Apr 05

The Only Statement Today Is An Old One, Jacob deGrom Is Special

As always, it was great to see Jacob deGrom beat the Nationals today, 8-2, but let’s not get carried away, the Mets didn’t make any great statement other than to say they are off to a great start.

Nobody expected the Mets to get off to a 5-1 start, so let’s just enjoy it while we can. Let’s just see where the Mets are at the end of April or after 50 games before making any proclamations about making any statements or sending any messages.

There’s no reason not to be excited, but let’s keep things in perspective. After all, that’s what they are doing in that clubhouse.

DeGrom Defines Being an Ace: Despite hitting three homers, the game’s turning point came in the sixth after back-to-back walks loaded the bases for the Nationals with no outs.

The Mets were clinging to a 4-2 lead with the Nationals’ 4-5-6 hitters coming up. DeGrom got Ryan Zimmerman on a shallow pop to right, got Howie Kendrick on a liner to shortstop and struck out Trea Turner looking on three pitches.

Manager Mickey Callaway already knew deGrom was good, that inning showed he was special.

“Obviously his stuff is really good to bail him out when times start getting tough,’’ Callaway said. “But he never backs down.’’

DeGrom had trouble gripping the ball in the 40-degree temperatures, but composed himself to turn around the game.

“I slowed it down and was able to locate,’’ said deGrom, who now has seven straight quality starts at Nationals Park.

Outfield does damage: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce all homered, with the latter’s a grand slam in the seventh.

After deGrom escaped the sixth, Brandon Nimmo pinch-hit for him and doubled. Conforto, who was activated from the DL before the game, and Cespedes walked to load the bases. Then Bruce unloaded for the slam.

If Nimmo continues to hit, Callaway has to find a spot for him in the lineup.

Oct 21

How Should Mets Handle Yankees’ Success?

So, how should the Mets handle the obvious news the Yankees are back to being the bullies on the New York City block?

No question, 2015 and 2016 was fun while it lasted, but the essence of winning is to sustain it, and do it again, and again. Whether the Yankees can do that remains to be seen, but they but have the necessary building blocks the Mets didn’t.

The Yankees have the young core of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius, while the Mets had only one young star the last time they saw October, and that was Michael Conforto.  The Mets have since added Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith.

The Yankees have a solid bullpen, while the Mets don’t. The Mets have the potential of a good, but not a great pen, but clearly, there’s a gap.

The Yankees have several good, young starters, while the Mets supposedly had the best young rotation in the majors. Suffice to say, that never happened, and Jacob deGrom is the only healthy arm the Mets can count on for next season.

The Yankees have a reputation with general manager Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner ownership group of not being handcuffed when it comes to a willingness to spend to reach the next level. The Mets’ reputation with GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons is the opposite.

That’s four categories with the Yankees holding the edge in each one.

So, if you’re the Mets, what should you do?

The Mets’ first decision is to ignore the Yankees, regardless what happens tonight in Houston. The Mets don’t compete with the Yankees for anything other than the back pages of the tabloids, which in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant. Let the Yankees enjoy their success and just concentrate on your own business.

The Mets’ second step – not surprisingly – is to hire a new manager, and I’m guessing it will be Manny Acta based on managerial experience.

Alderson has a lot of work to do, beginning with devising a rebuilding plan. It won’t be exactly going to Square One, but it is close. Alderson said he expects the Mets to be competitive in 2018, but hasn’t defined what that means. It should be noted the Mets finished 22 games below .500 this season.

It’s a stretch to think, even if they get all their players back that they’ll improve by 28 games, which would tie them at 87-75, the record of the Colorado Rockies, the second wild card in the National League.

That’s just for starters.

For that to happen, Alderson must add the following:

Starting pitching: The Mets can expect deGrom back and possibly Noah Syndergaard, the latter whom returned from the DL but is far from a given. The Mets probably have higher expectations of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo than they do Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. It would be reasonable to think Alderson would pursue at least one starter.

Bullpen: Alderson has never been able to build a reliable bullpen, but there’s potential with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins. If one or two of the arms they acquired when they stripped themselves of their veterans at the trade deadline. Even so, they shouldn’t pass on getting a quality reliever in free agency.

Outfield: Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are recovering from significant injuries and both are questionable to be ready for the start of the season. That leaves Nimmo and Juan Lagares as the only reliable outfielders, and the Mets are sold on the latter.

Second/third base: The Mets are expected to bring back Jose Reyes and/or Asdrubal Cabrera, but both? That might be a stretch. I believe Cabrera is better at both positions and could be a better offensive threat. But, Reyes is a better shortstop replacement. Is that enough?

Should Alderson address all four in the positive the Mets should be better, but will it be enough for the playoffs?

 

Jan 17

Mets’ Issues To Be Resolved This Spring

One month from today, Mets position players will report to spring training. They’ll take ground balls and batting practice for a couple of weeks. There will be daily reports on what pitchers are throwing and with the Mets there will be the daily, “how’s the arm feeling?’’ questions.

The Mets have numerous questions they must have answered in spring training:

BRUCE: Desperately want to trade him. (AP)

BRUCE: Desperately want to trade him. (AP)

ROTATION: With four pitchers coming off surgery, they’ll undoubtedly ease them into form. Probably one of the first five questions asked will be on innings limits.

Hopefully, manager Terry Collins will have a definable plan as to not duplicate what happened with Matt Harvey in 2015. More to the point, hopefully, he won’t deviate as he did with Harvey.

Coming off surgery, it’s not a bad idea to have limits on Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. At one time the Mets didn’t discount the idea of using Wheeler out of the pen. If that’s the conclusion, then stick with it. They can always announce an innings format and if there aren’t any setbacks, discard it have May or June. But don’t announce something then deviate on a whim.

Collins will also need to define roles for Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

BULLPEN: They have to be expecting at least a 30-day suspension for Jeurys Familia, so they’ll need to define the bullpen roles with the assumption Addison Reed will be the closer to start.

This is an area where I can see the Mets signing relievers off the scrap heap at the end.

FIRST BASE: Lucas Duda had back issues last year so they’ll need to find a replacement. Wilmer Flores seems the logical choice, so Collins needs to give him innings.

Will Dominic Smith get enough at-bats this spring to leave the impression he could get the call-up chance should something happen to Duda?

As for Michael Conforto, if they are going to do it, then do it right. If so, it is important for Conforto to get substantial innings at first base, meaning that’s more important than playing in the World Baseball Classic.

SECOND BASE: They’ll need to keep a close eye on Neil Walker, who is coming off back surgery. Walker can’t be pushed, so Collins has to give out playing time to Flores and Ty Kelly.

It will be interesting to see how much time Jose Reyes will get at second. If he’s going to be the super sub, then he should get time at second.

SHORTSTOP: Amed Rosario is the future, but is he ready now? The Mets have Asdrubal Cabrera for this year (they have an option for 2018), but their thinking is Rosario should be ready for 2018.

Rosario needs to play, so if the Mets don’t have a way to get him in the lineup regularly, he’ll open the season at Triple-A.

THIRD BASE: The hope is David Wright will be ready for Opening Day, but nobody really knows. Reyes is Plan B.

Wright hasn’t played 100 games in the last two years combined, so there should be no bold projections for 2017.

Things change over the course of a season, but Collins needs to format a strict play-rest plan for Wright.

OUTFIELD: This is GM Sandy Alderson’s biggest mess. He basically announced to the world the Mets’ plan was to pick up Jay Bruce’s option as a hedge to not getting Yoenis Cespedes back. Of course, that automatically reduced Bruce’s trade value.

Sure, the Mets will keep making calls to dump Bruce, but at the same time they need to get him ready for the season. They also need to get Curtis Granderson ready to play center and right field.

There’s also the matter of getting Juan Lagares and Conforto ready. That leads to an interesting question: If the Mets are unable to trade Bruce and he’s on the Opening Day roster, then would they possibly start the season with Conforto in the minor leagues?

Dec 30

Projecting Mets’ Shopping For Next Winter

Other than extending Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets have been relatively inactive this winter. Could it be they are preparing for next offseason? That’s not a stretch when you consider the potential holes in next winter’s roster. General manager Sandy Alderson should be busy – or he’d better be.

Let’s assume for a moment their young pitching staff gets through the 2017 season healthy and productive. That should alleviate that issue, but here are the others:

CONFORTO: Where will he play?  (Getty)

CONFORTO: Where will he play? (Getty)

CATCHER: If Travis d’Arnaud doesn’t take the next step, it’s hard to imagine they’ll bring back Rene Rivera for another year. The Mets are saying they’ll give d’Arnaud another chance to prove his worth. If not, they’ll have to look for help behind the plate. Their top catching prospect, Tomas Nido, is still at least two years away.

FIRST BASE: They have Lucas Duda for another year, but they are still making noise of experimenting with David Wright and Michael Conforto. Either would be a gamble. If Wright is healthy, the outfield glut might make Conforto the pick. However, what they are really hoping for is Duda to hold the spot until Dominic Smith is ready.

SECOND BASE: Neil Walker signed for one year, so he’ll be another issue. If they re-sign him again, it will be costly, perhaps at least $50 million over three years. Of course, there’s Wilmer Flores, but why are they so reluctant to give him a real chance?

SHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera‘s contract will be over after this season, but the Mets have two prospects in Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini. How much time will they see in 2017 and will it be enough to get them ready for 2018?

THIRD BASE: Wright, of course, will be a question every season. The Mets’ top-rated third base prospect, Jhoan Urena, will still be a year or two away. Will Jose Reyes show enough this summer to warrant an extension?

OUTFIELD: It’s complicated now after extending Cespedes. Presumably, he’ll play left, which means Conforto needs to find a place to play. Center field would seem to be the place, but the Mets want him to share the spot with Curtis Granderson. If they can’t trade him, Jay Bruce could share right field with him. Whatever happens, we have to figure both Bruce and Granderson will be gone after this season, so that should ease the logjam. However, the way things project, playing time could be sparse for both Conforto and Juan Lagares, which might wave a red flag.

BULLPEN: There hasn’t been an offseason in recent memory where the bullpen wasn’t an issue. Figuring Addison Reed pitches lights out in the closer role while Jeurys Familia presumably serves a suspension, he’ll be worthy of a raise. Should Familia pitch well again, he’ll get more money. As usual, the Mets will have to look for role pitchers.

Oct 02

Mets’ Questions In Deciding Wild-Card Roster

There are a lot of things Mets GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins will consider over the next few days as they construct their postseason roster in preparation for the wild-card game against San Francisco, Wednesday, at Citi Field.

Collins has been spoiled with access up to 40 players since September 1. Now, they’ll face Madison Bumgarner with 25.

ALDERSON: A lot on his mind. (AP)

ALDERSON: A lot on his mind. (AP)

Here are the questions Alderson must answer:

CATCHER: Could they consider carrying a third catcher in Kevin Plawecki? They could go this way because in the one game format Collins shouldn’t hesitate to use a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner. Plus, in the back of his mind should be the prospect of extra innings.

FIRST BASE: Who starts? The early word is Lucas Duda could get the start over James Loney with the thinking he might have one good swing in him. We’ve heard a lot about the possibility of Eric Campbell. Even if he doesn’t start, he should be there because he represents a right-handed pinch-hit option.

OUTFIELD: Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Yoenis Cespedes will be the starters. However, the recent play of Juan Lagares introduced an element nobody considered two weeks ago. Lagares has shown he can swing the bat, so if he’s carried, who will the Mets choose between Michael Conforto and Alejandro De Aza? There’s no way Collins would favor De Aza’s defense over Bruce’s bat, but he could choose him over Conforto.

STARTERS: They will carry three, Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon and Seth Lugo over Robert Gsellman. Why three? Because what happens if Syndergaard were to get injured or shelled early in the game?

BULLPEN: Since the opponent is the Giants, who are heavy with left-handed hitters, will the Mets go with one less position player and add lefty Josh Edgin? The rest of the pen would include Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, Fernando Salas, Josh Smoker, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.

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