Sep 20

Three Mets’ Storylines: Did They Lose Bruce?

In the end, it came down to this: manager Terry Collins has more confidence in Eric Campbell, a player who hasn’t had a hit since May than he does Jay Bruce, the player whom the Mets hoped would carry them into the playoffs.

BRUCE: Did Mets lose him? (AP)

BRUCE: Did Mets lose him? (AP)

Campbell came through with a RBI pinch-hit single in the eighth, but the Mets still lost, 5-4, to Atlanta Tuesday night, and you have to wonder – as Bruce must, also – that he’ll be of little, or no use, to them in the remaining 11 games.

And, after that, do they see a reason to bring him back next season?

There’s no disputing Bruce has been horrid ohis last 24 games, hitting .167 and .125 with RISP. There’s also no disputing he was leading the National League in RBI with 80 when the trade was made.

A manager has a myriad of tough decisions to make, and with this one was the balance between trying to get a player going and winning the game.

“It’s one of the worst things you can do as a manager is to pinch-hit for a star,” Collins said. “My job is to win the game. … I think he’s extremely frustrated. All he cares about is to be a good teammate and help this team. I sure he’s dumped a lot of pressure on himself.”

Collins said he spoke with Bruce before that inning and told him he would use a pinch-hitter, to which he said the player told him: “You do what you have to do.”

Bruce left the dugout as Campbell came to the plate, which isn’t a good image. But, he was probably thinking he didn’t want to have the cameras focused on him for the rest of the game.

Later, it was clear Bruce wasn’t happy, but he said all the right things.

“It was very difficult,” Bruce said about being pinch-hit for. “It’s the first time I was pinch-hit for. (Actually, it is the ninth time according to ESPN). I always think I’m the best choice, but he’s the manager and it his decision and I respect that.

“Coming over here, it has been tough for me. I’m worried about the team. I have plenty of time later to think about myself but now isn’t the time. I’m ready to play. I’ll be ready every day.”

The thing that bothers me about the decision was not that Collins hit for Bruce, but his inconsistency in his decision-making. There have been too many times when logic dictated he do something, but did the opposite. From leaving Matt Harvey in too long to not resting Yoenis Cespedes, to a half-dozen other things, Collins’ track record is inconsistency.

So, did the Mets lose Bruce?

If Bruce is a man of his word, they didn’t. But, that leads to the question whether the Mets’ lack of confidence reached the point where they don’t want him anymore.

Unquestionably, Collins’ decision on Bruce was the game’s primary storyline. The others were the Mets’ offense and a look at the wild-card race.

OFFENSE STRUGGLES VS. TEHERAN:  Perhaps it is an overstatement to say Julio Teheran owns the Mets, but it wouldn’t be wrong to indicate he’s in their heads.

The Mets managed one run on five hits in seven innings against Teheran. Who knows? Had he stayed in for another inning perhaps the Bruce issue wouldn’t have surfaced.

“He’s good, he’s an All-Star,” Curtis Granderson said. “He has some really good stuff.”

Collectively, the Mets have scored 21 runs over their last eight games. And, with the topic of struggling hitters, Cespedes is hitting .179 over his last ten games and struck out to end the game.

WILD-CARD UPDATE: The loss coupled with St. Louis winning in Colorado dropped the Mets and Cardinals to a tie.

Meanwhile, with Miami winning over the Nationals, the Marlins moved over .500 and remain in wild-card contention. The Mets are in Miami for three games next week.

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Sep 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Gsellman Hope For Future, And Present

The Mets got all they could have hoped for this afternoon – and season – from Robert Gsellman. The Mets’ rookie, who along with Seth Lugo kept them in the wild-card race and was again superb Wednesday afternoon.

GSELLMAN: Hope for future, and present. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Hope for future, and present. (AP)

Gsellman threw 5.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, but couldn’t overcome his anemic offense in the 1-0 loss to the Washington Nationals.

“We didn’t lose any ground,” was manager Terry Collins’ backwards logic because the National League’s wild-card race remained stagnant because both St. Louis and San Francisco also lost.

“I thought he threw the ball very well,” Collins said. “He threw strikes. He had the sinker working and had worked both sides. He didn’t have anything to work with.”

Gsellman and Lugo weren’t on the Mets’ radar entering the season, but have kept them afloat with Jacob deGrom (forearm) and Steven Matz (shoulder) went on the disabled list.

Their performances should give the Mets a sense of comfort heading into the offseason and next year, but it is somewhat limited considering the myriad of pitching questions they’ll have this winter:

* How well will Matt Harvey recover from his shoulder surgery?

* As well as Lugo and Gsellman have pitched, has their window been open enough to give the Mets a definitive idea of what they can expect in 2017, and in what roles?

* How well will Matz recover from his expected elbow surgery?

* Will Noah Syndergaard’s bone spur require surgery, and if so, how will he recover?

* With all this in mind, will they bring back Bartolo Colon?

While the Mets’ pitching questions for 2017 was a storyline, the others today were their anemic offense and Wilmer Flores’ injury.

ANEMIC OFFENSE: Three hits won’t cut it most games and it didn’t today.

After back-to-back singles from Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera to open the game against Tanner Roarck, the Mets eventually loaded the bases but came away empty.

The Mets’ only other hit was Jay Bruce’s single in the sixth. He was erased on a double-play and the Mets didn’t have another runner the rest of the game.

FLORES HURTING: Flores hasn’t played since injured in a home plate collision Saturday in Atlanta. Collins assumed responsibility for not running for Flores.

Flores said what is keeping him out isn’t his neck or head, but his right wrist.

“My wrist is bothering me,” Flores said. “I can’t swing the bat. The neck is fine. I could play with the neck. It’s just the wrist.”

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Aug 31

Walker’s Season Likely Over; What Of Career With Mets?

UPDATED: Walker facing surgery.

Before leaving the podium, Mets manager Terry Collins dropped the other shoe. After all, they wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t encore good news with bad. This time, it was the sobering news Neil Walker was facing having season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

“This is a big disappointment,” said a dejected Collins. “He’s had a big year for us.”

The announcement came moments after Kelly Johnson‘s three-run double in the eighth inning proved the difference in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Miami. The other two runs came on Wilmer Flores‘ two-run homer. Ironically, Johnson and Flores figure to get the lion’s share of the time at second base with Walker gone.

WALKER: Status unknown. (AP)

WALKER: Facing surgery. (AP)

With the victory, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games to climb back into the wild-card race. They are in it, also in large part, because of what Walker gave them in April with nine homers and 19 RBI and his hot streak in early August.

In April, there were numerous reports about the need to bring Walker back for 2017, because with Yoenis Cespedes expected to opt out, the Mets couldn’t afford to lose both.

With Walker’s season over, one must wonder if the same can be said of his Mets’ career. Walker can leave as a free agent this winter, but the injury takes away whatever leverage he had because a bad back represents a terrible credit report.

As good as Walker played, perhaps an even longer-lasting impression is David Wright. Looking at how long Wright struggled might have been a deciding factor in Walker’s decision. After all, having surgery now might enhance his chances of playing next season considering a six-month recovery time.

Somebody will sign Walker, but it will likely be a one-year deal with incentives based on games played. Considering what they’ve gone through with Wright, I’m not sure they’ll go in that direction with Walker.

Walker was having a tremendous season, hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. In 23 games since July 27, Walker was batting .440 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored. That’s a significant loss for a team in a pennant race.

For the short term, the Mets are in decent position at second base with Flores and Johnson.

When Daniel Murphy left, there was speculation Flores could inherit second base, but that notion was quickly dashed when the Mets signed Walker. Then, when Wright went down, Flores was to play third, but that changed when Jose Reyes was signed.

Now, with Walker gone, Flores might finally be getting his chance.

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Aug 27

Still Like Bruce Trade

Jay Bruce sat out of Saturday’s game by Mets manager Terry Collins for a “mental health” day, which wasn’t a bad idea considering he struck out four times the night before.

“I think it’s human nature (to try to impress your new team),” Collins told reporters. “I don’t know one player who didn’t instantly want to make an impact.”

BRUCE: Still like the deal. (AP)

BRUCE: Still like the deal. (AP)

Never mind the Mets dumped the Phillies for a second straight game, 12-1, and Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera homered, they will need Bruce before this season is done.

In 22 games since coming over to the Mets from Cincinnati, Bruce is 13-for-81 (.160) with two homers and six RBI, but I still like the trade. And, I’ll like it even better when Bruce starts hitting again, and with 27 homers and 86 RBI, he’s too good a hitter not to. While Collins’ motivation is mental, Bruce said his problem is more mechanical.

“It looks like I’ve been moving away from the plate,” said Bruce, whose extra work also entails looking at video. “So many small things like that happen. That’s baseball. I don’t think I forgot how to hit. I do a lot of my damage middle-away, and I’ve gotten away from that.”

Just because Cespedes is hitting home runs again, you have to remember the context in which the deal was made in the first place. Cespedes was gimpy and Curtis Granderson was – and still is – mired in a terrible slump.

Even with their offense non-existent for much of July, the Mets were in the race for a wild card. Also at the time, Bruce was leading the National League with 80 RBI and hitting well over .300 with RISP. Also part of the Mets’ reasoning was for Bruce to be a safety net if Cespedes opts out. Cespedes indicated he’d like to stay with the Mets but hasn’t made a commitment to doing so.

Conversely, the Mets have a club option on Bruce, so if Cespedes returns they could let the latter leave. The Mets also have to decide where Michael Conforto fits into their plans, and if they want to go one final season with Granderson or buy him out.

But, that’s next year. For now, Bruce has 33 games remaining in this dwindling season to work out of his slump.

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Aug 20

Colon Shows Value; Why They Should Bring Him Back

Sometime this winter, GM Sandy Alderson will have to make a decision – yes or no – on several players. Bartolo Colon will be one of them, and when he does, I hope he remembers today.

With the Mets in dire need of a victory Saturday afternoon to pull them out of their most recent funk, Colon was magnificent working into the seventh in beating the Giants, 9-5.

COLON: Need him back. (AP)

COLON: Need him back. (AP)

Colon is now 11-7, including 6-1 after a loss. That’s well worth the $11 million he makes this season. There are a lot of numbers used to evaluate a pitcher, but record after a loss is especially significant.

Will the Mets bring Colon back for a fourth season? I don’t know. Should they? I think so, and not for the comic relief, which is another way of saying he alleviates tension, and there certainly has been a lot of that this year.

Colon gave up two runs on nine hits with five strikeouts in 6.1 innings. Of his 25 starts, he’s worked into the sixth 16 times and into the seventh nine times.

Did I mention he’s 43?

The Mets brought Colon back for this season with the idea of moving him to the bullpen in July when it was hoped Zack Wheeler would come off the DL. Wheeler could be shut down the rest of the season. Next year is pure speculation for Wheeler.

That’s also the operative word for Matt Harvey, who underwent shoulder surgery. Not to mention Steven Matz, who will undergo surgery on his elbow, and is now having shoulder issues. Noah Syndergaard also has a bone spur issue that could necessitate surgery.

Of their core five of young arms that was supposed to make the National League playoffs the “Mets Invitational,” Jacob deGrom is the only one you can say with any confidence will be on the 2017 Opening Day roster. Nobody throws the “ace” word in Colon’s direction, but he’s the stopper in this rotation.

So, why wouldn’t you bring back Colon?

Speaking of players returning, the Mets have far less control over Yoenis Cespedes, who drove in three runs with two homers and a double. He also sent a third ball to the warning track.

It’s a double-edged sword for the Mets with Cespedes. They need him to go on a tear similar to last year if they are to make a playoff run.

However, the hotter Cespedes gets, and with the free-agent market for right-handed hitters next year paltry at best, it increases the odds of him opting out and going on the market. There’s no reason why he wouldn’t.

The Mets would have him for the next two years for $50 million if he decides to stay. But, if he tests the market it will cost the Mets much more, and, why wouldn’t he test the market again.

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