Sep 02

Three Mets’ Storylines: De Grom To Miss Start

Do you wonder why I greet most Mets’ statements pertaining to injuries with skepticism?

Answer: On the day after Jacob deGrom emphatically said there was nothing wrong with him physically and manager Terry Collins pleaded ignorant to why his starter called for trainer Ray Ramirez when he left the game, the Mets said he’ll miss his next start, Tuesday, in Cincinnati with elbow inflammation.

DE GROM: To miss start. (AP)

DE GROM: To miss start. (AP)

For a team hasn’t had a chance to catch the Nationals for weeks now, it was the most important storyline for the Mets Friday.

A MRI showed inflammation but no structural damage. The prescription is anti-inflammatory medication and to resume throwing when the discomfort subsides.

“We’re lucky it isn’t worse than it is,” Collins said.

DeGrom gave up three runs on six hits and a season-high four walks in five innings Thursday. Considering he gave up 13 runs on 25 hits in his previous two starts, he would be watched closely. So, don’t you think Collins might have noticed when deGrom motioned for the trainer? If not him, then how about pitching coach Dan Warthen?

After the game, deGrom said he felt: “Just out of sync out there. I waved him [Ramirez] in to talk to him, but there’s nothing wrong.”

DeGrom said his problems weren’t physical, but mechanical. Since when did he start consulting with the trainer on mechanics?

DeGrom said he’s not too concerned and attributed the stiffness to poor mechanics.

“My arm is dragging and that put more stress on my elbow and causes it to flare up a little bit,” deGrom said. “Maybe the cause for my arm dragging is because of bad mechanics.”

 

The other storylines in Washington’s 4-1 victory were Noah Syndergaard’s continued inability to hold runners and the Mets’ inability to touch A.J. Cole.

SAME PROBLEM BEATS SYNDERGAARD: Syndergaard pitched well enough to win most games, giving up two runs on three hits and one walk in seven innings. He retired the final ten batters he faced.

Syndergaard was done in by giving up four stolen bases that resulted in both runs. Both Trea Turner in the first and Bryce Harper in the fourth stole third base and eventually scored from there.

Take away the steals and Syndergaard could have been on the winning end.

Analyst Ron Darling said teaching pitchers during the season to hold runners wouldn’t work, but it prompts the question why this isn’t done during spring training or when these guys are in the minor leagues.

Darling left the impression there isn’t an organizational philosophy in stopping the running game.

That could be that many teams don’t emphasize stolen bases as a weapon. Note: The Nationals and Diamondbacks sure do.

NO OFFENSE, AGAIN: A.J. Cole was superb in making his third start of the season, giving up one run on three hits in six innings, that being Asdrubal Cabrera’s 19th homer of the season.

Washington pitchers struck out 10, including five by Cole. Jose Reyes, Jay Bruce and Kelly Johnson each struck out twice.

Outside of Cabrera’s homer, only twice did the Mets have a runner in scoring position.

The Mets had two on in the seventh, but Reyes struck out to end the inning.

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Sep 02

Murphy Decision Will Haunt Mets For Years

It’s ironic even beyond Metsian standards to have Neil Walker announce his decision to have season-ending back surgery the day before Daniel Murphy comes to town with his first-place Washington Nationals.

I like Walker. A lot of us do. However, he’s a hired gun who could be on the road again after he heals. But, who doesn’t love Murphy – and cringes whenever he comes to the plate against his former team?

MURPHY: Got last laugh. (AP)

              MURPHY: Got last laugh. (AP)

Regardless of what GM Sandy Alderson said last winter, the Mets could have afforded both Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes, but for whatever reason didn’t want to come up with the coin to pay the homegrown player. Surely, the Mets could have matched the $37.5-million over three years the Nationals gave Murphy.

Whether it was his comments about having a homosexual teammate – Murphy said he could embrace him as a teammate but not the lifestyle – or that he wasn’t a great defensive player, or whatever other reason, he didn’t fit into Alderson’s “mold.”

Yes, Murphy had flaws defensively. Yes, he had mental cramps on the bases and in the field. But, then again, isn’t that a big part of Cespedes’ resume?

One thing you can say about Murphy over Cespedes is the former always hustles and plays hard. Murphy’s attention was never split between baseball and the golf course.

Of course, Cespedes has the greater athletic skills, but if he doesn’t always use them, what’s the use? Cespedes has the physical make-up of being a superstar, and as he proved last year the potential to carry a team.

Then again, something clicked between Murphy and hitting coach Kevin Long, and didn’t he carry them in the playoffs? And, it isn’t a fluke because hasn’t Murphy carried the Nationals this year to the point where he’s a serious MVP candidate.

The Mets searched for years to find a position for Murphy, who is a natural third baseman. They tried left field. They tried first base before settling on second base. Murphy has his head scratching moments at second, but worked to harness his talent. He made his fair share of head turning plays as well.

Conversely, Cespedes said he’d play center field – it was reportedly a key in signing him – but now it is left field or bust. Murphy did whatever he could to fit in and do whatever the Mets needed. It seems Cespedes can’t be bothered at times.

Infatuated with what Cespedes might become, Alderson opted to let Murphy go – they made a token qualifying offer they knew he couldn’t accept – and offered the mercurial outfielder $75 million over three years. That’s double what Murphy will get from the Nationals.

Because Alderson deals with Sabremetrics and prototypes he doesn’t see or acknowledge the rawness of what Murphy provides. Had Sabremetrics and Alderson been around in another era, would he have overlooked Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Brooks Robinson, Jerry Koosman and Mike Piazza?

Hell, he may have even bypassed Babe Ruth.

Now, with one month left in this season, it is clear Alderson made the wrong decision on Murphy, and not solely because Walker will have season-ending back surgery and may never play for the Mets again.

The Mets got a good year from Cespedes, but not exceptional because of his quad injury, made worse by them delaying a month to put him on the disabled list. By the way, he’s still not 100 percent.

Alderson doesn’t get a pass because of David Wright. After last season there should have been some reasonable expectation Wright could be injured again. So, with the Nationals set with Murphy for the next two years, the Mets will be searching for a second baseman and possibly a third baseman.

What about Wilmer Flores, you ask?

Flores is the Plain Jane you don’t want to take to the prom; he’s not the flashy platinum blonde homecoming queen Alderson lusts after for a player. I feel the Mets will underappreciate and eventually ditch Flores the way they did Murphy.

And, Cespedes?

Well, they gave him the option to opt out after this year. Instead of spending to plug the holes in their rotation, the bullpen, first, second and third, and in the outfield, the Mets will instead throw even more money to keep Cespedes.

In doing so, they will be stunting the development of Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo. They also have the decision on what to do with Jay Bruce and possibly Curtis Granderson.

And, no matter how much money they are willing to give Cespedes, there’s a good chance he’ll leave anyway and they’ll lose out on making deals to improve, elsewhere.

But, Murphy will be settled in with Washington.

Letting Murphy go was the lead domino in a series of moves that could haunt the Mets to the point where even all that great young pitching – with has three studs lost for the year – can’t carry the load.

Nice job.

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Aug 18

Stop Fooling Around And Bring Up Conforto

Just a few months ago when optimism still surrounded the Mets, manager Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the No. 3 spot in the order and promised he would get at-bats against left-handers. After all, Collins said at the time, Conforto represented the future.

CONFORTO: Needs to play. (Getty)

CONFORTO: Needs to play. (Getty)

None of that lasted long when Conforto went into a slump, as young players frequently do, Collins and the Mets showed no patience. First, Conforto was dropped in the order, then dropped off at the airport to ride the Vegas Shuttle.

Collins said Conforto still “is a big piece of what we want to do,” and when he turns it around in Triple-A he would be back soon. Conforto is tearing it up in Vegas but remains 2,500 miles from New York. So much for that promise.

Things have changed. The Mets are no longer a threat to the Nationals in the NL East and are fading in the wild card. They are four games out and are in danger of being overtaken by Colorado (Mets lead by 2.5 games) and Philadelphia (they lead by 4.5 games).

Yeah, you read that last part correctly.

Conforto needs to come up now. The best position for him is left field, but that won’t happen because the Mets insist on placating Yoenis Cespedes, who can’t, or refuses, to play center. Conforto is willing to try center, but where does that leave Curtis Granderson?

Since Cespedes won’t budge – the Mets should hope he opts out and leaves – it’s down to the young guy they can push around in Conforto or the veteran with the big salary and small production in Granderson. The Mets won’t touch Cespedes; GM Sandy Alderson must talk to him through “his people.”

The decision on what to do with the Mets’ outfield is a battle of egos and dollars over the potential of young talent. That’s not the way to go about turning your season around.

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Aug 13

Mets Matters: Wheeler Should Be Shut Down; Consider Papelbon

The Mets won’t see Zack Wheeler this season as his comeback gets hit with setback after setback. He has persistent soreness in his right elbow and will be examined by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.

The prudent decision would be to forget him for this season, give him a closely monitored conditioning and throwing program in the offseason and start again next spring.

mets-matters logoIt is time to shut him down.

The original plan was for Wheeler to be activated before the All-Star break and replaced in the rotation by Bartolo Colon.

Wheeler threw an inning in a rehab start last Saturday, which started the clock for him to be activated the first week in September.

He obviously isn’t throwing and the wonder is what he’ll bring to the table if anything when he’s activated. That begs the issue of whether they should just shut him down.

INTERESTING POSSIBILITY: The Mets say they are interested in acquiring another reliever. This afternoon the Nationals released Jonathan Papelbon.

The move seemed inevitable after the Nationals acquired closer Mark Melancon from Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

Papelbon is having a miserable season, ranking a league-worst among relievers in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts-to-walks ratio and he’s not considered a great clubhouse presence, although he was right to call out Bryce Harper last year.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said of Papelbon: “It wasn’t a real fit anymore.’’

If the Mets need a warm body, what will it hurt? Perhaps a change of scenery could help. Stranger things have happened and the situation is getting dire for the Mets.

ROSTER MOVES: Jose Reyes was activated from the disabled list. He’ll leadoff and play shortstop. The Mets also promoted pitcher Gabriel Ynoa. Logan Verrett and Matt Reynolds were demoted.

INJURY UPDATES: The plan is to activate Yoenis Cespedes from the disabled list (strained quad) on Thursday. He will play in a rehab game Monday. … Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could get in a rehab game Tuesday.

A NEW LINEUP … AGAIN: The Mets will field their 92nd lineup tonight in their 116th game.

Reyes, SS

Curtis Granderson, LF

Neil Walker, 2B

Jay Bruce, RF

James Loney, 1B

Wilmer Flores, 3B

Alejandro De Aza, CF

Travis d’Arnaud, C

deGrom, RP

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Aug 12

What’s Your Confidence Level In Mets After Collins’ Rant

The key to a successful managerial rant and closed door meeting is to have a quality starter going next, but the Mets have Logan Verrett tonight against San Diego. Then again, Noah Syndergaard was supposed to turn things around Thursday.

COLLINS: Did he convince you things would change? (Getty)

COLLINS: Did he convince you things would change? (Getty)

Manager Terry Collins was correct in much of his assessment of his team but whiffed on a very important point: the topic of grinding out at-bats. Such nonsense. Collins said “this team has been about grinding out at-bats the past few years.”

Evidently, he hasn’t watched the same team I have been. With the exception of a few hitters, this team doesn’t grind out at-bats. Grinding out at-bats would entail drawing a few walks, but they are ninth in the National League with 342 walks. Conversely, they are fifth highest with 947 strikeouts.

And please, if I hear one more time things will get better once Yoenis Cespedes gets back I will scream. He can hit baseballs a long way, but he also strikes out too damn much. He might be the Mets’ least disciplined hitter.

To turn things around, the Mets must show signs of life, yet they haven’t won successive games since before the All-Star break. Collins went on about playing baseball “the right way,” but don’t you remember all those times in April and May when he said, almost with pride, “that this team doesn’t play small ball?”

Small ball is playing the game the right way. Small ball is recognizing the value of 27 outs and not giving away eight of them a game with strikeouts. A productive out should not be celebrated, but common place for a winning team. Advancing runners into scoring position is essential, but then again, the Mets are last in the majors hitting with a man in scoring position, so, does it really matter?

This is a team without an offensive clue, and that’s an organizational philosophy. Playing small ball is boring and not in line with the new-age sabremetrics favored by the architect of this team, GM Sandy Alderson, who cares about home runs and doesn’t give strikeouts anything more than a passing glance.

Defensively, there’s little range and players are out of position.

On the mound, the Mets’ rotation – once touted as the best in baseball – is a house of cards. Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon are the only reliable starters. Syndergaard and Steven Matz have struggled with bone spurs and if the Mets fall behind any further, consideration should be made to shut them down.

There’s been a long list of injuries, but every team has injuries. The Dodgers don’t have Clayton Kershaw and the Cardinals went without Matt Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Stephen Strasburg went on Washington’s DL, but catching the Nationals won’t happen. Didn’t the Marlins lose Giancarlo Stanton for awhile?

Championship caliber teams overcome and the Mets don’t. James Loney has helped and so has Kelly Johnson, but Jose Reyes was never the answer, Reyes was a grasp at the past in the hope of forgetting the present. They waited too long before going after Jay Bruce.

Collins promised us that starting today, with Verrett, the Mets were “going after it.”

Collins has promised a lot of things. He promised Michael Conforto would bat third, hit against lefties and play every day. Then he promised he would play in center. Collins promised regular at-bats for Wilmer Flores. He promised he would care for the rotation, but aren’t you waiting for Syndergaard and Matz to pack it in for the year like Matt Harvey?

The Mets were supposed to have an easy second-half schedule, but August will see them in San Francisco and St. Louis, before the get another crack at Miami and Washington.

Collins ranted a good game Thursday, but in the end did nothing to raise my confidence in this team. How about you?

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