Jan 16

Let’s Hedge Raves About Mets’ Rotation

Many of the baseball preview magazines are already on the newsstands, with more than a few suggesting the Mets have one of the sports’ top rotations. However, they omit one word in the description, that being “potentially.”

The Cubs, Giants, Boston, Cleveland are all right there. So are the Nationals. The Mets? Well, if healthy, their group can throw as hard as anybody, but throwing hard isn’t the issue. Four potential starters will be coming off surgery, with a fifth, Noah Syndergaard, gutting through the second half of the season with bone spurs in his elbow.

Matt Harvey (shoulder) had seasons cut short by the knife in 2013 and 2016 and missed all of 2014; Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz each had elbow surgery; Zack Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two years; and, they did not bring back Bartolo Colon. The Mets clearly have health issues, which is why they aren’t listening to calls for Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, knowing they might need them this summer, either as a starter or in a relief role.

Harvey, deGrom and Matz each have had surgery twice, and Wheeler’s surgery hasn’t worked out. We can’t assume the four recovering from surgery will pitch without incident in 2017, nor are there any guarantees all four will bounce back. That’s banking on a lot of things working out positively, including nothing happening with Syndergaard.

Even if they did, you can’t forget none of the Mets’ young studs have won more that 15 games, much less 20, or pitched more than 200 regular-season innings. The Mets’ young arms are immensely talented with loads of potential, but championships are won on proven production and not potential.

If everything breaks to the positive, it could be a sweet season reminiscent of 2015, but there are no guarantees.

 

Jan 02

No Reason For Syndergaard To Call Out Harper

Who is the Mets’ No. 1 obstacle in winning the NL East? Sure, it’s the Washington Nationals. And, who is the best player on the Nationals? You wouldn’t be wrong if you answered Bryce Harper.

So, I ask you, what purpose does it serve for Noah Syndergaard to call out Harper on social media by calling him a douche?

Why poke the bear?

SYNDERGAARD: Why challenge Harper? (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Why challenge Harper? (AP)

It’s like when Rex Ryan called out Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. How did that work out for the Jets? Do you remember when Carmelo Anthony challenged Kevin Garnett outside the Celtics bus after a game? How has that turned out for the Knicks?

Did Sandy Koufax ever call Willie Mays a douche? Did Tom Seaver ever call Hank Aaron a douche? Of course, plenty of Mets had something to call Pete Rose in 1973.

It’s a new world, I know, but there are plenty of time-honored theories that still apply. For example, let sleeping dogs lie, especially if they are prone to bite.

Harper is a force. Why wake him up? Look what the Mets did to Daniel Murphy. It might feel good at the time, but it’s not worth it.

I realize there’s a generational difference between Syndergaard and me. It’s not as if I’m telling Syndergaard to cut his hair. Just think before you hit “send.’’

Syndergaard should know better, and somebody in the Mets’ front office should have enough sense to tell him to tone it down.

 

Nov 23

Alderson’s Dilemma: Cespedes Now Or Pitching Later?

The New York Post reported what I speculated for weeks, and that’s Yoenis Cespedes wanting a five-year contract. The dollar figure is north of $100 million, likely in the neighborhood of $120 million.

SYNDERGAARD: Paying him or Cespedes. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Paying him or Cespedes. (FOX)

That’s a lot of money, and with his reputation of offensive inconsistency – too many strikeouts against his home runs and RBI – and on-again-off-again hustling, that’s too much.

Also, he showed signs of physically breaking down last year by playing in only 132 games. You might say 2016 was a fluke, but think about his durability four or five years from now.

That brings us to the five years, figuring the Mets could be paying Cespedes close to $30 million for the last two years when he’s 35 and 36 and possibly not playing in more than 100 games in those seasons.

Considering they’ll also be on the hook for the remainder of David Wright’s contract, not to mention any long-term deals they might have for their young pitching. What do you want in five years: a fading Cespedes or Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz locked up? You can throw in Matt Harvey if you want, but I’m still banking on him bolting when he’s a free agent in two years.

That’s the dilemma GM Sandy Alderson is facing: Does he go in deep for Cespedes now or save it for those young, powerful arms?

Frankly, since there’s usually a bat or two in the free-agent market every winter, it’s really a no-brainer.

Please follow me on Twitter

Oct 15

Bullpen Bridge Key For Mets

The Mets will have no shortage of offseason issues, and we’ll discuss them all. Let’s put Yoenis Cespedes on the back burner for now in terms of importance and go directly to the bullpen. Conor Gillespie’s fly ball hadn’t even cleared the wall and there was the question as to whether Jeurys Familia was a problem. Could this guy pitch in October?

MLB: New York Mets at Milwaukee BrewersI’m not worried about Familia. I think he’ll be fine. He saved 51 games this year with that nasty pitch of his that moves into lefty hitters and away from right-handers. His slider/cutter/sinker is one of the game’s hardest pitches to hit. About his psyche? Well, he was stand-up after the wild-card game, admitted he threw a bad pitch location-wise and said it was time to learn and move on.

As many of you know, I covered the Yankees for eight years before moving to the Mets and had many conversations with Mariano Rivera. He said giving up the game-winning homer to Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar was one of the best things that happened to him ibecause it taught him how to forget and move on; to develop a thick skin.

I’m positive the same will happen with Familia.

My bullpen concern is the bridge leading up to Familia. The Mets have four pitchers coming off surgery and we don’t know yet about Noah Syndergaard‘s bone spur, although indications are he’ll be fine. Ideally, the Mets want seven innings from their starters, but realistically can’t expect that on a nightly basis. Early on, at least, they’ll be happy to get six.

That leaves at least three innings to cover.

Bringing back Addison Reed is essential, and I might argue, on a par with Cespedes. They’ll need to make sure they are covered in the sixth and seventh innings. They liked Fernando Salas, and he pitched well. Hansel Robles was good until he was not. He’s still a question, but one with great stuff.

The Mets have three situational lefties to choose between Josh Smoker, Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin.

We don’t know what we’ll get from the injured starters, which makes building the pen a paramount issue.

Please follow me on Twitter

Oct 03

Leaving Loney Off Wild-Card Roster Would Be Mistake

There’s no doubt Mets GM Sandy Alderson is a smart guy, but there are times he thinks too damn much. Reportedly he’s doing that now by considering leaving James Loney off the wild-card playoff roster in favor of Lucas Duda.

Never mind the fairness element, that without Loney replacing Duda for 99 games, the Mets are already scattering for their off-season homes.

LONEY: Would be mistake leaving him off roster. (SNY)

LONEY: Would be mistake leaving him off. (SNY)

Clearly, Alderson, who is Sabremetrics junkie infatuated with the home run, is hoping Duda might run into a pitch against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner Wednesday night. It could happen, but I’m betting after not playing most of the season with a back injury he will be handcuffed by Bumgarner’s nasty slider.

As lefty hitters, neither Loney (2-for-13, .154 BA/.214 OB) nor Duda (0-for-1) have a distinguished history against Bumgarner. For that matter, neither does Eric Campbell (1-for-5).

When you look at the splits, look at their career numbers against all left-handed pitchers. In 572 career at-bats against lefties, Duda is hitting .224 with 17 homers, a .659 OPS and a 200-50 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Conversely, in 1,264 at-bats, Loney is hitting .251 with 20 homers, a .646 OPS and a 222-83 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Actually, if it came down to career numbers against Bumgarner, what about Kelly Johnson (7-for-20 lifetime)?

I’m not blaming manager Terry Collins should the Mets go with Duda because he’s not pulling the strings. This is Alderson’s baby. Both pay lip service to a give-and-take working relationship, but Alderson runs the show.

The Bumgarner-Noah Syndergaard match-up suggests the possibility of a low-scoring game. Alderson is gambling Duda will connect for a bomb, but the odds suggest Loney is more apt to continue an inning.

And, with runs figuring to be at a premium, Loney is the superior defensive player. He has a better glove, more range, and a better arm. Should I remind you of his throw to the plate in Game 5 of last year’s World Series? Didn’t think so.

One of the main storylines in this game will be Syndergaard’s ability to hold potential base stealers, who ran on him at will this year.

As a right-handed first baseman, it is harder for Duda to hold runners as his tag will be at the runner’s calf instead of his arm. Meanwhile, with a good move, Loney’s tag will be on the runner’s hand. If nothing else it could shorten a lead by a step.

Look, Duda might hit three homers. He could also make two errors and strike out three times. Who knows? But, for one game, with this pitching match-up, the right way to go is Loney over Duda.

If they want to take Duda over Campbell for a pinch-hit swing late in the game, fine. But, seriously, if Campbell pinch-hits, the Mets would likely be behind, and who would he bat for?

Alderson is smart, but he’s thinking too much on this one and it could bite him in the butt.

Please follow me on Twitter