six games behind the Nationals when they were gut-punched after being swept in a three-game series in Washington two weeks ago that left them six games behind.

MATZ: Lone bright spot. (AP)

MATZ: Lone bright spot. (AP)

But, manager  Terry Collins said the homestand leading into the break, four games each against the Cubs and Nationals, and three with Miami, had the potential to turn the momentum and give them a chance to enter the second half with a good feeling.

That looked possible after a stunning four-game sweep of the Cubs and winning two of three against Marlins. But, after losing three of four to the Nationals, including 3-2 today, they are again six back.

“We’re still in the race,” was how Collins described the disappointing end of the first half to reporters. “We were in this situation one year ago. Things looked bleak, but we ended up in the World Series.”

The three key storylines taken today’s game are the Nationals’ continued dominance of the Mets; New York’s continued inability to produce offensively; and, Steven Matz again pitching well after his elbow flare-up.

WASHINGTON’S DOMINANCE: The Mets are a disappointing 4-9 against the Nationals this year, scoring a composite 16 runs in those nine losses. That’s emblematic of a myriad of deficiencies, notably of their all-or-nothing offense.

Assuming the Mets get it together and see another World Series, they will pretty much have to run the table in their remaining six games with Washington.

Washington’s first-half dominance over the Mets is definitely Daniel Murphy-related. He hit a two-run homer Sunday and has seven homers and 21 RBI so far against the Mets. He hit three homers and drove in ten runs over the weekend.

THE OFFENSE: When asked what the Mets had to most improve on in the second half, Collins simply said: “situational hitting.”

Previously, Collins insisted on saying his team was built on power, but history is full of power-laden teams that don’t win. Then again, GM Sandy Alderson – a disciple of the new-wave numbers – constructed this team.

The Mets got two homers from Jose Reyes today – that’s not why they signed him – and are second in the National League (to Washington) with 120 homers. However, far more telling is their .213 average with RISP with 180 strikeouts. They have won only five games when they don’t homer; are 11-34 with they score three runs or less; and, have been shutout eight times.

Complicating matters are they don’t have David Wright for the rest of the season; have been without Lucas Duda since May 21 with no idea of when he’ll be back; and, are without Yoenis Cespedes indefinitely.

MATZ SETTLES DOWN: Since the issue about his bone spur, Matz, who doesn’t have a win since May 25, has given the Mets seven innings in back-to-back starts and before that worked into the sixth against the Cubs.

That’s encouraging news, especially after losing Matt Harvey for the season and Noah Syndergaard’s mysterious “arm fatigue.’’

I believe in babying pitchers’ arms when there is an injury. That’s what the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg, and something the Mets do not believe.

With Matz, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop because it always does with the Mets.

Jun 21

What Do You Think, Should The Mets Go After Reyes?

Losing has a way of changing one’s perception. For the Mets in means dramatically softening their “you gotta be kidding me,” stance on bringing back Jose Reyes to `let’s think about it.” Losing third baseman David Wright and a team-wide offensive drought gave GM Sandy Alderson second thoughts.

He’s kicking the tires on the idea of a reunion.

Reyes has been on the radar of Mets’ fans almost from the moment he bolted for the Miami Marlins. It wasn’t long before he was traded to Toronto, and Colorado, before he was designated for assignment. The Rockies have until Saturday to trade him, or put him on release waivers where he’d become a free agent and they would have to eat his salary.

REYES: Reunion would be a good idea now. (AP)

REYES: Reunion would be a good idea now. (AP)

Compared to the $106 million Reyes got when he signed with Miami, the Mets would be on the hook for a prorated portion of the major-league minimum. That’s chump change for a temporary fix to their offensive problems.

We’re still four to five weeks from the trade deadline, but teams like the White Sox, who have Todd Frazier, and the Rays, who have Evan Longoria, will decide whether or not they want to trade. When you look at the standings, there are about ten teams you would be pretty confident saying won’t make the playoffs. Minnesota, the Angels and Oakland in the American League; the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Rockies, Arizona, San Diego and Reds in the National League.

However, with the wild card, playoff scenarios can be fluid. That means Reyes could be a Band-Aid until the Mets can trade for a tourniquet.

Manager Terry Collins didn’t seem to object to the idea when he spoke to reporters: “When we lost Jose, I thought, ‘Boy, this is a major piece gone.’  His energy to play the game, his love to play the game, his love to play the game in New York City, it’s hard to find. It’s hard to find those guys. We missed him. I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. Certainly, I always root for him.”

Even so, bringing back Reyes doesn’t come without baggage and issues:

* Most recently, there was a domestic-violence incident last Oct. 31 in Hawaii. He was arrested, but charges were dropped when his wife would not cooperate with authorities. The State of Hawaii couldn’t come up with a case and he served his suspension from Major League Baseball. In the eyes of the law, Reyes paid his debt and merits a second chance.

Today on talk-radio, a point was raised that Mets’ fans, if unhappy about Reyes based on the domestic issue, can influence the team’s decision. Don’t bet on that, because the thinking is if Reyes can help he’ll be signed. By now, I hope you realize the Mets will ignore the media – I’m used to that – and fans when it comes to building their team.

Word is Reyes wants to return, but it will be as a third baseman. If |the Mets want him to make public appearances against domestic violence, that’s part of the plan. Reyes would not push Asdrubal Cabrera off shortstop.

* It must also be noted the 2016 version of Reyes is greatly different than the player who beat out a bunt and walked off the field to preserve his batting title. I never liked that about Reyes and neither did the Mets. Apparently, their dire offensive situation gave them pause to move on.

I was against keeping Reyes at first, then bringing him back, because he’s a speed player who didn’t run his last year with the team and had two stints on the disabled list with hamstring pulls. If you’re thinking Reyes will come here and steal 30 bases for the Mets, well, can I interest you in some ocean front property in Arizona?

If Reyes returns he’ll still have the same issues of a mediocre on-base percentage and a lot of strikeouts. But, he would hit leadoff which would enable the Mets to drop Curtis Granderson to the middle of the order where he and Yoenis Cespedes would be back-to-back.

The way the Mets are presently constructed, having a healthy Reyes back, even though his skills might be diminished, would be an improvement.

Go for it.

May 19

Collins Must Share Blame For Wright; DL Should Be Considered

In the 20-plus-years I have written about major league baseball, there are a handful of players I admire and respect as much as David Wright.

Even so, I am still objective as to what I see and it currently isn’t good. Wright was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back, and then returned to go 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts Wednesday.

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

Wright is in persistent discomfort and needs up to two hours to get ready to play. He is not suited to pinch-hit, especially in cold weather, as he did Sunday in Colorado. Wright knows not to push it, but when asked he will play. That’s in his DNA.

Translated: Manager Terry Collins did Wright a disservice when he asked him to pinch-hit. Winning one game in mid-May isn’t as important as risking losing him for the long haul.

I know Collins wants to win, but he was wrong, selfish and shortsighted for asking Wright to pinch-hit. It isn’t the first time Collins pushed the envelope with Wright or other players. Don’t forget his panic move of labeling the eighth game of the season “must win,’’ and pushing Wright, Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia, none of whom should have played that day.

Wright would never finger-point at his manager. The bottom line is Collins should have been smart enough to not put Wright in that position.

“I don’t know,” Wright told Newsday on whether pinch-hitting took him out of Tuesday’s lineup. “Again, it’s probably not the ideal circumstances. But this is the National League, you really don’t have that much leeway especially when you’re playing with a short bench.”

That puts the onus on the manager to pay attention to what he has available.

Wright is batting .221, which is a career-low for this point in the season. He already has 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats, with four homers and eight RBI. He’s on pace to strike out 195 times, hit 17 homers and drive in 33 runs. His on-base percentage of .362 gives us glimpses of him still being a productive player.

“The back thing is just something that I’m going to have to get used to because it’s not changing,” Wright told reporters. “But I feel like I can play at a much higher level than I’m playing at right now.

“I think that there are certainly some things I’m having to make adjustments with as far as preparation, as far as playing schedule, that I’m going to have to get used to. But when I go take the field I expect to play much better than I am right now.”

Is Wright done?

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s worth sticking with him to find out, but that means staying with the plan and not deviating. That’s all on the manager.

Can Wright play Thursday night? That’s up in the air. If his availability is day-to-day and Collins doesn’t know what he has on any given night, he should go on the disabled list.

Go back to the beginning. Get re-examined and concentrate on nothing but getting stronger for the next couple of weeks. And, during this time, management should have a sit-down with Collins and tell him to get with the program and stick with it.

A lot of things must happen for this to work, including the manager being smarter than he has been.

 

May 03

Mets Wrap: Harvey, Offense Flat In Loss

One conclusion we can take from the first 25 games of the season is presumed ace Matt Harvey doesn’t have it so far. Perhaps it will come for him eventually, but through six starts it is obvious the middle innings are a hurdle he hasn’t been able to scale. Part of the reason is his fastball is in the low 90s and another is he didn’t have a breaking ball in Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss to Atlanta.

It could have been worse for Harvey, who stranded four Braves in scoring position in the first three innings.

METS GAME WRAP

Braves 3, Mets 0

Game: #25 Record: 16-9  Streak: L 1

 SUMMARY: Matt Harvey didn’t have his breaking ball and once again lost control of the game in the sixth inning. He didn’t get any help from an offense that had only one hit off Braves starter Matt Wisler.

KEY MOMENT: You pretty much knew the game was over when the broadcast crew discussed comic strip dogs.

THUMBS UP: Yoenis Cespedes’ throw to third that didn’t nail A.J. Pierzynski was the only Mets’ moment worthy of a gasp. … Asdrubal Cabrera’s single in the fifth prevented the Mets from being no-hit.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey, the offense, the weather. … The Braves stole three bases.

EXTRA INNINGS: Harvey is 2-3 lifetime against the Braves. … The Mets have been shutout twice this season.

QUOTEBOOK: “Did you read that at Yale?’’ – Keith Hernandez to Ron Darling after the latter compared the Braves’ Jeff Francoeur to the cartoon dog Marmaduke.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12: Homers given up by Mets’ pitchers, the fewest in the National League.

NEXT FOR METS: LHP Steven Matz hopes to give the Mets their sixth straight series victory Wednesday afternoon.