Apr 11

Mets Matters: What Went Wrong In Philly?

jeremy hefner

The Mets aren’t quite a Lindsay Lohan train wreck, but today in snowy and cold Minneapolis perhaps they can reflect on what went wrong in Philadelphia and some of these very visible cracks:

STARTING PITCHING: At 5-4, the Mets are better than expected and received strong starts in six games, but Matt Harvey and Jon Niese followed by three days of rain isn’t going to happen.

In three of their last four games the back end of the rotation has been exposed. Dillon Gee says he’s fine, but there was something wrong Tuesday night. The Mets might be better off leaving Jeremy Hefner home when they go to Philadelphia. Aaron Laffey is starting until Shaun Marcum is ready, but nobody knows what to expect when he returns.

BULLPEN: There have been some stinkers, that’s to be expected. But, nine games in and Terry Collins is already worried about overworking his relievers. That comes when there’s no back end of the rotation.

The pen is working close to three innings a game, and at this rate will be fried by July. If you recall, the porous bullpen precipitated last year’s second-half collapse.

NO POWER: Yes, they’ve homered in every game, but that’s misleading as most of that is John Buck and Daniel Murphy, with a little Lucas Duda on the side.

Nobody expects Buck to keep his pace (five homers in nine games), but if he did you can bet they’ll be shopping him in July if they aren’t winning. Ike Davis is in a dreadful slump and David Wright is joining him.

Of Wright’s 32 at-bats, 15 have come with runners on base, but he only has four RBI. Wright’s slugging percentage is way down with only two doubles and his batting average is at .250. He could use the day off.

Meanwhile, Davis has more than twice as many strikeouts as he has hits and he’s well on his way of duplicating last year’s slow first half.

Duda has been a plus, especially with his patience and ability to take the walk. He’s among the league leaders in walks. This patience will translate into home runs.

NO LEADOFF HITTER: This was a problem going into spring training and it is a problem now. CollinCowgill has the most opportunities, but hasn’t produced. Neither has Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who might be on his way to the minors as the Mets need a utility infielder.

Mike Baxter had the best game of the leadoff hitters, but Collins is reluctant to give him an extended chance. The same applies to Jordany Valdespin, who always seems to make things happen, good and bad, because of his speed.

OUTFIELD: The only constant is Duda, has Collins has gone to a platoon in the center and right, something he said he wouldn’t do. Marlon Byrd had a good start, but he’s not an everyday player.

CONCLUSION: Rocky times could be ahead. The Mets took advantage of solid starting pitching to get off to a 5-2 start, but that hasn’t continued outside of Harvey and Niese. The Mets need more from the back end of their rotation as to cut the bullpen’s innings.

The offense scored 19 runs in the first two games, but only 30 in the following seven. Buck is not going to keep this up all season. Eventually, Wright and Davis must produce or it will be a long summer.

Dec 14

Mets Won’t Benefit From Hamilton Signing With Angels

The knee-jerk reaction was obvious in the wake of the blockbuster news of Josh Hamilton signing a five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels.

Surely, the Angels could make slugging outfielders Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos available to the Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey.

Ah, the perils of the World of Twitter.

Although the Angels won’t keep Zack Greinke, they do have pitching so where dealing a hot prospect for Dickey isn’t a necessity.

If anything, the Rangers could be a better trading partner for the Mets because they can see their window shutting fast with Hamilton’s departure and their inability to land Greinke.

With the Rangers clearly regressing – Michael Young is gone – the Angels are the clear frontrunners in AL West with Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout forming as good a 1-2-3 punch as there is in the sport.

Hamilton made the rounds at the Winter Meetings and was linked to several suitors, including the Rangers, Seattle,Yankees, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

It was thought with Hamilton’s dependency issues he might stay with the Rangers, the team most familiar with him. However, Hamilton didn’t have an easy going of it at the end of last season and there was the perception Texas management was blaming their slugger for the team’s collapse.

Considering Hamilton’s condition, the high-pressure markets of New York, Boston and Philadelphia were never good fits. Los Angeles has its share of distractions – with the Rangers he traveled with a chaperone and didn’t carry cash – but is a more relaxed setting.

With the Angels not short in any specific area and Torii Hunter gone, Trumbo can easily slot in as the DH. So, why deal him?

METS WON’T GET HAIRSTON: It won’t get easier in the Mets’ pursuit of an outfielder with Scott Hairston getting attention from the Yankees, Phillies, Giants and Cardinals. All are better teams, with the Yankees and Phillies playing in bandboxes.

Hairston made $1.1 million with the Mets last season and aren’t inclined to go much higher. The Mets eschewed trading Hairston last July. As they did in the Dickey trade market, the Mets got greedy in their asking despite having no chance to win and little hope of retaining him.

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Aug 30

Gotta Like Terry Collins On Third Place Talk

OK, the Mets can move into third place with a victory this afternoon in Philadelphia. Matt Harvey’s strong performance last night, aided by a Lucas Duda homer, marked the Mets’ fourth victory in a row to give the team a pulse after a lifeless July and August.

Third place?

Big deal, says Terry Collins.

Collins wants .500, which would be difficult, but not impossible being eight games under with 31 to play. It could be done.

“You know, it’s not a goal. I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Collins said about third place. “It’s not a goal. The goal is to play as good as we can for as long as we can. For me, our goal should be to try to get back to .500. That should be our goal. Wherever that puts us at the end of the year, it puts us at the end of the year.

“But, believe me, we are not playing for third place. We’re trying to win as many games as we can. … I don’t want these guys coming in here every day looking at the box score, seeing who is in fourth. That does nothing for me.”

Play as good as they can for as long as they can. At one time, the Mets were eight games over .500. Imagine where the can be had they simply played .500 the last two months. It could have been a fun summer.

The Mets have holes, but how they played in the first half is indicative how what they can do with limited talent if they just play the game the right way.

Collins knows teams will only reach the next level if they play consistently hard and are fundamentally sound. There were too many times over the past two months when the Mets mentally took off too many plays.

It’s a long season, sure. Handling the grind is what defines a playoff caliber team. Those that concentrate and don’t take plays offs are the ones who persevere over the long haul.

I know this next comment is getting off the track a bit, but the long haul is why I hate interleague play and the unbalanced schedule so much. It used to be every team ran the same course, played the same teams, and there was a purity in determining the best over 162 games.

That’s not the case these days with some teams playing easier schedules based on their interleague schedule. The purity of the schedule, plus the limited playoff field is what long separated baseball from the other sports.

Aug 20

Mets Matters: Santana Decision And Shuffling Off From Buffalo

Sometime this afternoon we could get a clearer reading on what’s to happen with Johan Santana for the remainder of the season: Do they keep running him out there are shut him down to give him a head start on preparation for 2013?

Currently, Santana is scheduled to start Thursday against Colorado with extra rest. If he comes through, the Mets might opt to keep giving him extended rest between starts.

What we need to remember is this has been a grueling rehab for Santana coming off shoulder surgery and his arm has already exceeded what it normally goes through in a regular season. 

If Santana’s current problems are fatigue related, then shutting him down might be the prudent decision.

In other Mets’ news:

* It appears the Mets will lose ties with their Class AAA Buffalo affiliate, which is a shame as that locale makes it easier to shuttle players up and down. 

Most disappointing is Buffalo is the Mets’ third Triple-A attachment in the past decade (Norfolk, Va., and New Orleans). Las Vegas could be next.

Word is Buffalo, like Norfolk, because disenchanted from the Mets’ lack of attention or promotion to their affiliates, not to mention a poor quality of play.  Buffalo has a major league caliber stadium, so would it kill the Mets to play an exhibition game there (coming out of spring training) or even a regular season game? I would think a Mets-Pirates games would be attractive and fill the place.

Ideally, you’d like a strong relationship between the big club and its top minor league affiliate.

* The Mets open a stretch tonight of seven straight games against NL weaklings Colorado and Houston, the latter just sacked its manager. 

“Well, we’re not exactly playing great right now,’’ Terry Collins said.

The Mets follow those two series with series at Philadelphia and Miami. So, this would be the Mets’ best opportunity to get on a roll to finish over .500. That’s still what I’d like for this team.

May 07

Ruben Tejada Injury Provides Test As Mets Go To Philly

Ruben Tejada has a strained right calf and will be replaced in the line-up tonight with the Mets in Philadelphia. Justin Turner is at shortstop, but the DL for Tejada is contingent on MRI results.

The Mets are waiting as they start taking batting practice.

The Mets’ resiliency will again be tested this young season as it was when Andres Torres went down, David Wright missed several games with a fractured pinkie, Mike Pelfrey being lost for the season, Jason Bay out again and Ike Davis struggling at the plate.

That’s a lot of things going wrong early, but nothing severe enough to derail this season.

Things are never easy for the Mets and haven’t been since 2007. And, it is never easy in Philadelphia, and won’t be this week with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee starting for the Phillies.

Still, with injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the Phillies aren’t the same team that has lived on top of the NL East the past five years. In an odd quirk of scheduling, the Mets are already making their second trip into Philadelphia. They won two of three the first time, but who doesn’t expect a different Phillies team this week?

I am not and will not say the Mets are a championship caliber team this early in the season. The questions they had to open the season remain and with Tejada’s injury there are more.

Even so, the Mets are playing with a grit and intensity nobody expected and that’s something to build on. Nobody knows how this season will unfold, but there have been several unexpected developments saying there could be fun baseball this summer.

Earlier I wrote the last thing the Mets wanted was to be buried deep in the NL East by the time the weather warmed and the kids got out of school. The Mets needed more than anything to give their fan base a reason to care about this summer and they’ve done so.

ON DECK: Tonight’s Philly Lineup.