Jun 12

Things Better Change Quickly For Mets

Last week I asked if there was a reason to be concerned with the Mets, but stopped short of saying they were in trouble. I’m not stopping short any longer. If the season ended today the Mets would make the playoffs as the second wild card, but there are more than a few reasons to believe they aren’t heading in the right direction.

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

There’s plenty of season left to turn things around, but also enough time has gone by to conclude despite their young pitching – and Bartolo Colon – that if there’s not a reversal soon the playoffs many of us took for granted on Opening Day might not happen.

Following their 15-7 April, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Milwaukee the Mets have gone 19-21. They are 4.5 games behind Washington, and one of seven teams lumped under the 4.5-game umbrella of wild-contenders.

Teams will lose, but the Mets didn’t play well during their 5-5 road trip. They weren’t just beaten, they beat themselves. On Sunday, they had breakdowns in all phases: 1) Steven Matz was roughed up in his second straight start; 2) the defense committed three errors and could have had a fourth; and 3) and their hitters struck out ten times and went 2-for-9 with RISP.

April’s storyline was the Mets’ propensity for hitting homers, but more importantly in their 62 games they have scored three or fewer runs in half (31) of them. That’s an alarming number. Overall, they are hitting .214 with RISP; and average around nine strikeouts and close to the same in runners left on base in a game.

Nine strikeouts mean in three innings they did not put the ball in play. For all those who don’t give credence to strikeouts as an important statistic, it is time to get a clue. Not putting the ball in play means no chance for hits; no chance to reach on an error; no sacrifice flies; and no productive outs to put runners in scoring position.

A positive note is Matt Harvey seems to have turned it around, but could that be offset by Matz’s two straight stinkers? And, Jacob deGrom hasn’t won in his last seven starts. The bullpen, so positive in April, is showing cracks. Closer Jeurys Familia is far from a sure thing. Their most reliable reliever is Addison Reed; with everybody else you hold your breath.

Injuries are a concern with David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list. They could get d’Arnaud back in a week or so, but he wasn’t hitting or throwing runners out on the bases before he got hurt. Michael Conforto has a sore wrist and is in a dreadful slump; Neil Walker has a tight lower back; and Juan Lagares has an injured left thumb.

The upcoming schedule is brutal as from now until the All-Star break they have three more games with Pittsburgh; two against Kanas City; three with the Marlins; four against the Cubs and seven with the Nationals. Beginning Tuesday, the Mets start a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.

Seriously, there’s a chance the trade deadline could be moot.

The Mets can get on a hot streak, turn things around and maybe add a couple of pieces just as they did last season. However, since the end of April we’ve seen precious few signs of that happening.

There’s reason for concern, and yes, they are in trouble.

Apr 12

Mets Not In “Panic City”

This column is in response to Adam Rubin’s question at the bottom of today’s Morning Briefing, I will say no. Rubin asked his readers if they were yet a resident of “Panic City,’’ what GM Sandy Alderson called some Mets fan when the team floundered last season before regrouping to reach the World Series.

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

My readers know me for calling it straight. Many of them believe I might be too critical of the team. The over/under for Mets’ victories I posted Opening Day was 92, believing they could improve on last season by having Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes full time.

That’s still very possible.

It’s very easy to spot the problems six games into the season: the offense has not produced and their vaunted starting pitching hasn’t lived up to expectations. The bullpen was overworked in Matz’s start, but giving up three runs in 7.1 innings isn’t that bad.

The three best starts were made by Syndergaard in Kansas City, Jacob deGrom in the home opener and Bartolo Colon Saturday night. Matt Harvey has been roughed up twice and Matz was torched Monday night.

I want to go back to a column I posted earlier suggesting the rotation didn’t get enough work during spring training. Normally starters work about 30 innings during spring training, but no Met pitcher worked more than 15. This was done with the objective of protecting those young arms, and the immediate by-product has been location.

The only real concern here is with deGrom’s tight right lat muscle. Perhaps he wasn’t in his best condition before of the shortage of work. His velocity has been off. Is that injury or lack of work? We don’t know yet.

I posted last night I wasn’t concerned with Matz, but let’s go back early in spring training when he was worried about results and manager Terry Collins questioned whether he was in his best condition.

The lack of work will eventually resolve itself as the season continues. After all, they can’t go back to spring training.

Hopefully, Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will learn from this and tweak their offseason and spring training workout programs. There’s nothing they can do now.

Offensively, we’re seeing signs of life from Cespedes and Wright.

Curtis Granderson hasn’t produced, but the same thing happened last year. His track record is he’ll get better. The Mets have only two homers in six games, but that will change. There have been too many strikeouts and missed scoring opportunities.

You can blame the weather, but it was just as cold for the Royals, Phillies and Marlins. It won’t get any easier tonight against Jose Fernandez or over the weekend in Cleveland.

We also should remember something Wright said at the start, and that’s the Mets will have a bullseye on their backs all year. Philadelphia and the Marlins, not surprisingly want a piece of the Mets. They were the National League champs, every team should want to knock them down a peg.

Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has only two hitters – Granderson and Lucas Duda – who were with the team all of 2015.

The others were either injured and missed significant time – Wright and d’Arnaud – or are in their first full seasons with the team. That would be Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera.

You can’t tell much about a team or a player after six games. Let’s see how things are at the end of the month. We all knew getting back to the Series wouldn’t be a breeze.

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Apr 06

Today In Mets’ History: Colon Gets OD Nod Against Nats

On this day in 2015, when the speculation was whether Jacob deGrom or Matt Harvey would get the Opening Day start in Washington, manager Terry Collins went with 41-year-old Bartolo Colon, which was at the time, and what proved to be the right choice.

COLON: Has proved to be invaluable. (Getty)

COLON: Has proved to be invaluable. (Getty)

Colon became the oldest Met pitcher to start an Opening Day and he responded by giving up one run on three hits in the 3-1 victory over the Nationals, beating Max Scherzer in the process.

The Mets signed Colon to a two-year, $20-million contract during the winter of 2013 as a stopgap after Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery. Colon won 15 games and worked 202.1 innings in 2014. Last year he won 14 more with 194.2 innings, however, in the wake of Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz being promoted he was sent to the bullpen.

Colon, 218-154 lifetime, pitched well during the playoffs in relief and was rewarded with a $7.25 million extension. Colon will work as the fifth starter until Zack Wheeler is brought up sometime in July.

ON DECK: Don’t Write Off Wright

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Apr 05

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Stifles Royals

GAME #2:  Mets 2, at Kansas City 0.  Record: 1-1.

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard dominated with nine strikeouts in six innings and was backed by Neil Walker‘s two-run homer in the fourth. … The bullpen was flawless as it retired nine straight Royals to end the game. Jeurys Familia, who blew three save opportunities in the World Series, registered the save.

KEY MOMENT: Alcides Escobar tripled to lead off the game, but Syndergaard responded by striking out the next three hitters. Syndergaard also stranded runners in scoring position to end the fifth and sixth innings.

THOR DROPS HAMMER: Syndergaard was on his game as he struck out nine and gave up three hits with one walk in six scoreless innings. What he did in the first inning illustrated why he has Cy Young potential.

WALKER STRIKES EARLY: Walker had two hits, including a two-run homer in the fourth. Walker also drove in a run Sunday night.

WRIGHT IS RIGHT: Reports of his demise could be premature. David Wright walked twice, singled to right and stole two bases. He was also flawless in the field.

THUMBS UP: The bullpen was solid again. In his Mets’ debut, Jim Henderson struck out two in the seventh. … Addison Reed pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

THUMBS DOWN: Michael Conforto, who reached base four times Sunday night, was hitless in four at-bats. … Three strikeouts by Curtis Granderson. … The Mets stranded three runners in the seventh and two in the eighth.

QUOTEBOOK: “He took a deep breath and realized he had to take it pitch-by-pitch.” – Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud on Syndergaard’s mindset after Escobar’s leadoff triple in the first.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12: strikeouts by Mets’ pitchers.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Wednesday and will face the Phillies in their home opener Friday.

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Apr 04

Cespedes’ Explanation Insulting

Seeing Yoenis Cespedes’ comments about his misadventures in left field Opening Day served as a reminder most players don’t care as much as fans do. His explanation was insulting.

I don’t know what I expected Cespedes to say after he lackadaisically loped into position and casually reached for Mike Moustakas’ routine fly ball in the first inning. And, dropped it because he wouldn’t do the most fundamental thing, which is to use two !@#$% hands.

CESPEDES: ``I'm human.'' (AP)

CESPEDES: “I’m human.” (AP)

Every Little Leaguer knows to do that, but not Cespedes – and to be fair most Major Leaguers, either. Maybe they don’t think it’s the “cool’’ thing to do. Maybe they just don’t give a damn.

Cespedes’ comment was as half-assed as his effort three hours earlier: “The ball just fell out of my glove. The ball just fell. I’m human.’’

Fell? It fell because he was too lazy to use two hands; too stubborn to do one of the most fundamental things in his sport. Actually, in all fairness to Cespedes, it “fell” from his glove twice, the second when he attempted to pick it up with his glove. Another screw-up, as in a play like that you reach down with your throwing hand.

I guess Mets fans should be grateful he at least reached down to pick it up.

The play, Cespedes’ comments, and manager Terry Collins’ reaction is emblematic about what is wrong with professional sports these days.

First, there’s the player who doesn’t care enough to do his best then dismisses legitimate questions. Then, there’s the manager who is too timid to do anything about it. And, worse, defends the botched play. Don’t dare call out the player who is making $27.5 million.

Instead, Collins meekly said: “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.”

I laughed because anybody who has been paying attention couldn’t be surprised.

Actually, the only person who came out of this looking good was the player victimized the most, with that being Matt Harvey.

Sure, Harvey had to be pissed – no pun intended – but he did the professional thing, which is to not publicly throw his teammate under the bus.

“It’s baseball. Things happen,’’ Harvey told reporters. “Nobody’s trying to do anything out there except to get outs and do everything we can to help the team. Errors happen. It’s part of the game.’’

So is using two hands.

ON DECK: Why this is Collins’ toughest job

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