Aug 25

Mets Should Not Hold Pat Hand At Deadline

Most reports indicate the Mets won’t make a deal by the August 31 deadline. However, after watching Seth Lugo’s first career victory cut short by a cramp in his right calf, they shouldn’t be so sure about that position.

All teams put players on waivers throughout the season to ascertain who might be interested in making a deal later. If nobody claims that player – the term is “clears waivers,” – then he could be available. You’d be surprised who might show up on the list.

LUGO: Solid before injury. (AP)

LUGO: Solid before injury. (AP)

We can assume most contenders are adding this time of season. We can also assume the teams sparring with for the Mets for a wild-card would also be interested in adding a pitcher, but since these things are done in reverse order, as of now that player would slip to the Mets before the Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals or Giants could block the deal.

There’s such fragility with starting pitchers as the Mets learned this season with Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler – neither will pitch again this year – and now Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and possibly Noah Syndergaard are suspect. Matz is on the DL, deGrom’s next start will be pushed back, and everybody is waiting for the other shoe to fall on Syndergaard.

The Mets have been fortunate with Lugo, so far, but what will they get Sunday from Robert Gsellman, who’ll be making his first career start?

Also fragile are playoff opportunities. Prior to last season, 2006 was when the Mets were in the postseason. As we learned this year, injuries and bad luck happen. Will the Mets be in contention next year? Nobody can say.

However, everybody in the wild-card hunt has issues. Everybody.

The Mets are now 3.5 games behind for the second wild-card with 35 games remaining following Thursday’s 10-6 victory in St. Louis. Sometime in that span, the Mets might need somebody to step up and take the ball. Who are they going to give it to? Rafael Montero? Sean Gilmartin? Gabriel Ynoa? Surely, the Logan Verrett boat has sailed.

The Marlins are going after it. Reportedly, they are interested in the Braves’ Julio Teheran after a proposed deal for Arizona’s Shelby Miller fell through.

Meanwhile, the Mets seem they will go with a pat hand. And, it isn’t all that great a hand.

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Aug 17

Has Syndergaard Turned The Corner?

UPDATED: Adding quotes by Syndergaard and Collins.

For awhile last night it appeared Noah Syndergaard turned the corner and all would be right with the Mets again. However, as has been his pattern, he ran into the wall otherwise known as the sixth inning and was haunted by familiar ghosts.

I won’t go into the bone spur issue because when you live in a 98 mph., neighborhood, your arm has to be sound. Stolen bases are a problem – the Diamondbacks had four more Tuesday night and nine in his two starts against them – but one he should eventually solve with his experience.

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

The main issue with Syndergaard has been his pitch-count efficiency and inability to put away a hitter or shut down an inning. It’s why he doesn’t give the Mets the number of innings he should considering the number of pitches he throws.

Of his 23 starts, he has gone at least seven innings only nine times. Only twice did he venture into the eighth inning. Twice.

Last night he cruised through five innings and was good as advertised but unraveled in the sixth. Yes, he was hamstrung by T.J. Rivera‘s defense, but when you’re supposed to be an ace, you must find a way to get out of the inning. The Mets survived the inning, but not Syndergaard.

This is not what you’d expect from somebody deemed an ace, much less a Super Hero.

Roughly one of four pitches he throws is fouled off, meaning he’s not putting away hitters. He averages over a strikeout an inning, but only four times has he reached double-digits in strikeouts, the last being June 15 against Pittsburgh.

Double-digit strikeout games signify going deep into games. Syndergaard went deep with a two-run homer in the fifth but was done an inning later. He expects more of himself.

From how he overpowered the Diamondbacks early in the game, his final line of four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings was a disappointment despite going to 10-7 in the Mets’ 7-5 victory. Also discouraging was he threw 106 pitches.

Syndergaard took a six-run lead into the sixth. He should have coasted the way he did against Pittsburgh and the Cubs on July 3, his last win before last night. He went into the eighth in those games.

Jake Lamb reached on Rivera’s error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Syndergaard struck out Yasmany Tomas, but gave up a single to Wellington Castillo and two-run triple to Mitch Haniger. A second error by Rivera let in another run. After an infield single, Syndergaard left in favor of Jerry Blevins and the last image of him was throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

Sure, blame the inning on Rivera, but it’s up to the pitcher to overcome disaster and put away the next hitter, something Syndergaard didn’t do. With his mounting pitch count manager Terry Collins didn’t have the confidence to let him finish the inning.

When Syndergaard cruised early in the game, he challenged hitters inside, his command was sharp and his curveball had bite. All encouraging signs.

“In the middle innings I thought he threw the ball great,” Collins said. “When he commanded his fastball in the right spots they weren’t able to do much against him.”

But, he couldn’t sustain. Whenever he loses it quickly, it raises the question about the bone spur. The Mets believe – and Syndergaard concurs – this is a pain tolerance issue. The spur is something that should be dealt with by surgery in the offseason as it will be with Steven Matz.

“My arm felt great,” Syndergaard said. “I was fluid in my delivery. I felt it was a step in the right direction.;;

There are games, like those against the Pirates and Cubs – and for five innings last night – where he dominates and pitches to the ace-like levels of Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver. But, he’s not there yet on a consistent basis.

The elbow spur bothers me, and I’m sure it bothers Syndergaard more than he lets on. Of his last seven starts he reached the sixth three times before being pulled. Is it the spur or did hitters catch up to him?

Before last night, Syndergaard had four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six starts. In looking for an explanation for what’s happening one thing surfaces.

This is Syndergaard’s first full season and there are growing pains. His fastball averages 98 and his changeup averages 89, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard. Just because he throws lightning and is built like a linebacker doesn’t mean he’s automatically Don Drysdale.

Syndergaard is ahead of most with his experience level, but not where he envisions himself. He needs more polish. He must learn to take something off his pitches; to reach back for the 100 mph., heater when he needs it, not with every pitch.

The bone spur is an issue, but one surgery should resolve. The real problem with Syndergaard is the expectations are exceedingly high from the Mets, his teammates, the media, and the fans. Everybody expects more of him – including the pitcher himself – than he is capable of giving.

Too many expect him to be the second Seaver instead of letting him develop into the first Syndergaard. He is still growing. He’s not the force he expects of himself to be.

Not yet, anyway.

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Aug 16

Three Mets’ Storylines: Colon Rocked Hard

Bartolo Colon usually gives the Mets a chance to win. Not so Monday night in Arizona, when thanks to an error by third baseman T.J. Rivera to start the game, the Mets fell into a three-run hole they could not climb out of.

The Diamondbacks had four hits in the inning, all of them scorched.

COLON: Not his night. (AP)

COLON: Not his night. (AP)

Colon had given up single runs in his last two starts, but gave up five runs on nine hits and two walks over four innings in a 10-6 loss.

The Mets picked away at a six-run deficit, but it was just one of those nights where there seemed little doubt as to the outcome.

The only bright spots for the Mets were Travis d’Arnaud getting three hits, a homer by Neil Walker, and are you ready for this? Colon drew the first walk of his career in his 282nd plate appearance.

It was a bad night all around as the Nationals and Marlins both won.

The other main storylines pertaining to the Mets today was what would they do when Yoenis Cespedes comes off the disabled list and several injury updates.

PLAN FOR CESPEDES’ RETURN: The Mets signed Cespedes to play center field, but he’ll play left when he comes off the disabled list Friday in San Francisco. The Mets procrastinated for nearly a month before placing him on the disabled list, and although I’m not crazy about him calling the shots, it’s prudent to preserve him as much as possible.

However, if he can’t run or is limited defensively, then they should leave him on the disabled list and bring up Michael Conforto to play left.

Cespedes began a rehab assignment today in Port St. Lucie and went 0-for-3.

INJURY UPDATES: Zack Wheeler will be examined Wednesday by Dr. James Andrews. A negative exam could necessitate another Tommy John surgery. … Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday in Port St. Lucie. He’s expected to be activated Saturday. … Pitcher Logan Verrett is trying to get his demotion to Triple-A rescinded into a DL appointment. Verrett says he has a stiff neck. A MRI showed nothing significant. Walker update: Walker could leave the team Tuesday on paternity leave. He could be away for up to three days.

EXTRA INNINGS: Reports say the Mets aren’t interested in trading for Houston outfielder Carlos Gomez, who was designated for assignment. … There is also no interest in reliever Jonathan Papelbon, who was released by Washington. … The Mets announced their season-ticket prices would rise by 3.95 percent next year. … Original Met catcher Choo Choo Coleman died Monday three days shy of his 81st birthday. … Monday’s lineup featured five position players who were either not in the Opening Day lineup or on the roster.

 

Aug 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Is Bone Spur Issue Over For Matz?

The Mets didn’t get their first no-hitter until their 51st season. It was too much to ask for Steven Matz to give them their second four years later.

Matz took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Alexi Ramirez lined his 105th of the game into right field. Mets manager Terry Collins jumped out of the dugout as if launched by a spring to answer the question that had been on everybody’s mind.

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

“I wasn’t going to visit the Johan Santana scenario again, I can tell you that,” said Collins revisiting the night of June 1, 2012, when he allowed the veteran left-hander to stay in to throw 134 pitches in the franchise’s only no-hitter.

Santana, who was coming off shoulder surgery, pitched a few good games later that season, but was never the same.

To this day, Collins regrets letting Santana stay in, and he would later say: “It was without a doubt, the worst night I’ve ever spent in baseball.”

Santana was a veteran, but Matz was making just his 28th career start. This is his first full season in the majors. Collins compared the two through the prism of his baseball roots.

“I can’t get away from my background in player development,” Collins said. “I can see the big picture. I wasn’t going to jeopardize his career for one game.”

The big picture includes that Matz has pitched with a bone spur that will require surgery this off-season. There was speculation he might be shut down for the season. However, he’s been superb in his last two starts.

Even had Matz pitched a no-hitter, perhaps the most important thing coming out of the day is he might be past that issue. Matz threw 105 pitches in beating San Diego, 5-1, Sunday; he threw a career high 120 pitches earlier in the week in a 5-3 loss to Arizona.

“I think it has been out of my mind for awhile,” Matz said of the bone spur. “It has been since I decided to pitch with it. … My arm has been feeling great. I’ve had no problems.”

Matz thanked Collins for letting him stay in for 120 pitches against Arizona.

“I think it’s good when you get deep into games,” he said. “You have to have better command of your pitches when you’re not throwing as hard.”

Matz was the story of the day. The other storylines was the offense and the upcoming schedule.

TACK ON RUNS: The Mets first got on the board with homers from Wilmer Flores and Neil Walker, but more impressive were three manufactured runs in the eighth inning.

In the epitome of a manufactured run, Jose Reyes singled, stole second and went to third on the catcher’s throw into center, and scored on a wild pitch.

They added two more on T.J. Rivera’s two-run double.

The late runs enabled Collins to by-pass Jeurys Familia because it wasn’t a save situation, thereby keeping him fresh for Monday.

THE SCHEDULE: After being swept by Arizona, the Mets have won two of three since Collins’ post-game rant to finish the homestand 2-4. They two victories marked the first time they won back-to-back games since before the All-Star break.

The Mets begin an 11-game road trip Monday in Arizona, with three games against the Diamondbacks, four with the Giants and three in St. Louis.

With the victory the Mets moved one game over .500 and are two games behind the second wild card spot. The Dodgers, Marlins, Cardinals and Pirates are ahead of them.

There have been several times this season when Collins looked ahead at a portion of the Mets’ schedule and defined it as vital. He made no such proclamation before this time.

He didn’t have to.

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Jun 14

Moving Granderson To Third Is Best Mets Can Do

The argument for the Mets using Curtis Granderson in the leadoff spot last year was his high on-base percentage. Fueled by 91 walks, it was a solid .364 last season, which enabled him to score 98 runs.

His current numbers refute that argument. Granderson’s on-base percentage is a puny .316 this year with only 27 walks, but 61 strikeouts. These are numbers not befitting a leadoff hitter, which is why the decision to move him to third in the order, sandwiched between Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes is a good one.

GRANDERSON: Seeking a spark, Mets move him to third on order. (Getty)

GRANDERSON: Seeking a spark, Mets move him to third on order. (Getty)

Actually, there is not much else the Mets could have done. They aren’t hitting, especially with runners in scoring position. They aren’t getting on base. They have three starters on the disabled list and Neil Walker’s back and Michael Conforto’s wrist have them sidelined. With no help coming from the minors or in a trade, it is time to tinker.

With no help coming from the minors or in a trade, it is time to tinker. Moving Granderson to a traditional RBI spot seems like a logical first step, For his 12 homers, he should have a lot more than 20 RBI.

The Mets’ order tonight reminds me of when managers of slumping teams pulled the lineup out of a hat. It’s not quite that bad for Terry Collins, who was released from a Milwaukee hospital and will be on the bench.

Here’s tonight’s order:

Alejandro De Aza, LF: His .181 average isn’t encouraging, but he’s fast enough to be considered at the top of the order.

Cabrera, SS: Is hitting .267, but has been fairly consistent. Is not really a No. 2 hitter in the classic sense, but is comfortable here.

Granderson, RF: Not the prototypical No. 3 hitter, but his power (12 homers) fits in the middle of the order. He should have more RBI and should get more opportunities more RBI opportunities with Cabrera, and perhaps in the future, Juan Lagares hitting ahead of him. Hitting ahead of Cespedes, his walks could increase.

Cespedes, CF: Has hit five of his 16 homers with RISP. Overall, in the 57 games in which he has played, he’s batting .282 with 16 homers, 40 RBI and 34 runs scored. In his first 57 games with the Mets last year, he hit .287 with 17 homers, 44 RBI and 39 runs scored.

Kelly Johnson, 2B: Is 4-for-9 since coming over from Atlanta. Has gone 55 at-bats since his last homer, so he’s due.

Wilmer Flores, 3B: Is hitting .406 (13-32) since taking over for David Wright. Hit a game-winning single to beat the Pirates, June 8, at Pittsburgh.

James Loney, 1B: Has done well in place of Lucas Duda, including hitting a two-run homer, June 3, at Miami. Is a lifetime .314 hitter against Pirates.

Kevin Plawecki, C: Hitting only .205. I can see the Mets sticking with Rene Rivera as the backup when Travis d’Arnaud comes off the disabled list probably next week.

Jacob deGrom, P: Lost to the Pirates, June 7, giving up three runs in six innings. DeGrom hasn’t registered a win since April 30, getting two losses and five no-decisions in that span.

As I wrote the other day, the Mets are floundering and in dire need of a spark. Maybe this is it.