Sep 28

Bravo For Collins Not Quitting

Several days ago I wrote Terry Collins shouldn’t make things easier for owner Fred Wilpon and GM Sandy Alderson, and if the Mets wanted him out they should be put in the awkward position of having to defend the decision to fire the longest-tenured and second-winningest manager in franchise history.

COLLINS: Treated shamefully. (AP)

COLLINS: Treated shamefully. (AP)

Yesterday, prior to the last game of the season at Citi Field, Collins did the right thing and said he has no intention of resigning.

“I said it a couple years ago, I didn’t know how long I wanted to manage, what could be my last year – I never said anything that I was going to retire,’’ Collins told reporters. “I always wanted to work until I was 70. That’s two more years … I can put something to rest: I’m not going to go home and go fishing. OK. Whatever anybody thinks about if I’m going to be here or not, I can’t answer that. But I’m going to be doing something.

“I’m going to be somewhere. If after we have discussions, if it feels I shouldn’t be here, then I won’t be. … We’ve created something here that’s pretty good. That’s my take. I haven’t talked to anybody about it so we’ll go from there.’’

Reportedly, the Mets are considering six candidates to replace Collins, but none with his resume.

There are also published reports pitching coach Dan Warthen is also on the way out. Of the five young arms that were to make up the core of the rotation, only Jacob deGrom hasn’t missed a start this season. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey spent considerable time on the disabled list, and Alderson must accept responsibility by rushing Harvey on the Opening Day roster two months before he was ready and by letting Syndergaard pitch without the MRI.

None of the five, which includes Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, have made a complete cycle through the rotation. Speaking of which 12 different pitchers started for the Mets this season, and that is more than partial explanation for the high number of walks.

Syndergaard and Alderson, and not Warthen or Collins, bear responsibility for bulking up last offseason. When Alderson took over prior to the 2011 season, he and Jeff Wilpon promised every aspect of the Mets’ training and medical staff would be evaluated.

That also applies to Yoenis Cespedes’ bulking up regime last winter. One would think a general manager to issues a $110-million contract to a player with an injury history would oversee the offseason conditioning program.

I have had issues with how Collins juggles his bullpen and batting order (149 different orders), but shouldn’t Alderson assume the lion’s share of the responsibility because he built this team then stripped it down of his veteran talent?

Collins has been undercut by Alderson at every turn. He said he wants to continue and believes he’s earned a considerable amount of respect throughout baseball.

Too bad he’s not getting any from his own team.

Sep 15

How Can You Not Be Happy For Bruce?

I channel surfed during Mets-Cubs last night to Indians-Royals. I love that history is being made in Cleveland, my hometown, and was especially happy to see Jay Bruce drove in the game-winner. After what he went through last season, and how he rebounded this year, how can you not cheer for a guy like that?

BRUCE: Happy for him. (AP)

                        BRUCE: Happy for him. (AP)

Meanwhile, the Mets remain rudderless, with no viable veteran presence.

Unless the money is so overwhelming, why would Bruce want to come back to the Mets? Seriously, if I’m Bruce, I know I already have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life. If the Indians make a viable offer, I’d stay in Cleveland rather than come back to the toxic atmosphere permeating around the Mets.

We can assume manager Terry Collins won’t be coming back, and with him will likely go the coaching staff. What will be constant is probably GM Sandy Alderson and his penny-pinching ways.

We can assume Michael Conforto won’t be ready for Opening Day, and possibly the same applies to Yoenis Cespedes. Alderson is already on record saying don’t expect an increase in salary, so Bruce would probably get a low-ball offer, and if he’s crazy enough to take it, he won’t be getting much help.

Why would he put himself through that again?

Alderson says he expects the Mets to compete next season, predicated of course, on their young pitching. But, Jacob deGrom is the ace, but with only 14 wins. Matt Harveys rehab is three starts – one good; two bad – and after losing to the Cubs Wednesday he said there’s been nothing positive. It sounds like he defeated mentally.

As far as Noah Syndergaard is concerned, I’m happy he’s dating a supermodel, but his rehab has stalled. He’s playing catch now, but nobody can say for sure when he’ll get in a game. So, like Harvey, Syndergaard is a question. So are Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. Seth Lugo, hammered last night and Robert Gsellman, torched in the series opener, regressed to where they’ll go into spring training with no defined roles.

Catcher, the entire infield save shortstop, and at least one outfield position are up for grabs next season. So, I ask you, unless Alderson blows him away with an offer – and we know that won’t happen – why would Bruce even think of coming back here?

 

Sep 12

Forecasting 2018 Mets’ Position Battles

Including tonight’s game at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, the Mets have 19 games remaining in this lost season. That’s not nearly enough time for GM Sandy Alderson to get answers to his most pressing questions heading into next season.

The following are thumbnail sketches to each potential position battle:

DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)

                    DE GROM: Only sure thing. (AP)

ROTATION: The Mets enter next season with health concerns for each starter, with the possible exception of Jacob deGrom. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are rehabbing after spending most of the season on the disabled list. Harvey has made two rehab starts on the major league level – one bad and the last one encouraging – and could make three more. Syndergaard was scratched from his most recent rehab start, but played catch today.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler remain on the DL and will report to spring training as questions. What else is new?

Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have not pitched to last season’s levels, but have shown glimpses of being viable commodities, but next year – barring the acquisition of a veteran arm capable of going 180 innings – one, or both, could enter the rotation, with the other going to the bullpen. Of course, wanting 180 innings and paying for a starter capable of that workload are two different things.

Rafael Montero has been a surprise and worthy of entering spring training competing for a rotation spot.

BULLPEN: The Mets have spots locked in for Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. I’m thinking either Lugo or Gsellman will get a long-relief role, with possibly Montero also getting a spot.

Paul Sewald, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, Jacob Rhame, Chasen Bradford and Jamie Callahan likely won’t win a roster spot in the remaining games, but could make enough of an impression to where Alderson to write any of them into his plans for spring training.

Familia will go in as the favorite to close again, but that’s based on his resume over his current performance since coming off the DL.

CATCHING: Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki go in competing for the starter role. Plawecki has been especially impressive since his promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets have been patient, almost to a fault, with d’Arnaud, who hasn’t made the most of his opportunity. Plawecki has been more impressive in his limited window, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he won the job next March.

I don’t envision the Mets signing a veteran – like a Rene Rivera – and believe both d’Arnaud and Plawecki will make the 2018 Opening Day roster,

FIRST BASE: The plan was for Dominic Smith to win the job, but he hasn’t hit enough to make anybody believe he has this mastered. I’m not worried about Smith hitting for power, but simply raise his on-base percentage. As of now, who can’t see Smith platooning with Wilmer Flores?

I can’t see Flores winning the job outright – the Mets won’t commit to him – or for them sign a veteran this winter. Hopefully, Smith will show enough with his bat over the next 19 games to limit Alderson’s agita.

SECOND BASE: It’s wide open. Given that the Mets won’t make a free-agent splash, my first inclination is to think they will pick up Asdrubal Cabrera’s option and he’ll go in as the starter.

Flores, Jose Reyes or Gavin Cecchini, could also compete or win a roster spot as a reserve.

T.J. Rivera will undergo Tommy John surgery, but likely won’t be ready for the start of the season. Rivera can also play first and third.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario has made more of his opportunity than Smith has of his. This isn’t to say Rosario is a given, but you have to like the odds of him going into next year as the starter.

Currently, Reyes seems a good bet to make next year’s roster as a utility infielder, capable of playing second, shortstop and third base.

THIRD BASE: Ideally, David Wright will make a comeback, but nobody is counting on that happening. Wright underwent rotator cuff surgery, but the Mets aren’t counting on him returning, let alone, for Opening Day.

Flores, who is out for the remainder of the season following surgery to repair a broken nose. Depending on what happens with Smith, he could go in as the starter for next season.

Rivera, Cabrera and Reyes could all see significant time at third base.

LEFT FIELD: Yoenis Cespedes is out for the season with a strained right hamstring. He played in only 81 games this year – half a season – and considering he also missed significant time in 2016, his durability must be questioned.

First, Michael Conforto, and then Brandon Nimmo, replaced Cespedes, who isn’t a given to come out of spring training healthy. If he doesn’t, figure Nimmo to start in left.

CENTER FIELD: Unquestionably, Juan Lagares is the best defender, but his offense is a question. Actually, Lagares has hit better than expected, so I wouldn’t be reluctant to start him in 2018.

Alderson said Conforto was more than just a viable defender, but his recovery from shoulder surgery will keep him off the Opening Day roster, so that’s a moot point.

RIGHT FIELD: As much as I like the idea of bringing back Jay Bruce, I don’t see the Mets shelling out the bucks it would take to sign him.

With Conforto and Cespedes seriously injured, signing a power bat is imperative, but do you really expect Alderson to write some serious checks?

Personally, it might be a stretch to think they’ll spend enough to bring back Nori Aoki.

Assuming Cespedes is ready for the start of the season, Nimmo will likely open the year in right field.

Once Conforto is ready, I see him taking over in right.

Sep 07

Harvey Takes Big Step; Nimmo Homers Twice

Matt Harvey didn’t have a great line, but was impressive nonetheless. The Reds got to Harvey for single runs in the first two innings, but he regrouped to throw three scoreless innings to win his first game in three months.

HARVEY: Needs to step up. (AP)

HARVEY: Major improvement. (AP)

What started as another potential blowout, ended in optimistic feelings. And, the Reds can hit, with five players having at least 20 homers.

The turnaround was a seven-pitch third inning, something we haven’t often seen from the one-time Mets’ ace. The Mets are searching for signs Harvey isn’t washed up at age 28, and if he can build on this, then maybe his future isn’t so bleak, after all.

To get him through five innings, it’s a huge step for him,’’ manager Terry Collins. “His command was a lot better. … He should feel good about himself. As the game wore on, he was better with his mechanics.’’

Consequently, he kept the ball down, and was effective with his secondary pitches, in particular, his slider.

“I’m not where I want to be with my mechanics, but it was a step in the right direction,’’ said Harvey. “I know it’s going to take time. It has been a rough two years. I felt it was good for me to get five innings.’’

Another positive was getting two shutout innings from Jeurys Familia.

“This guy has pitched in the World Series, so he’s familiar with pitching under pressure,’’ Collins said. “But, what’s more important is getting his arm strength back and putting that blood clot behind him.’’

NIMMO SHINES: Brandon Nimmo slugged two homers and made a spectacular lunging catch in left field. Juan Lagares also homered, and Jose Reyes’ two-run single put the Mets ahead to stay.

It will be interesting to see where Nimmo fits into the Mets’ outfield plans for next season.

You have to figure with the injury concerns surrounding Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Confortothat Nimmo will make the Opening Day roster

INJURY UPDATES: David Wright called his decision to have rotator cuff surgery a “no brainer, because I want to play catch with my kids.’’ Regarding retirement, Wright said he hasn’t thought when: “I have had enough. I still feel I have something more to give.’’ … Wilmer Flores underwent surgery to repair a broken nose and will be shut down for the remainder of the season. … Noah Syndergaard gave up three runs in two innings in his second rehab appearance. … Asdrubal Cabrera will undergo an MRI tomorrow on his hamstring.

Aug 27

Next Year Brought Into Focus In Doubleheader With Nationals

With Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes currently on the disabled list and out for the rest of the season, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares will get a bulk of the playing time.

Both distinguished themselves today, but in different ways.

For Nimmo, who hit third in the nightcap, his two-run homer briefly game the Mets a lead in the game they eventually lost, 5-4.

Lagares had two hits in the second game, but more impressive was how alertly he backed up right fielder Travis Taijeron on Daniel Murphy’s single to start a blurry fast relay to nail pinch-runner Edwin Jackson at the plate to end the game and preserve the Mets’ 6-5 victory.

D'ARNAUD: Blocks plate on game-ender. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Blocks plate on game-ender. (AP)

Let’s assume Conforto’s pending shoulder surgery keeps him off the Opening Day roster, then Nimmo would likely play in right field to start the season. If not, he could start the season coming off the bench.

Nimmo isn’t a home run hitter, but there’s a lot to like about his enthusiasm and .378 on-base percentage. He can play off three outfield positions, so his versatility is a plus.

Lagares’ problem has been with his bat, but there’s nothing wrong with his defense.

That he backed up the plate is part of his job description, but with the Mets playing out the string, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see a role player just coast, but that’s not the case with Lagares.

Without Lagares’ awareness, the Mets might have lost the first game, too.

But, it’s plays like that, and Nimmo’s hitting, that should stand out to GM Sandy Alderson as he makes notes regarding next year.

LUGO PITCHES WELL:  Seth Lugo, in his start coming off the disabled list, gave up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts in the second game.

“I thought I threw the ball really well,’’ Lugo said. “I had life on my pitches and was hitting my spots.’’

Robert Gsellman was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Lugo on the roster.

In looking at next season, I see Lugo better suited as a starter and Gsellman coming out of the bullpen.

TWO FACES OF ROBLES:  We saw the two faces of Hansel Robles in today’s double-header.

In the first game Robles, struck out the only two hitters he faced. In the second game, Robles walked three straight batters, including the last two with the bases loaded to force in the tying and go-ahead runs.

Robles is wildly inconsistent, and if the Mets are auditioning for their bullpen for 2018, he must show more consistency, beginning with throwing more strikes.

The real problem I had with Robles’ second appearance was more with manager Terry Collins, who left the reliever in to walk three straight batters.

“You can’t walk guys in the big leagues,’’ Collins said. “You can’t walk three hitters in a row, like that.’’

I understand it was a double header and the bullpen was taxed, but you can’t leave a reliever in to walk three straight hitters.

Just bad managing.

THE METS AND DUSTY:  Both the Mets’ Collins and Nationals manager Dusty Baker are in the final years of their contracts.

Of course, that begs the question: If neither are brought back in 2018, would the Mets entertain signing Baker to manage them.

While the Mets are non-commital about Collins, Baker has let it be known he is interested in returning. If Baker does hook on with the Mets, it could cost them as he is making $4 million this year.

HARVEY UPDATE: Matt Harveys next game will be with the Mets. After four rehab starts – including 4.2 innings Saturday for Double-A Binghamton – the Mets announced he will be activated when the rosters are expanded Sept. 1.

The Mets will be in Houston then, so his first start will be against the Astros, who are slightly better than the Portland Sea Dogs. Harvey threw 72 pitches against Portland and probably won’t throw much more than that against Houston.

UP NEXT: The Mets are off today, then are in Cincinnati for the start of a three-game series against the Reds.