May 15

Mets Should Have No Untouchables

With the Mets’ eight-game lead over Washington down to one, we are at the part of the season when panic sets in. They must do something, and fast.

Yes, Wilmer Flores – who leads the team in home runs, by the way – has been dreadful at shortstop. Naturally, he’s the one who must go and the Mets have to trade for a shortstop. In the car, if not the Rolling Stones or Eagles, I will sometimes listen to sports talk radio. Yes, yes, I know it’s a dumb thing to do, but like chocolate it is sometimes hard to resist.

HARVEY: No untouchables. (Getty)

HARVEY: No untouchables. (Getty)

Something I heard today made me laugh out loud. The topic was the Mets’ urgent need for a power bat, to which I can’t disagree. Of course Troy Tulowitzki‘s name came up. It always does. But what was said next is proof most of these guys don’t know what they are talking about.

“The Mets need a shortstop, because they are set everyplace else.”

This is dumb on so many levels, beginning with this – the Mets haven’t had a winning season in six years and despite their hot start there’s no guarantee they will have one this year. That they are 7-12 since their 11-game winning streak is proof this team can’t say it is set. That hot start is a memory.

“Just who are you going to replace?” the voice droned on.

Just who can’t they replace? That’s the better question. After 35 games, the Mets are ninth in the National League with 26 home runs. They are 12th in the league in runs scored with 130. The only player with a batting average higher than .250 in the lineup yesterday was Lucas Duda. Take your pick as to who should be replaced. If the goal is a winning season and the playoffs, everybody should be made available if it improves the team.

After losing four straight to the Cubs, the Mets must beat the Brewers this weekend before the Cardinals come to town. If they lose the Milwaukee series, who can’t see them below .500 by the end of next week, even if Matt Harvey wins his game?

There’s not a player on the team – Harvey included – I wouldn’t trade for the right package. They must get a star already signed to a multi-year deal to make it worthwhile. The often-injured, pricey Tulowitzki is not the answer. There are players, such as Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia, I prefer to keep, but entice me. Make me think before I say no.

Juan Lagares? Why not? Duda? Why not? Please don’t tell me they are set in the outfield with Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer. Maybe the Mets have players like Lagares they see locked into their future, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t better players who could help.

When you’re the Mets and haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 2006, can they be that set to where they say they have untouchables?

Nobody expected an 11-game winning streak, but what it did was not serve notice the Mets are contenders, but allowed them a margin for error which is down to one game. If you can’t see below .500, surely you can see them out of first place.

The Mets entered the season hoping for bounce-back years from David Wright, Granderson and Harvey, and for Flores to develop. The Mets entered the season hoping for a lot of things, but how many times do I have to say “hoping is not a strategy?”

Hope is what GM Sandy Alderson built this season around, and it if all goes to hell, it will be Terry Collins who takes the fall. Such is the plan of baseball’s greatest general manager.

There should be no players who are untouchables given the right circumstances. None. Flores and Collins aren’t the only ones who should be concerned about their jobs.

Apr 13

Today In Mets History: NL Baseball Returns To New York

On this date in 1962, National League baseball returned to New York after a four-year absence in a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh in their home opener in the Polo Grounds.

Surprisingly, only 12,447 showed up for the first National League game in the city since the Dodgers and Giants bolted for California for the start of the 1958 season.

Pitcher Sherman Jones took the loss for the Mets and Frank Thomas homered.

Thomas hit 34 homers with 94 RBI in 1962. He hit 52 homers in three homers for the Mets. Sherman was 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA in eight games for the Mets in 1962, his only season with the team and his last year in the major leagues.

BOX SCORE

 

Feb 28

Today In Mets History: Dave Kingman Signed

On this day in Mets’ history in 1975, the contract of outfielder and first baseman Dave Kingman was purchased from the San Francisco Giants. The 6-foot-6 Kingman, nicknamed Kong for his prodigious strength and power, was to give the Mets the fearsome hitter they had never had this early in their existence.

“He was going to make us a winner,’’ said Joe, a life-long Mets’ fan. “He had such awesome power. We had never had a guy like that before.’’

KINGMAN: Hit 154 homers at a Met.

KINGMAN: Hit 154 homers at a Met.

During his 17-year career, Kingman played six seasons with the Mets, more than any other team. He gave the Mets the power they wanted with 154 home runs. However, the all-or-nothing Kingman also hit .219 with a .287 on-base percentage, and with only 389 RBI and just 211 walks in comparison to 672 strikeouts. He had more strikeouts than hits (509) with the Mets.

In addition to the San Francisco and the Mets, Kingman played for Oakland, the Cubs, San Diego, the Angels and Yankees. Kingman had two stints with the Mets (1975-77 and 1981-83).

Kingman also struck out a lot in his interactions with fans and the media. Of all the things Kingman is known for, perhaps most disturbing was sending a live rat to Susan Fornoff, a female reporter covering the Athletics.

Kingman hit 30 or more homers seven times, including 48 in 1979 with the Cubs and 37 in 1982 with the Mets, when he lead the National League in homers.

Kingman also struck out 1,816 times – an average of 152 times a season – and in 14 years struck out at least 100 times, and eight times fanned at least 125 times. Only once, in 1985, did he draw as many as 60 walks.

History is filled with numerous all-or-nothing sluggers like Kingman, such as Adam Dunn, Greg Vaughn, Frank Howard, Rob Deer, Mark Reynolds and a case can also be made to lump former Met George Foster into that group.

Kingman’s 154 homers ranks fifth on the club’s all-time list, behind Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Mike Piazza and Howard Johnson.

Kingman finished with 442 career homers and speaking at the closing of Shea Stadium, said if he played longer: “I’m sure I could have hit 500 (home runs). That’s all right. I’m very happy with (my career). I enjoyed my time in the big leagues.’’

Prior to the steroid era, 500 homers used to be an automatic ticket into the Hall of Fame, along with 300 pitching victories and 3,000 hits. Had Kingman played two more years and reached that milestone he would have been an interesting test case.

As a Hall of Fame voter, I wouldn’t give him my vote because his numbers other than homers were terribly weak and non-deserving.

ON DECK:  Mets Matters: Today’s news and notes.

Feb 11

Suggested Mets’ Batting Order

Spring training is for a lot of things, but I thought I’d save Terry Collins time and suggest a batting order for him. Several slots will automatically fall into place, but where Collins will do his most head scratching will be over the leadoff position.

Juan Lagares, CF: He has the speed and at the end of last season proved he could steal a base. However, he needs to get on base to utilize that speed which is why he must cut his strikeouts and raise his on-base percentage.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Willing to take a pitch, which should help Lagares. Was the Mets’ best hitter last season and his ability to drive the ball in the gap could give the Mets an early first-inning lead.

David Wright, 3B: Theoretically, third is where the best hitter should be, which is the combination of power and average. Injuries sapped Wright’s production the past few years and the Mets are hoping for a bounce back season. If he has one it will solve a lot of problems.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Gave the Mets 30 homers last year and they aren’t expecting anything less. When he gets hot he should offer Wright protection. Still strikes out too many times, but is showing improved plate discipline.

Michael Cuddyer, RF: He should hit here to separate the left-handed hitters. How sweet would it be if he returned to the form where he lead the National League in hitting.

Curtis Granderson, LF: Even with the fences moved in, nobody expects him to hit 40 homers again. But, 30 should be reasonable along with a boatload of doubles in the gap. If Lagares falters, Granderson could get another look at leadoff, but he strikes out too much to excel there in the long haul.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Another right-handed hitter to give the order balance. Showed glimpses of power, but if he masters things behind the plate the Mets will take what they can get from him offensively.

Wilmer Flores, SS: He’ll have enough pressure as it is, so dropping him to eighth to see what he can do is the best option. Hitting here ahead of |the pitcher should help improve his plate discipline. There’s nothing wrong with a walk to clear the pitcher’s spot.

Pitcher: Unless you’re in Tony La Russa’s world, pitchers bat ninth.

Things will vary according to injuries, days off and slumps. But, this offers a balanced order with the hitters providing the most protection for each other. That is, if they are hitting.

Jan 30

The Playoffs Aren’t Out Of The Question

The latest issue of Baseball Prospectus projects the Mets to finish in second place in the NL East behind Washington with an 82-80 record, which would be their first winning season since 2008.

That would be good enough to be tied with Chicago for sixth place in the National League, but not make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Here how the publication projects the National League:

Los Angeles 97-65

Washington 91-71

St. Louis 89-73

San Francisco 84-78

San Diego 83-79

METS 82-80

Chicago 82-80

Miami 81-81

Pittsburgh 80-82

Cincinnati 79-83

Milwaukee 79-83

Atlanta 74-88

Arizona 74-88

Colorado 72-90

Philadelphia 69-93

 

Last year the Mets were tied for second with Atlanta in the division at 79-83. If the publication were correct, we would be talking of an improvement of three games with a minimum of additions with offseason.

Using the publication’s figures, the Mets need to win at least 84 games to be a wild card. To do that they must improve by five games, and are banking on that happening with the healthy returns of Matt Harvey and David Wright.

When you look at it, that’s an extra five victories a month, which isn’t unrealistic.