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.

 

May 03

Mets Must Sort Out Rotation And Houston Mess

Terry Collins spent much of the day deliberating his options regarding Chris Schwinden and the Mets’ rotation. After two rocky starts in place of Mike Pelfrey, Schwinden has proved not to be the answer.

After yesterday’s blowout, Collins wouldn’t say if Schwinden would come out of the rotation. He didn’t say he’d remain, either.

The Mets’ tissue paper thin depth was always going to be an Achilles Heel this year and it has come to pass. There are pitchers doing better than others on the minor league level, but nobody screaming for a promotion.

One option might be to keep Schwinden in the rotation in the hope he works out of this or if Chris Young is ready.

Whether it be on the minor league level or unsigned scrap heap free-agent, the odds against the Mets landing a workhorse in the rotation seems slim. I would have liked the Mets to sign a pitcher in the off-season, but that’s 20/20 hindsight.

There wasn’t a lot of things to like about the Houston series, although listening to the “Eyes of Texas,” during the seventh-inning stretch was good to hear, including David Wright’s comment the Colorado series drained the Mets.

That can’t happen, which Wright acknowledged and is a good sign. No excuses, said Wright, the Mets just played flat.

“You know, we knew we were going to have some ups and downs, especially with a lot of the young guys that we have on this roster playing right now,” Wright told reporters. “But this is what we need to fix if we want to become the team that we think we are capable of becoming. There are way too many inconsistencies right now. It seems like we play great for a series and then poorly for a series. And we’re going to have to straighten that out.”

One of the flaws of recent Mets teams has been their inconsistency. Win three, lose four. Managers constantly say they want their teams to just win series, one at a time. Win two or three, win three of four.

That is what the Mets did in 2006 and for five months in 2007.

Of course, consistency is easier to attain with better pitching which leads us to the hole in the rotation. The key game in the Houston series was the Jon Niese game. R.A. Dickey pitched well the previous night and Schwinden was awful. The game they needed to salvage the series was Niese’s start and he was anything but solid.

Growing pains? That all depends on how the Mets respond. Coming up are Arizona and Philadelphia, both good tests.

 

 

Apr 20

Niese Needs To Pick Up Mets

The Mets are now paying Jon Niese stopper money. Tonight he needs to earn it against San Francisco’s Barry Zito as the Mets seek to stabilize after losing three of their last four games.

After a surprisingly fast start, the Mets limp home with their rotation crushed, giving up 31 runs in the four games.

NIESE: Stopper

“We need Jon to give us a game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. So far, Niese has given the Mets two, winning both behind a nifty 2.13 ERA.

Niese will attempt to pick up the mess left by Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey in the last two games, and the bullpen’s meltdown Sunday at Philadelphia.

The Mets have always liked the physical aspects of Niese’s game; his location, velocity and movement on his pitches. However, the more they see him the more they appreciate his poise and composure. He ‘s not afraid to challenge hitters, including when behind in the count. That’s how one becomes a stopper.