Jun 25

Collins Must Manage From His Gut Even If Alderson Doesn’t Like It

All the goodwill the Mets fostered during their 11-game winning streak is gone, vanished like a possible Jacob deGrom victory because of a faulty bullpen and no hitting. It faded along with the Mets’ eight-game lead over the Nationals, which is now a 3.5-game deficit.

Sure, the Mets could regroup but what are their chances, but what are the odds?

COLLINS: Where's that smile now? (Mets)

COLLINS: Where’s that smile now? (Mets)

The way I see it, manager Terry Collins is on his own; a life raft in rough waters. Ownership did nothing over the winter to bring in the offensive talent needed, and he’s received no help from GM Sandy Alderson, whose contribution was Michael Cuddyer.

Collins, because of his contract situation, is a lame duck and managing for his job. Because Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – ripped him in a book, it is clear he doesn’t have any support.

That says it in spades, as if Alderson’s failure to build a quality bullpen and procure the needed hitting to sustain the young starting pitching wasn’t enough.

It is clear the Mets aren’t playing with fire anymore, and part of that is because Collins isn’t showing any himself. It appears he’s been beaten down and frustrated by a front office and ownership that isn’t supportive.

Collins is a long-time baseball man. He knows the right thing to do. He has no control over injuries, but does have over the talent he sends out every night. He also has control in the dugout after the first pitch. Collins must be aggressive and manage the Mets like this is his last chance, because he’s gone after this year. Deep down he has to know that.

I want to see him go out kicking and not meekly collecting a paycheck. Here’s what he needs to do to give the Mets their best chance of winning:

Goodbye pitch counts: Since it is clear there was no plan to begin with, let’s cut the crap. Matt Harvey has twice been pulled late with a 1-0 lead and went on to lose. That’s happened to deGrom once. Give those horses the extra inning.

Curtis Granderson: He’s finally showing some pop, so drop him in the order. Third, fourth, fifth, I don’t care. He’s being wasted hitting leadoff. I advocated this after seeing the Opening Day lineup. It worked for a while, but is failing now.

The answer? I don’t know. I wanted Juan Lagares, but his on-base percentage is dreadful. There is no real solution, but since he’s in the line-up I’m inclined to go with Ruben Tejada, who has decent speed, but I confess is too streaky.

Speaking of Granderson, the best outfield alignment is him in left field and Cuddyer in right. Why that wasn’t done in the first place is ridiculous.

The infield: Eventually we would get to this, but the best solution defensively is to move Wilmer Flores to third base and Tejada to shortstop. The Mets don’t want to because they are afraid of how Flores might react mentally.

If Flores’ ego is that fragile to where he couldn’t handle a switch then maybe he’s not tough enough to play in the major leagues. When Daniel Murphy returns move him to third and Flores to second.

What about David Wright, you ask? The Mets are foolish if they even think he’ll be back anytime soon, and if he does if he’ll play to any resemblance of his former self. It is more and more looking as if the issue of what to do with Wright will be addressed next spring – with another manager.

These are some of the things Collins can do with the 25 players he currently has on his roster. Since he’s not getting any help, he has to go down showing the same fight he wants from his team.

And, if Alderson doesn’t like it, then tell the game’s smartest general manager to fire him, because what the hell, it will happen soon enough.

Jun 09

Baseball’s Scheduling A Joke

There probably is if I thought hard enough about it, but for now there are few things more absurd in baseball than its scheduling. While the sport is bent out of shape about the playing time of games, it might be more prudent to come up with a better scheduling format.

Seriously, how ridiculous is it for both the Mets and Yankees to playing at home tonight, against the Giants and Nationals, respectively? The teams were also home the same time for Opening Day and Memorial Day.

Of course, this is the byproduct of interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. Neither of those money-grabbing brain strokes has improved the game or the integrity of the schedule.

At one time, there was an even number of teams in each league and every team played every other team – home and away – the same number of times. They say a baseball season is a marathon, but currently not all teams run the same race. Some run 26 miles, while others run 24 or 28.

It’s just not the same race and that’s wrong. It’s emblematic of a sport without integrity.


Jun 07

Mets Must Overhaul Handling Of Injuries

While introducing the Sandy Alderson Era, Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon promised a different mentality emanating from the top. The Mets would be more aggressive in obtaining talent, and perhaps just as importantly, more diligent and proactive in keeping that talent on the field.

The Mets have long been criticized for their handling of injured players, including David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, Pedro Martinez, Ike Davis and the list goes on.

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

Injuries haven’t been diagnosed properly, players played when they should’ve been benched or were rushed back. Players also haven’t been proactive in reporting injuries, which in the case of Matt Harvey, this likely lead to his surgery. Perhaps most bizarre was when Beltran opted to have surgery on his own.

This season has been about injuries and an 11-game winning streak. That streak is why they’re where they are considering they lead the major leagues with 12 players on the disabled list.

Eight players are gone from the Opening Day roster, and three players in the starting lineup in Sunday’s game at Arizona were injury related. There’s not a day when injuries aren’t the focal point. Injuries will dictate if the Mets make the playoffs; what, or if, they’ll make any trades; and possibly, their offseason agenda.

What should also happen is a complete overhaul of their injury protocol. From the trainers, to the team physicians, to the organization’s philosophy in handling and treating injuries, everything should be on the table for review. What they are doing now isn’t working.

Why, over the years, has there been a glut of arm injuries resulting in Tommy John surgery? Why have there been so many muscle pulls and strains? Is there a problem in the offseason training program? Are players encouraged or discouraged to report aches and pains?

Do the pitchers throw too much or not enough? Is nutrition an issue? Do the players stretch enough? Is there too much weight lifting during the season?

There’s not a constant with each injury, but something isn’t right and it must change. Teams like to say, “next man up,’’ but for the Mets it seems to be “who’s the next to go down?’’ Yes, injuries are part of the game, but for the Mets it seems to be all nine innings.

What should also be noted is playoff caliber teams need to overcome injuries and adversity, and that brings us back full circle to Wilpon and Alderson. Will ownership provide the financial resources, and does Alderson have the capabilities to fill the void?

We’re waiting.


Apr 16

Mets Game Thread: Flores Rocks The Joint

There’s nothing like a three-run homer to change the complexion of a game, and that’s what Wilmer Flores just did for the Mets. Couldn’t feel happier for him. Had a chance to speak with him Opening Day. He’s quiet and unassuming, and struggling to make it despite the pressure.

He was ripped several times by his general manager over the winter; literally Sandy Alderson made him a butt of jokes on numerous occasions. Unfairly, of course, but that’s what Alderson does at times.

As with Gee, there are certain players I want to see do well and Flores is another.

Mets 3, Miami 3 (6th)

Apr 11

Mets Week In Review: An Encouraging Start

If the Mets play out this season as they did their first week, I’ll take it. In a heartbeat I would take it.

mets-logoball-2They are 2-2 after four games, which is .500, the bullseye placed on their back. They played four tight, taut games, that if the breaks went a different way could have put them at 0-4.

The upside is they could also just as easily be at 4-0, which is the beauty of it all.

A clutch hit here or there by the Nationals against Bartolo Colon or Matt Harvey puts a different spin on the week. Just as easily, however, a tighter defense last night and a better pitch from Jacob deGrom spins the week another way.

What we can take out of the first week is the Mets figure to be a team that should tay in every game, and I’ll take that any time because it should mean being there in the end, which is another way of saying they will play meaningful baseball in September.

And, you must do that before you can play meaningful games in October, and isn’t that what we all want – regardless of who makes out the lineup card?

Here’s what I took from the first week:

* Bartolo Colon has something left in his tank. He overcame a rough first inning to beat Washington to show us all there’s nothing wrong with a little age.

* Something the Mets haven’t consistently done in recent seasons was to capitalize on opportunities, which is what they did in both their victories over the Nationals. So, when in doubt, hitting the ball to Ian Desmond is a good strategy.

* Matt Harvey is pitching with a chip on his shoulder aimed at those who tend to judge him on more than what he does on the mound. If that’s his motivation, so be it. Just keep pitching this way and all will be well. Do that and let the Mets worry about keeping him from the Yankees in the future.

* The bullpen is better than advertised. Rafael Montero took the loss Friday night in Atlanta, but the loss lies on Wilmer Flores’ errant throws, a bad decision by David Wright and not hitting in the clutch. Having fundamental breakdowns is how the Mets will likely lose most of their games this season. It will be maddening, but, then again, that’s the Mets.

* A week in and we haven’t seen a lot of power, and that’s probably the way it will go all season. This team needs Lucas Duda’s home run bat.

* Injuries helped shape the Opening Day roster and as always will play a significant role. The Mets lost Josh Edgin and Zack Wheeler before the season started, then lost Jenrry Mejia on Opening Day.

* An underlying theme this week has been the lineup. Whether it is all Terry Collins and not from above – which I doubt – it hasn’t produced an offensive explosion, and it has left Juan Lagares, the projected leadoff hitter, in a funk. He’s not the only one, as Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Flores are also running in mud. Wright, Duda and Travis d’Arnaud are having strong starts, but then again, it has been only four games.

* The closeness of the games is a good sign, but it should also be a nagging reminder of the red flag of their thin bench. Eventually, they’ll have a game when they’ll be caught short.

No, it hasn’t been a great start – although the starting pitching has been a positive – but we’ve seen far worse from the Mets. It has been an encouraging start, and if they are standing at .500 six months from now I’ll have a hunger for much more from them.

And, isn’t that what we want?