Apr 12

Mets Not In “Panic City”

This column is in response to Adam Rubin’s question at the bottom of today’s Morning Briefing, I will say no. Rubin asked his readers if they were yet a resident of “Panic City,’’ what GM Sandy Alderson called some Mets fan when the team floundered last season before regrouping to reach the World Series.

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

My readers know me for calling it straight. Many of them believe I might be too critical of the team. The over/under for Mets’ victories I posted Opening Day was 92, believing they could improve on last season by having Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes full time.

That’s still very possible.

It’s very easy to spot the problems six games into the season: the offense has not produced and their vaunted starting pitching hasn’t lived up to expectations. The bullpen was overworked in Matz’s start, but giving up three runs in 7.1 innings isn’t that bad.

The three best starts were made by Syndergaard in Kansas City, Jacob deGrom in the home opener and Bartolo Colon Saturday night. Matt Harvey has been roughed up twice and Matz was torched Monday night.

I want to go back to a column I posted earlier suggesting the rotation didn’t get enough work during spring training. Normally starters work about 30 innings during spring training, but no Met pitcher worked more than 15. This was done with the objective of protecting those young arms, and the immediate by-product has been location.

The only real concern here is with deGrom’s tight right lat muscle. Perhaps he wasn’t in his best condition before of the shortage of work. His velocity has been off. Is that injury or lack of work? We don’t know yet.

I posted last night I wasn’t concerned with Matz, but let’s go back early in spring training when he was worried about results and manager Terry Collins questioned whether he was in his best condition.

The lack of work will eventually resolve itself as the season continues. After all, they can’t go back to spring training.

Hopefully, Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will learn from this and tweak their offseason and spring training workout programs. There’s nothing they can do now.

Offensively, we’re seeing signs of life from Cespedes and Wright.

Curtis Granderson hasn’t produced, but the same thing happened last year. His track record is he’ll get better. The Mets have only two homers in six games, but that will change. There have been too many strikeouts and missed scoring opportunities.

You can blame the weather, but it was just as cold for the Royals, Phillies and Marlins. It won’t get any easier tonight against Jose Fernandez or over the weekend in Cleveland.

We also should remember something Wright said at the start, and that’s the Mets will have a bullseye on their backs all year. Philadelphia and the Marlins, not surprisingly want a piece of the Mets. They were the National League champs, every team should want to knock them down a peg.

Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has only two hitters – Granderson and Lucas Duda – who were with the team all of 2015.

The others were either injured and missed significant time – Wright and d’Arnaud – or are in their first full seasons with the team. That would be Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera.

You can’t tell much about a team or a player after six games. Let’s see how things are at the end of the month. We all knew getting back to the Series wouldn’t be a breeze.

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Mar 26

My Projected Mets Opening Day Batting Order

One week from tomorrow the Mets will open defense of their National League title in Kansas City. Here’s what I have as my projected Opening Day batting order:

Curtis Granderson, RF: Wouldn’t it be terrific if he walked 90 times and scored 98 runs again?

David Wright, DH: Collins said no, but it’s the best decision.

Yoenis Cespedes, CF: Thirty homers and 100 RBI are expected.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Imagine, having a two 30 HR-100 RBI hitters back-to-back.

Neil Walker, 2B: Interchangeable with Daniel Murphy.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: A right-handed hitter between lefties.

Michael Conforto, LF: Didn’t have a great spring training, but it’s back to zeroes across the board.

Wilmer Flores, SS: I’m not expecting Asdrubal Cabrera to be ready.

Eric Campbell, 3B: With Wright the DH and Flores playing shortstop, who else will play third?

Matt Harvey, RHP: Hopefully, the first of 34 starts.

So far, the reports have Wright playing third base and not as the DH and Cabrera might me ready. I’m not for pushing things, especially with Wright. Nobody knows how many games he’ll play, but the there is a plan to rest him and DH is the perfect place to start. There are five interleague games in American League parks in April.

 

 

 

Nov 18

Syndergaard My Choice As Met Pitcher Most Likely To Win Cy Young

As expected in many circles, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw finished 1-2-3 in the National League’s Cy Young Award voting. Despite having a solid season, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom finished seventh in the voting. No surprise in any of that.

SYNDERGAARD: My choice as Met most likely to win Cy  Young. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: My choice as Met most likely to win Cy Young. (Getty)

It might turn out that deGrom might eventually win the Cy Young Award, but my guess is of the Mets’ young core, Noah Syndergaard will be the first of their stellar, young core to win. Matt Harvey is the sexy pick, but he doesn’t have Syndergaard’s “stuff,” and for that matter, he doesn’t have deGrom’s “stuff,” either.

There’s something magical and electric about pitchers able to throw 100 mph., and pile up the strikeouts. There’s no accounting for injuries and bad luck, but call it a hunch. Of all their young pitchers, I’m going with Syndergaard as the first one to bring back the hardware.

Who knows? If could happen as soon as next season. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

Oct 10

Cespedes Will Cash In By What He Does In Postseason

Yoenis Cespedes torched the National League in August, but the Mets’ free-agent-to-be will make his money by what he does in October. Call it the “Carlos Beltran Rule.’’

Early reports have Cespedes seeking a package in the seven-year, $140-million range. The Mets have the funds, but do they have the willingness to offer a contract that would exceed what David Wright is making?

CESPEDES: Long walk back to bench. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Long walk back to bench. (Getty)

Winning the World Series will go a long way toward answering that question, but Cespedes will have to do better than striking out three times Friday night – on just 12 pitches.

He rebounded tonight with a home run against the Dodgers’ Cy Young Award candidate, Zack Greinke.

I’ve advocated the Mets re-signing Cespedes since mid-August and not backing off that now. At 29, he has many productive years to go. I think they can afford to go after Cespedes, and at the same time, retain Daniel Murphy.

If they go on to win the World Series, how can they not keep Cespedes, especially if he turns it on again?

It’s not as if Cespedes is intimidated by the stage and bright lights. He hit .350 in two playoff series while with Oakland. In 2009, playing for his native Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, Cespedes hit .458 with three triples – the guy can motor – and two homers.

“If you know Cuban baseball, you’d better be good or you don’t play,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said about Cespedes’ knack of producing in the spotlight. “They played on a world stage and they had to win, so I think this guy knows how to win.

“I don’t think he’s intimidated by anything. When you’ve had to somewhat run for your life, not much else scares you.’’

Cespedes certainly didn’t show any signs of wilting under pressure after the trade. He posted monster numbers after the Mets acquired him from Detroit minutes from the trade deadline, hitting .287 with a .604 OPS, 17 home runs and 44 RBI in 57 games for the Mets.

Cespedes was entering a pennant race and knew what was at stake.

“When the stadiums are full, I try to concentrate the most I can to give the best of me and have good results,’’ Cespedes told reporters. “I’m doing the same thing here as I did in Cuba.’’

Except more people are watching and more dollars at stake.

Oct 09

Mets A Team To Embrace Destiny

Can the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, two of the best pitchers in the National League in the first two games of the Division Series?

Hell yes. They can do it because they are throwing Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, who are also two of the best pitchers in the National League. They also have Matt Harvey going in Game 3.

DeGROM: It begins with him tonight.  (Getty)

DeGROM: It begins with him tonight. (Getty)

The Dodgers have been in the playoffs in recent years and made early exits, and they’ve done it with Kershaw. There’s nothing new about them that suggests this year will be any different.

The Mets on the other hand have been on a roller coaster ride this season to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. I’ve written it several times this summer – when I’m not tweaking Harvey (yeah, yeah, I know I get on him a bit) – that this can be a team of destiny.

Think about how many significant players who’ve been out at times because of injuries: David Wright, Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Josh Edgin, Jerry Blevins, Michael Cuddyer and Bobby Parnell.

All important players they couldn’t afford to lose, yet here we are, hours away from Game 1 of the NLDS.

How many playoff teams entered the season without a commitment to a shortstop? I can only think of one, and that’s the Mets. Yet, here we are. Wilmer Flores took to the position, was almost traded, and then captured our hearts with his tears.

The Mets lost their closer Jenrry Mejia to suspension, yet Jeurys Familia stepped in to tie a club record in saves. He could be the team’s MVP. That stuff doesn’t usually happen.

The Mets don’t have a traditional lefty specialist, yet they are finding a way.

This is a team that didn’t have a leadoff hitter, yet Curtis Granderson stepped in and produced to the point where he could be the Mets’ MVP, if not Familia. Championship teams always have that one player who expands his role, that for the Mets, that’s Granderson.

They lose Wright for nearly five months, yet in his first at-bat off the DL he hits a homer. You don’t call that storybook?

To get to the playoffs this year, the Mets needed to play even with the Nationals. I don’t want to hear that the Mets backed in because the Nationals choked. The Mets kicked the stuffing out of them to the point where the likely NL MVP, Bryce Harper, said he wants to win.

When the Mets were floundering in July, there was an infusion of new blood when Michael Conforto was called up, and the trades for Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard.

There’s something special about this group that through the injuries and changing roles of players that it has persevered.

Special teams find a way to get it done despite the obstacles and that’s what this team has done.

So, to answer the first question, yes the Mets can beat Kershaw and Greinke. And, for that matter, they can beat anybody else, too.