Apr 30

Plenty Of Blame To Go Around In Syndergaard Fiasco

“MRI? MRI? I don’t need no stinkin’ MRI.” – Noah Syndergaard

As I wrote this morning, Noah Syndergaard’s refusal to take an MRI on his sore right arm – biceps tendinitis was the initial diagnosis – smacked of stupidity and arrogance, from both the pitcher and management.

As for Syndergaard, I get it, you think of yourself as the fictional superhero the media and fans label you and there’s the desire to show how tough you are. However, save it for Game 7 of the World Series, not Game 24 in April, when your team’s season and arguably your career, could be on the line.

SYNDERGAARD: Walks away, wheels turning. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Walks away, wheels turning. (AP)

Long before Syndergaard and the Mets were torched 23-5 by the Nationals today, it has been a bad week for the ace, who was first scratched with what was called a “tired arm’’ Wednesday and upgraded to biceps tendinitis the following day, one in which he ripped into a club official in the clubhouse and was subsequently called out in the press.

Finally, there was Syndergaard’s refusal to get an MRI, saying at the time: “I think I know my body best. I’m pretty in tune with my body, and that’s exactly why I refused to take the MRI.”

So, Noah, what’s your body telling you now as you head to New York for the MRI tomorrow morning you refused?

Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters it is a “possible lat strain, which may or may not be related to his original problem … we’ll know more after he’s examined.”

While the biceps and lat aren’t physically connected, even so, why push it? There was no mistaking everything about Syndergaard’s performance today was not right. Yes, he threw 100 mph., early, but his command was off and he gave up five runs in the first inning.

Then, it looked as if Syndergaard sensed something wasn’t right and muscled up on his pitches as to throw harder in the second. When he reached under his armpit after throwing a strike to Bryce Harper with one out, you knew the second-guess wheels were spinning. And, not just from Syndergaard.

Alderson, who defiantly said, “I can’t strap him down and throw him in the tube,” after Syndergaard brushed back the MRI the way he would a hitter crowding the plate. Alderson didn’t address whether he should have insisted Syndergaard get the MRI or prohibited from pitching until he did. He also didn’t revisit the issue with his pitcher.

“We didn’t get into that,” Alderson said. “I didn’t think it was necessary at that particular time. He understands something is going on now.”

As for Collins, considering what Syndergaard has physically been going through, it had to be apparent to him the pitcher he wasn’t right in the first.

Collins had to make the decision to pull Syndergaard early if not give him the ball in the first place.

Nobody is blameless in this.

ON DECK LATER TODAY: Mets Wrap: Duda not ready.

Apr 19

Game Wrap: Bruce Hammers Phillies

First booed, and then the subject of trade rumors over the winter, Jay Bruce is now taking curtain calls.

“It shows how much respect they have for him,” manager Terry Collins said of the affection given Bruce.

BRUCE: Homers twice. (AP)

BRUCE: Homers twice. (AP)

After GM Sandy Alderson failed to deal Bruce this winter after extending Yoenis Cespedes, the frustrated Mets’ right fielder vowed he wasn’t intimidated by New York.

“He told me in spring training, `I’m the guy you traded for.’ He’s a run producer and we’re glad to have him,” Collins told reporters after Bruce’s monster game, two homers and five RBI in a 5-4 victory over the Phillies Wednesday night that snapped the Mets’ four-game losing streak.

“I don’t think any game in April is a must win, but we needed this one,” Bruce said.

Bruce’s first homer was a three-run drive off Vince Velasquez is the sixth inning to erase a 2-0 deficit. His second was a two-run drive off Edubray Ramos that broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth. Collins said prior to the game what had been missing during the Mets’ skid was power, but Bruce provided that tonight.

“We need to get it going,” Collins said. “This is something that could get us started.”

GSELLMAN ULTRA SHARP: The Mets had a chance to get it going because Robert Gsellman became their first starter to see the eighth inning this season.

“We talked before that he’s got to get us deep into to the game because our bullpen is exhausted,” Collins said.

Gsellman gave up three runs on six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings.

DUDA, d’ARNAUD HURT: First baseman Lucas Duda and catcher Travis d’Arnaud left the game with injuries and won’t play Thursday.

Duda sustained a hyperextended left elbow in the fifth inning when he reached across the baseline to field Gsellman’s throw and his arm caught runner Cesar Hernandez.

D’Arnaud was hurt two innings later when his hand struck Aaron Altherr’s bat on a throw to second.

REYES PLAYS: Despite a run-producing error and a dreadful hitting slump to start the season, Jose Reyes started as Collins promised.

“He deserves the chance to get a chance to turn things around,” Collins said. “He earned that right.”

CESPEDES BASE BLUNDER: Poor base running by Cespedes cost the Mets a run in the first inning. On first base, Cespedes took a peak over his shoulder running toward third instead of looking at the third base coach.

Doing so forced him to slow down a step and change his stride. When that happened, he had to look for the bag and missed coach Glenn Sherlock’s stop sign.

ROTATION WON’T CHANGE: There are no plans to push Thursday’s starter, Noah Syndergaard, back a day so he could start against the Nationals instead of the Phillies. It was thought Collins might push Syndergaard back after he tore a fingernail in his last start.

Apr 10

Bruce Red Hot; Value Enhanced

How can you not feel good for Jay Bruce? Booed by when he floundered last year following the trade that brought him from Cincinnati and into a pennant race, and whom GM Sandy Alderson desperately wanted to trade over the winter, has emerged as the Mets’ hottest hitter.

And, it isn’t close.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

It started with three walks on Opening Day and continued Monday night in Philadelphia with a pair of homers in a 4-3 victory over the Phillies.

Bruce hit a solo drive off Phillies starter Jared Eickhoff to pull the Mets within 2-1 in the fourth, then put them ahead with a two-run drive off his image on the video board against reliever Joely Rodriguez.

“I think it is an approach,” was how Bruce explained his hot start to reporters. “I concentrate on being ready. Every day, I go into the game looking for the right pitches and taking a good swing.”

Bruce insisted he wasn’t daunted by the pressures of playing in New York when he struggled last summer, and that he didn’t want to leave his new team.

And, Alderson shouldn’t be in any hurry to deal Bruce, even if those teams that played hardball with him over the winter start calling him now.

It’s early, but Bruce leads the Mets with four homers and six RBI, and overall, they aren’t hitting, and in each of the last two seasons, they went into lengthy hitting droughts in the second half.

Quite simply, there will be a time this summer when the Mets have to count on Bruce carrying them the way he did the Reds for so many years.

Bruce, who has had 30-plus homers in four of his last six years, was moved to the clean-up slot to replace Curtis Granderson, and will likely remain there in the foreseeable future as the latter struggles.

Bruce, 30 is making $13.1 million this year, while the 36-year old Granderson is pulling in $15 million, which could give him a greater long-term value to the Mets.

Granderson has more of an immediate value to the Mets because he can play center field. However, that shouldn’t last too long because Juan Lagares will be coming off the disabled list shortly, at which time Michael Conforto will be shipped to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets will need Bruce this year, and likely they’ll need him next year. I can’t see the Mets bringing back both Bruce and Granderson. If they don’t bring back either, having just Lagares and Conforto next season to complement Yoenis Cespedes probably won’t be good enough and the Mets could go shopping again in July.

Meanwhile, at 37 next season, the Mets could lowball Granderson and bring him back for less in 2018. However, they couldn’t pull that off with Bruce because after a good year, his free-agent market value would he higher than Granderson’s.

 

Mar 28

Why Is Alderson Rushing Wheeler And Matz?

Zack Wheeler insists he’s ready and Steven Matz is desperate to convince the Mets they should save a seat for him on the plane to New York at the end of the week.

MATZ: What's the rush? (AP)

MATZ: What’s the rush? (AP)

While I appreciate the competitive nature of both, the bottom line is it’s a long season and the Mets don’t have to commit to both, or either, right now, especially with there being other options.

Let’s get to Matz first. He’s coming off elbow surgery and he was shut down from his start earlier this week and could get a few innings this weekend. As it is now, Matz has thrown 12.2 innings this spring, which traditionally is not close to being enough.

What’s the rush?

As for Wheeler, he’s coming off a good start, which followed a bad one. He’s thrown 12.1 innings this spring. He’s barely worked the past two seasons following Tommy John surgery.

Again, what’s the rush?

Seth Lugo is coming off a poor outing, but for the most part had a good spring at the WBC. Rafael Montero has also had a good spring, and the Mets have three off-days in the first 24 days of April.

Wheeler and Matz are coming off surgery; the Mets have other options plus off days; neither have had a lot of work this spring; and there’s usually lousy weather in April leading to rainouts and delays.

This isn’t manager Terry Collins’ decision, it is GM Sandy Alderson’s, and rushing either would be a bad one.

While I appreciate the desire for each to want to pitch, part of that desire is fueled on emotion. However, Alderson is supposed to be the adult in the room. He’s supposed to make decisions based on logic instead.

Mar 01

How Prepared Are Mets To Absorb Losing Wright?

Assuming the worst, just how prepared are the Mets to absorb losing David Wright, both in the short and long term?

Clearly, after playing a combined 75 games the past two seasons, GM Sandy Alderson had to anticipate the possibility of Wright going down again, as was the case Tuesday with the announcement he had been shut down because of an impingement in his right shoulder. To put it bluntly, he can’t throw the ball across the infield without pain.

WRIGHT: Mets' options without him. (ABC)

WRIGHT: Mets’ options without him. (ABC)

There are several aspects as to how to examine this issue: financially; 2017 only; from the farm system; from outside the market, and his role if he does play.

Let’s take a look:

FINANCIALLY:  The Mets are on the hook to pay Wright $67 million for the balance of his contract. However, insurance would pick up $50.25 million, which makes the payout more palatable. The issue of paying him in full in exchange for a healthy, productive player isn’t an option. Wright has been shut down for at least three weeks. He returned to New York for a second opinion on his shoulder.

Wright retiring or the Mets approaching him to take a buyout will not be an issue unless doctors tell him not to play anymore. Even then, Wright will take the time to digest the recommendation and continue to strengthen himself in the hope of being able to play.

2017 SEASON: There’s no longer the issue of finding enough at-bats for Jose Reyes, at least not in the immediate future. Reyes and Wilmer Flores are ranked one-two on today’s depth chart. The Mets brought back Reyes last year as a plug when Wright went down. For the most part, Reyes played a representative third base, but we must remember the window of opportunity to watch him was relatively small. Ditto for Flores, T.J. Rivera and Ty Kelly are on the radar, but not expected to get significant playing time.

If the Mets are in contention at the trade deadline and Reyes isn’t performing as hoped, there will be the inevitable trade rumors. Presumably, if he hasn’t been dealt at the time, Todd Frazier‘s name will surface. While with Cincinnati, the 31-year-old Frazier was frequently linked to the Mets. Frazier will be a free agent after the season and with the White Sox not expected to bring him back they will undoubtedly be taking calls. Even if Wright is playing, the Mets would be remiss if they didn’t pursue Frazier.

If they get him, Frazier could be the difference in making the playoffs and sitting home. Frazier is scheduled to make $12 million this year, and the Mets should be given a window to negotiate. The While Sox are certain to ask for a lot and the Mets would be foolish to break the bank with prospects for a rental.

FROM THE FARM SYSTEM: Eight of the Mets’ top 30 prospects according to MLB.com, are shortstops, with Amed Rosario ranked first among them. Since a shortstop is theoretically considered the best athlete in the infield, it will be interesting if they contemplate moving one of their other shortstop prospects to third base, that is if they sour on their third base prospects Matt Reynolds, Jhoan Urena, David Thompson – who could have the highest upside in power – and Eudor Garcia.

Only Rosario and Reynolds are expected to see major league playing time this summer. Of the two, Reynolds is more like expected to play at third base, but barring something unforeseen happening with Reyes or Flores.

FROM THE MARKET:  Outside of Frazier, the most intriguing possibility is Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, who at 31 and with $100 million remaining on a contract that expires after the 2023 season (assuming the club option is picked up.) Just as Wright is the face of the Mets, Longoria is the same for the Rays. However, Tampa Bay has greatly regressed since it appeared in the 2008 World Series and lost manager Joe Maddon following the 2014 season.

The Rays have always been dollar conscious. They clearly aren’t ready to compete, but it would take a lot in terms of prospects to pry him away. Then there would be the added cost in salary. It seems inconceivable they would add Longoria’s salary to that of Yoenis Cespedes‘ and Wright’s (even with the insurance payout), but it is fun to think about.

Outside of Frazier, the only potential free agent third baseman this winter that jumps out at you is Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas (will make $8.7 million this season).

IF WRIGHT STAYS AND PLAYS: The days of Wright being an All-Star presence are gone even if he’s medically cleared to play. With what is remaining on Wright’s contract and his injury history, no team will trade for him, including an American League team needing a designated hitter.

Assuming he plays out the remainder of his contract and is able to throw, he’ll always be a health question entering the season. Perhaps he’ll evolve into a singles-hitting role player.

Much has been made of the possibility of Wright playing first base, but even if that’s the case it won’t be this season and he still won’t provide the power needed at that position.