Aug 09

LaTroy Hawkins Better Closer Option Than Committee

Isn’t it always the way with the New York Mets? There’s positives brewing, but something always seems to get in the way, such as Bobby Parnell’s bulging disk.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

Once pegged to lose 100 games, the Mets are talking about .500 and finishing in second place in the NL East, but gone is Parnell, probably for the year if surgery is required.

The Mets’ bullpen has been stellar since the beginning of July, but there’s only one real choice to replace Parnell and that would be 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins instead of going with a bullpen-by-committee, which rarely works and usually ends up using guys outside of their customary roles.

Hawkins saved the last two games of the Colorado series, and has 90 saves in his career. Not great over 19 years, but it is the best the Mets have going for them right now.

Hawkins struggled early in the season, but has been consistently effective. He has experience pitching in tight games, and Terry Collins has more trust in him than in Scott Atchison or Scott Rice or Pedro Feliciano.

Even at 40, Hawkins was throwing in the mid-90s against the Rockies. He can still bring it when he has to, and averages 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and only 1.6 walks per nine innings.

Perhaps Hawkins will eventually run on fumes, but if the Mets are cognizant about not getting him up constantly, and perhaps occasionally let their set-up reliever work into the ninth if there’s a three-run lead, it could preserve him.

Collins’ bullpen has been exceptional over the past month, but now he must make a significant choice: Does he go the committee route or give his trust to Hawkins?

The thought of saving Zack Wheeler’s innings by using him in relief is not a good idea as the change in routine creates the possibility of injury. And, please, nobody mention Frank Francisco. Please.

Hawkins has pitched well and is deserving of closing until he can’t it anymore.

I don’t think there’s any doubt Hawkins has to be the closer until Parnell returns, which as of now looks to be next spring.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 07

Mets’ Bobby Parnell Faces Surgery

The New York Mets aren’t ready to say it yet, but there’s a good chance Bobby Parnell’s breakthrough season might be broken down. Parnell has a herniated disk in his neck that could require surgery is  a pair of epidurals don’t work.

PARNELL: Surgery possible.

PARNELL: Surgery possible.

Parnell had an epidural Monday and could receive another in a week. Surgery could be the next option if they don’t take.

It is an option Parnell must prepare himself to take right now, because extending this season isn’t as important a priority as in getting ready for next year. Should Parnell rush himself back, or allow the Mets to hurry him, and there’s another setback it could hinder his preparation for next season.

The Mets have numerous examples of where they’ve rushed an injured player. They appear to have a closer worth building around in Parnell and can’t risk losing him to a serious injury by mishandling him.

“It’s just a holding pattern right now,’’ Parnell told reporters. “We’ll see what happens. … I’m going to try that until I can’t anymore. If it doesn’t work, then surgery is an option. If I do have surgery, they said I’ll be ready for spring training next year. It’s just a waiting game right now.

“I don’t want the season to end like this. I want to get back. But I’ve got to be smart about it, too. If I go out and re-injure it right quick, it’s going to set me back even farther.’’

MEJIA SHINES AGAIN: The Mets must be thrilled with what they received from Jenrry Mejia Tuesday night against Colorado.

First, he pitched to the expectations long expected of him, and second, he did so without the bone spur pain that bothered him in his previous start.

Mejia will have surgery to remove the bone spur in the offseason.

In his three starts since being promoted, Mejia has three walks, 18 strikeouts with a 1.96 ERA. That’s far more encouraging than his last assignment with the Mets in 2010, when then-manager Jerry Manuel attempted to force-feed him a reliever’s role. The shuffling back-and-forth between roles eventually led to an elbow injury and Tommy John surgery.

If the Mets just keep him as a starter and let him develop, they would have only wasted time and not a potential career.

FLORES ADMITS TO NERVES: Rookie prospect Wilmer Flores was hitless in his first four major league at-bats last night and committed an error at third base.

Later Flores conceded his anxiousness.

“A little bit too excited,’’ Flores said. “You want to do well. I was a little bit nervous that first at-bat, but I had fun.’’

Fun is only part of it, because with David Wright out for perhaps as long as a month, this is Flores’ chance to make a strong impression.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 30

Mets Standing Pat As Deadline Nears And That’s Not Bad

Unless the New York Mets are completely blown away, they will hold on to Marlon Byrd and Bobby Parnell, and this is a positive development.

The Mets have been talking about changing their culture since bringing in GM Sandy Alderson and trading either or both would be counterproductive.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

After several seasons of struggles, Parnell finally appears to found his niche as a closer. Trading a player who has worked hard to reach a positive level sends a poor signal throughout the organization. There should be some reward for success after hard work, and trading Parnell is not that reward.

Plus, and this is most important, if the Mets are to reach contender status next season as is their timetable – because they’ll have almost $50 million off the books – they will need a closer. Trading somebody who is effective and on a reasonable contract is taking a step back.

As for Byrd, he paid the price for his suspension and has been productive, picking up part of the power slack created by poor seasons from Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

Byrd plays hard, hustles, and by all accounts is a positive presence in the clubhouse. He’ll probably want two years, but the Mets should counter with one and an option.

If the Mets are to make a run at .500, which is possible, they’ll need Byrd. I don’t believe the Mets will extend Byrd now, but doing so would send a powerful message.

Considering Byrd is 35 and has some baggage, they probably won’t receive much for him. His value could be greater as an example to some of the younger players.

I don’t know if he tried to work with Jordany Valdespin, but then again who knows if anybody can reach him? Valdespin, who was named Player of the Week for Triple-A Las Vegas, was also recently ejected from a game, a sign his control issues are still there.

Another thing about Byrd is the Mets have to know what direction they are heading as far as next year. They already have in mind a contract offer, including the number of years.

The Mets are trying to win with what they have now and probably won’t do anything.

Outside of Byrd and Parnell, there are other Mets who could be attractive to a contender, notably John Buck – whose time is being reduced and with the probably promotion of Travis d’Arnaud. Buck, however, has a connection with Matt Harvey, so that appears a long shot.

Detroit needs a shortstop, and if Omar Quintanilla isn’t in their plans, why not move him and bring up Wilmer Flores when he’s physically ready? Eventually, the Mets will need to see what Flores can do. I wouldn’t even be adverse to trading Ruben Tejada.

Relievers LaTroy Hawkins could also help a contender, as could Jeremy Hefner or Carlos Torres if the Mets are convinced of Jon Niese’s return.

Finally, there is Ike Davis, who is playing considerably better since returning from Las Vegas. If the Mets already made up their mind in the negative as far as bringing back Davis, they why are they holding on to him?

There must be a team out there needing a power left-handed bat and believes a change of scenery would help Davis.

 

Jul 23

Bobby Parnell Laments Luck; Doesn’t Take Responsibility

The New York Mets gift-wrapped a game last night to Atlanta. However, there’s nothing to like after hearing Bobby Parnell, who did more dancing than pitching after blowing his fifth save opportunity.

The Mets don’t want to deal Parnell because they believe he’s their closer of the future. His 18 saves is a good indicator, but he’s not immune from some head scratching and wonder.

PARNELL: Spits the bit. (AP)

PARNELL: Spits the bit. (AP)

Yes, Parnell was victimized by a hit against the shift, a bloop and a passed ball, but the bottom line is the closer must overcome and pitch out of trouble, whether it is somebody else’s or his.

Mariano Rivera didn’t become the greatest closer in history by whining about bad luck as Parnell did.

“I didn’t feel like I gave up any hard-hit balls,’’ Parnell told reporters last night. “They just, unfortunately, got through. I wouldn’t have done anything different, I don’t think.

“I didn’t walk anybody. I didn’t give up free bases. I attacked the zone. Unfortunately it just wasn’t my day.’’

Really? You wouldn’t have done anything differently? You were happy with the placement of the pitch John Buck couldn’t handle? You were happy with the grooved pitch to Reed Johnson that produced the go-ahead run? Seriously, you attacked the zone?

Let’s first look at the passed ball. Parnell said he thought he saw a fastball sign, but Buck called for a curveball. It’s the ninth inning, so you must be sure. That’s not bad luck, that’s not taking care of business.

“We don’t know who was right and who was wrong,” Parnell said. “We’re not going to worry about it, and get them tomorrow.’’

It’s not that simple. It is the pitcher who decides what, when and where’s he’s going to throw a pitch. If the pitcher doesn’t like what is called, or is uncertain, then he doesn’t throw the pitch. It is that simple. What Parnell did was surrender control of the situation.

There are times saying “get them tomorrow,’’ doesn’t cut it and last night was one of them. While it remains possible there was legitimate miscommunication, it is Parnell’s job to get the next hitters out, which he did not.

Somehow, Parnell must find a way to get the outs he needed, as Dillon Gee did in a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh.

Parnell has made significant improvement, but remains a project. His .097 WHIP is a career best, as is his 2.0 walks per nine innings average. His 6.8 hits per nine innings are his best since 2008.

However, his 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings is his lowest since 2009, which leads to the suggestion when Parnell needs a strikeout, as he did last night, he’s unable to get it despite still throwing in the mid-to-high 90s.

Terry Collins defended not playing the infield in against Chris Johnson, who hit a game-tying RBI grounder to shortstop, when what Parnell desperately needed was the strikeout.

Unlike Rivera, whose cutter might be baseball’s most devastating pitch, Parnell’s money pitch is still the fastball, which is reliant on movement, location and velocity – in that order – to be effective.

Parnell’s wasn’t working, which made throwing the knuckle-curve difficult.

It is about execution. Luck is irrelevant. Great closers understand the difference.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 19

Sacking Terry Collins Now Would Be Unfair

Terry Collins will go to home plate tomorrow with the line-up card and likely get booed. Surely, he’ll hear it when he makes a pitching change.

COLLINS: Give him a fair chance.

COLLINS: Give him a fair chance.

It won’t be fair, but we know few things in baseball aren’t fair.

Collins doesn’t have a contract beyond this season, and his lame duck status rises to the surface when the Mets go into a tailspin, as they did last week when they lost a season-high six straight games, and he later blasted the fans over the Jordany Valdespin episode.

I ripped him over Valdespin with no regrets, but Collins does deserve some points for his clarification the next day. He didn’t retract, which is fine, didn’t say he was misquoted, which is commendable, but said there was room for interpretation.

Sometimes, I don’t get where Collins is coming from when he waffles – for example, I don’t think he gave Collin Cowgill a long enough opportunity in center/leadoff at the start of the season – but for the most part realize he’s dealing with a lack of depth and talent.

Assuming there’s no turnaround, this will be Collins’ third straight losing season, enough to get most managers sacked, but there is a unique scenario in Flushing.

Collins was not hired to take the Mets to the playoffs. He was hired as a caretaker and to change the culture. He is being asked to win a poker hand with five cards worth of mismatched talent. When it comes to discarding cards, Collins might keep David Wright and Matt Harvey, but that’s about it.

Sandy Alderson – also hired as a caretaker – and ownership, which is trying to stabilize its financial ship, have not given Collins a genuine opportunity to win.

Collins has not changed the culture, but he’s not had total support from Alderson in that regard. How else can you explain Valdespin’s presence on the roster? Also, Alderson’s comments yesterday about it not being imminent Ike Davis will be optioned shows a lack of changing the culture.

And, not for a second do I buy there’s no other alternative. The issue isn’t who will play first base for a month in a lost season, but why won’t they make the decision to do something to help Davis?

That falls on Alderson, not Collins.

A way you determine whether a manager is reaching his players is if they’ll still hustle for him and if he loses his clubhouse, and there’s not enough evidence of either. The captain, Wright, plays hard and is the proper example.

However, keeping Valdespin’s toxic attitude and Davis’ dysfunctional bat could gradually eat away at this team’s psyche. Collins’ lame duck status can also do the same.

If the Mets are to be financially whole after this season and show a willingness to spend to add talent, then Collins should get the opportunity to manage that team. He should get the chance to manage with some degree of talent in his dugout.

In looking at the Mets’ 25-man roster, I only see a handful of players I can say with certainty will be back next year: Wright, Harvey, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell. I can see Daniel Murphy back, but also dealt in July. I can see somebody else playing shortstop next year. Everybody else I can see gone.

That indicates no core or organizational depth, and that’s not Collins’ fault. Give Collins time with a full deck and then make a decision. It’s not fair to do so otherwise.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos