Jul 01

Mets’ July Schedule Makes It Imperative For Alderson To Do Something Now

I couldn’t help but wonder what Mets GM Sandy Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – was thinking last night when his team was shut out for the eighth time. And, the fourth time by a 1-0 score.

Perhaps he was mulling over his Twitter account and what 140-character quips he might treat us with. Hopefully, he was thinking about the July schedule that will define this season. If he was, hopefully he was overcome by a sense of urgency. Somehow, I doubt it.

ALDERSON: Take off the shades and see what's going on.  (AP)

ALDERSON: Take off the shades and see what’s going on. (AP)

Alderson’s first priority when he was hired was to shave the payroll, and then develop a competitive team. He did the payroll bit. Gone are Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana and Jason Bay. Also gone are Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.

The payroll is down. Alderson did his job marvelously in that regard, although the parting with Reyes was a bit sloppy. Actually, for a team in New York, the Mets’ payroll of just over $100 million is too low.

For the first time since 2008, the Mets are competitive. They lived off the buffer of an 11-game winning streak in April and go into Wednesday’s game with the Cubs two games over .500 and in second place 3.5 games behind the Nationals. We would have signed up for that in a heartbeat entering the season, but after spending several days in the rarified air of 10 games above .500, we want more.

And, with one solid pitching start after another being wasted, it’s frustrating, if not aggravating, to have Alderson tell us the “market is thin.’’ It makes us angry that he gives the appearance of sitting on his hands.

I don’t care how thin the market is, do something to get some hitting. Michael Cuddyer won’t play before Friday at the earliest. … The bench is ridiculously thin. … The Mets have used three third basemen since David Wright was injured and there’s no prospect of his return.

Quit frankly, waiting for Daniel Murphy to come off the disabled list wasn’t the answer we wanted to hear.

OK, I get it, Sandy, you don’t want to trade any of your top four prospect pitchers – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz – and that’s fine. At least it is fine for right now.

However, nobody is ringing your phone for Jon Niese, Dillon Gee or Bartolo Colon.

The market might be lean, but it’s your job to find a nugget. It’s your job to push the envelope and put together a package to make a trade for somebody nobody is thinking about. It’s your job to find a taker for Niese and the others. It’s also your job to realistically look at the four foundation pitchers and ascertain their trade value. And, also project who will be hardest to sign and keep. That last thing shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

What’s better, keeping all four and missing the playoffs, or trading one and possibly getting in?

If the playoffs began today, the Mets would be on the outside with 83 victories. It would be a winning season, but not what we want.

Now that the payroll is manageable, it is your job to do something to make the playoffs happen.

If you can’t, or won’t, make a deal, then I don’t want to hear about not rushing young prospects like Michael Conforto, or Matt Reynolds, or Brandon Nimmo. The young pitchers are here, so let’s see about the young hitters. We all know this isn’t really about preserving their fragile psyche as much as it is delaying the service time clock. If you wait too long, the window might be closed.

And, by a window I mean July’s brutal schedule that includes three games with the Giants, seven with the Dodgers, three with St. Louis and four with Washington. Of those 17 games, only five are at home.

Let’s face it, the season could be over by July 31 and you know it. Moves must be made now.

Sandy, you and ownership asked the Mets’ fan base to be patient and they have. Now that they see a glimmer of what could be, they want it. And, it is your job to deliver.

Now, do your job.

Jun 26

DeGrom Doesn’t Erase Issues Surrounding Mets

As great as Jacob deGrom was for the Mets Thursday, one lone start is not enough to create the perception of them as a playoff team. DeGrom’s eight scoreless innings enabled the Mets to beat Milwaukee, 2-0, at Miller Park, but did nothing to diminish the growing number of questions swirling around his team.

DE GROM: Brilliant Thursday. (AP)

DE GROM: Brilliant Thursday. (AP)

The Mets were 36-30 when their road trip began, and their record is now 37-37. In the end, all the Mets’ 11-game winning streak in April did was prevent the bottom from totally falling out. The Mets scored 11 runs during their 1-7 trip. They were shut out twice and scored more than two runs once. Five of those seven losses were by two or fewer runs.

It tells you two things that the Mets are 19-18 in games decided by two or fewer runs: 1) they are competitive team, which is what the front office promised, and 2) they are still too flawed to reach the next level.

Playoff caliber teams win close games and the Mets simply aren’t winning enough. But, if you had been told before the season that the Mets would be sitting in second place at .500 at the end of June you would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

However, their improbable 11-game winning streak ratcheted the expectations of the Mets. What was once competing for a wild card spot changed to winning the division and going deep into the playoffs. It’s not that way any more.

However, this trip illustrates flaws the Mets haven’t been able to overcome:

* The Mets can’t win on the road, evidenced by an 11-26 record away from Citi Field. DeGrom can’t win them all, so there’s no sign this will change.

* The Mets can’t score. They have a minus-18 runs differential. In contrast, the Nationals have a plus-28 runs differential and scored 58 more runs. Like the Mets, the Nationals had early-season injuries, but they’ve been able to overcome them. They are 3.5 games ahead of the Mets and if that lead increases by much in the next 15 games prior to the All-Star break, they won’t be caught.

* The infield defense is atrocious. The best alignment has Wilmer Flores at third base or second, with Ruben Tejada at shortstop. There have been reports the Mets could be moving toward that thinking, but nothing official.

* We keep hearing rumblings Steven Matz will be promoted, and with that again the possibility of a six-man rotation. However, Matz does nothing to improve their offense, and the resulting demotion of Jon Niese only diminishes is already minimal trade value.

* The Mets have been hamstrung by injuries, with Travis d’Arnaud going back on the disabled list and David Wright not having any timetable for his return.

Finally, there is growing speculation manager Terry Collins’ job security is tenuous, which unfortunately is the way of the world. Collins unquestionably has flaws, but the real fault for the Mets’ slide since they were 15-5 has to be directed at ownership, which won’t spend, and GM Sandy Alderson, which hasn’t proven he can make the big trade.

There is a sense of urgency from the Mets’ fan base to do something, to do anything, but the Wilpons and Alderson don’t seem to be listening.

Jun 25

Collins Must Manage From His Gut Even If Alderson Doesn’t Like It

All the goodwill the Mets fostered during their 11-game winning streak is gone, vanished like a possible Jacob deGrom victory because of a faulty bullpen and no hitting. It faded along with the Mets’ eight-game lead over the Nationals, which is now a 3.5-game deficit.

Sure, the Mets could regroup but what are their chances, but what are the odds?

COLLINS: Where's that smile now? (Mets)

COLLINS: Where’s that smile now? (Mets)

The way I see it, manager Terry Collins is on his own; a life raft in rough waters. Ownership did nothing over the winter to bring in the offensive talent needed, and he’s received no help from GM Sandy Alderson, whose contribution was Michael Cuddyer.

Collins, because of his contract situation, is a lame duck and managing for his job. Because Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – ripped him in a book, it is clear he doesn’t have any support.

That says it in spades, as if Alderson’s failure to build a quality bullpen and procure the needed hitting to sustain the young starting pitching wasn’t enough.

It is clear the Mets aren’t playing with fire anymore, and part of that is because Collins isn’t showing any himself. It appears he’s been beaten down and frustrated by a front office and ownership that isn’t supportive.

Collins is a long-time baseball man. He knows the right thing to do. He has no control over injuries, but does have over the talent he sends out every night. He also has control in the dugout after the first pitch. Collins must be aggressive and manage the Mets like this is his last chance, because he’s gone after this year. Deep down he has to know that.

I want to see him go out kicking and not meekly collecting a paycheck. Here’s what he needs to do to give the Mets their best chance of winning:

Goodbye pitch counts: Since it is clear there was no plan to begin with, let’s cut the crap. Matt Harvey has twice been pulled late with a 1-0 lead and went on to lose. That’s happened to deGrom once. Give those horses the extra inning.

Curtis Granderson: He’s finally showing some pop, so drop him in the order. Third, fourth, fifth, I don’t care. He’s being wasted hitting leadoff. I advocated this after seeing the Opening Day lineup. It worked for a while, but is failing now.

The answer? I don’t know. I wanted Juan Lagares, but his on-base percentage is dreadful. There is no real solution, but since he’s in the line-up I’m inclined to go with Ruben Tejada, who has decent speed, but I confess is too streaky.

Speaking of Granderson, the best outfield alignment is him in left field and Cuddyer in right. Why that wasn’t done in the first place is ridiculous.

The infield: Eventually we would get to this, but the best solution defensively is to move Wilmer Flores to third base and Tejada to shortstop. The Mets don’t want to because they are afraid of how Flores might react mentally.

If Flores’ ego is that fragile to where he couldn’t handle a switch then maybe he’s not tough enough to play in the major leagues. When Daniel Murphy returns move him to third and Flores to second.

What about David Wright, you ask? The Mets are foolish if they even think he’ll be back anytime soon, and if he does if he’ll play to any resemblance of his former self. It is more and more looking as if the issue of what to do with Wright will be addressed next spring – with another manager.

These are some of the things Collins can do with the 25 players he currently has on his roster. Since he’s not getting any help, he has to go down showing the same fight he wants from his team.

And, if Alderson doesn’t like it, then tell the game’s smartest general manager to fire him, because what the hell, it will happen soon enough.

Jun 09

Baseball’s Scheduling A Joke

There probably is if I thought hard enough about it, but for now there are few things more absurd in baseball than its scheduling. While the sport is bent out of shape about the playing time of games, it might be more prudent to come up with a better scheduling format.

Seriously, how ridiculous is it for both the Mets and Yankees to playing at home tonight, against the Giants and Nationals, respectively? The teams were also home the same time for Opening Day and Memorial Day.

Of course, this is the byproduct of interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. Neither of those money-grabbing brain strokes has improved the game or the integrity of the schedule.

At one time, there was an even number of teams in each league and every team played every other team – home and away – the same number of times. They say a baseball season is a marathon, but currently not all teams run the same race. Some run 26 miles, while others run 24 or 28.

It’s just not the same race and that’s wrong. It’s emblematic of a sport without integrity.

 

May 20

Mets Facing Critical Juncture To Season

Every season has its critical juncture and for the Mets it is now after Bartolo Colon‘s 41-year-old arm was mauled tonight by major league’s best team in St. Louis. The Mets’ 11-game winning streak and eight-game lead over Washington has faded from euphoria to the cusp of panic after Colon was ripped.

We’ve seen hot streaks from the Mets morph into inescapable slides before. The Mets’ 9-0 loss coupled with the Nationals beating the Yankees, 3-2, tonight, leaves Washington in sole possession of first place in the National League East and begs the question: Can manager Terry Collins‘ team recover?

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

After a 13-3 start, the Mets are 10-15, including 3-7 over their last ten games. They aren’t hitting. Their starting pitching has faltered recently with Colon, Jon Niese and Thursday’s starter, Jacob deGrom. They haven’t won behind Matt Harvey in three starts and blew 1-0 leads in his last two. Their defense has been poor.

In two respects, the Mets’ hopes to regroup are tied to two gambles by GM Sandy Alderson: 1) the signing of Colon, whom they hoped would stem the tide tonight, and 2) the decision to see how David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud come back from the disabled list before attempting to trade for a hitter to aid their faltering offense.

The estimate on their returns is at least two weeks, and nobody knows where the Mets will be in the standings by then. Don’t forget, they lost eight games in the standings to the Nationals in a little over three weeks. Bryce Harper is hot; Stephen Strasburg is back.

It is possible the Mets could respond from tonight’s mugging and win another 11 in a row. Then again, they could continue their funk. They have another game with the Cardinals Thursday, then three in Pittsburgh before playing the Phillies, who are now playing well.

In many ways Colon personifies Alderson’s patchwork approach in building this team. Colon was signed as a stopgap after Harvey was injured. They eschewed going after a big name free-agent in favor of Colon, who was signed to eat innings and win about a dozen games. Colon won 15 games last season and sought his seventh tonight. Colon gave up five homers in splitting his previous four starts, and was hammered tonight, giving up nine runs on 11 hits – including two homers – and a pair of walks in 4.1 innings.

Meanwhile, for all the talk about the Mets’ ailing offense, it wouldn’t have mattered tonight against Colon and Tuesday against Niese, who is also proving not to be an answer.

Lately, there have been more questions than answers for the Mets, including this big one: Can they pull it together?