Aug 31

Walker’s Season Likely Over; What Of Career With Mets?

UPDATED: Walker facing surgery.

Before leaving the podium, Mets manager Terry Collins dropped the other shoe. After all, they wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t encore good news with bad. This time, it was the sobering news Neil Walker was facing having season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

“This is a big disappointment,” said a dejected Collins. “He’s had a big year for us.”

The announcement came moments after Kelly Johnson‘s three-run double in the eighth inning proved the difference in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Miami. The other two runs came on Wilmer Flores‘ two-run homer. Ironically, Johnson and Flores figure to get the lion’s share of the time at second base with Walker gone.

WALKER: Status unknown. (AP)

WALKER: Facing surgery. (AP)

With the victory, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games to climb back into the wild-card race. They are in it, also in large part, because of what Walker gave them in April with nine homers and 19 RBI and his hot streak in early August.

In April, there were numerous reports about the need to bring Walker back for 2017, because with Yoenis Cespedes expected to opt out, the Mets couldn’t afford to lose both.

With Walker’s season over, one must wonder if the same can be said of his Mets’ career. Walker can leave as a free agent this winter, but the injury takes away whatever leverage he had because a bad back represents a terrible credit report.

As good as Walker played, perhaps an even longer-lasting impression is David Wright. Looking at how long Wright struggled might have been a deciding factor in Walker’s decision. After all, having surgery now might enhance his chances of playing next season considering a six-month recovery time.

Somebody will sign Walker, but it will likely be a one-year deal with incentives based on games played. Considering what they’ve gone through with Wright, I’m not sure they’ll go in that direction with Walker.

Walker was having a tremendous season, hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. In 23 games since July 27, Walker was batting .440 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored. That’s a significant loss for a team in a pennant race.

For the short term, the Mets are in decent position at second base with Flores and Johnson.

When Daniel Murphy left, there was speculation Flores could inherit second base, but that notion was quickly dashed when the Mets signed Walker. Then, when Wright went down, Flores was to play third, but that changed when Jose Reyes was signed.

Now, with Walker gone, Flores might finally be getting his chance.

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Aug 27

Still Like Bruce Trade

Jay Bruce sat out of Saturday’s game by Mets manager Terry Collins for a “mental health” day, which wasn’t a bad idea considering he struck out four times the night before.

“I think it’s human nature (to try to impress your new team),” Collins told reporters. “I don’t know one player who didn’t instantly want to make an impact.”

BRUCE: Still like the deal. (AP)

BRUCE: Still like the deal. (AP)

Never mind the Mets dumped the Phillies for a second straight game, 12-1, and Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera homered, they will need Bruce before this season is done.

In 22 games since coming over to the Mets from Cincinnati, Bruce is 13-for-81 (.160) with two homers and six RBI, but I still like the trade. And, I’ll like it even better when Bruce starts hitting again, and with 27 homers and 86 RBI, he’s too good a hitter not to. While Collins’ motivation is mental, Bruce said his problem is more mechanical.

“It looks like I’ve been moving away from the plate,” said Bruce, whose extra work also entails looking at video. “So many small things like that happen. That’s baseball. I don’t think I forgot how to hit. I do a lot of my damage middle-away, and I’ve gotten away from that.”

Just because Cespedes is hitting home runs again, you have to remember the context in which the deal was made in the first place. Cespedes was gimpy and Curtis Granderson was – and still is – mired in a terrible slump.

Even with their offense non-existent for much of July, the Mets were in the race for a wild card. Also at the time, Bruce was leading the National League with 80 RBI and hitting well over .300 with RISP. Also part of the Mets’ reasoning was for Bruce to be a safety net if Cespedes opts out. Cespedes indicated he’d like to stay with the Mets but hasn’t made a commitment to doing so.

Conversely, the Mets have a club option on Bruce, so if Cespedes returns they could let the latter leave. The Mets also have to decide where Michael Conforto fits into their plans, and if they want to go one final season with Granderson or buy him out.

But, that’s next year. For now, Bruce has 33 games remaining in this dwindling season to work out of his slump.

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Aug 26

Three Mets’ Storylines: Lovin’ Colon Again

Once again Bartolo Colon gave us another night for us to cherish all he gives us. The 43-year-old Colon backed seven strong innings with his offensive prowess, getting two hits and scoring a couple of runs to help the Mets roll the Phillies Friday night.

COLON: Does it again. (AP)

    COLON: Does it again. (AP)

As he usually does, Colon picked up the Mets when they needed him most. He’s 6-1 starting after a loss. But after Jon Niese left after getting just one out this week in St. Louis, and Steven Matz on the DL and the Mets about to push back or skip Jacob deGrom for his next start Monday, the Mets needed Colon to preserve the bullpen.

“The bullpen needed a blow,”  manager Terry Collins said.

The season started for the Mets with the storyline of those young arms and Colon until Zack Wheeler could come off the disabled list. Then Colon, as he did last year, would enter the bullpen. As it has turned out, Colon is the ace of this staff. With the 9-4 victory, Colon won his team-high 12th game and 230th of his career to lead active pitchers. It was also his 20th win in his four years with the Mets.

Not bad for somebody the Mets signed in the winter of 2013 as a stopgap when Matt Harvey was injured. His next start is Wednesday against Miami.

Colon was the Mets’ top storyline on the night, followed by their mashing and the continued struggles of Jay Bruce.

MORE FLEXING: For the tenth time this season – and the second time in their history to start a game – the Mets went back-to-back. This time Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera connected off Adam Morgan.

The homer was Reyes’ 415th as a Met to tie him for fourth on the franchise list with Mike Piazza.

Wilmer Flores broke the game, 6-1, with a grand slam in the fifth. Cabrera hit his second homer – a two-run drive – that made it 9-1 in the sixth.

With right-handers scheduled to start the next two games for the Phillies, there’s no reason to believe Collins will deviate and start him. Flores has 14 homers and 44 RBI this season.

But, Flores will never learn to get comfortable against right-handed pitching until he faces more of it. The numbers indicate Flores has more at-bats against right-handers, but that stands to reason as there are far more right-handed pitchers.

STILL LIKE BRUCE TRADE: Bruce – dropped to sixth in the order – continued his horrid play, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

In 22 games since coming over to the Mets from Cincinnati, Bruce is 13-for-81 (.160) with two homers and six RBI.

Even so, I still like the trade for several reasons, the first being the Mets are trying to reach the playoffs, and at the time of the deal Yoenis Cespedes was gimpy and Curtis Granderson in a terrible slump (he still is).

Also part of their reasoning was to be a safety net if Cespedes opts out. Cespedes said this week he wants to stay with the Mets but isn’t sure.

Although he’s not hitting now, he has 34 games remaining to catch fire. Nobody knows what will happen next year, but as long as the Mets are in it, Bruce can eventually help them. He’s too good a hitter (27 homers and 86 RBI) not to.

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Aug 18

Stop Fooling Around And Bring Up Conforto

Just a few months ago when optimism still surrounded the Mets, manager Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the No. 3 spot in the order and promised he would get at-bats against left-handers. After all, Collins said at the time, Conforto represented the future.

CONFORTO: Needs to play. (Getty)

CONFORTO: Needs to play. (Getty)

None of that lasted long when Conforto went into a slump, as young players frequently do, Collins and the Mets showed no patience. First, Conforto was dropped in the order, then dropped off at the airport to ride the Vegas Shuttle.

Collins said Conforto still “is a big piece of what we want to do,” and when he turns it around in Triple-A he would be back soon. Conforto is tearing it up in Vegas but remains 2,500 miles from New York. So much for that promise.

Things have changed. The Mets are no longer a threat to the Nationals in the NL East and are fading in the wild card. They are four games out and are in danger of being overtaken by Colorado (Mets lead by 2.5 games) and Philadelphia (they lead by 4.5 games).

Yeah, you read that last part correctly.

Conforto needs to come up now. The best position for him is left field, but that won’t happen because the Mets insist on placating Yoenis Cespedes, who can’t, or refuses, to play center. Conforto is willing to try center, but where does that leave Curtis Granderson?

Since Cespedes won’t budge – the Mets should hope he opts out and leaves – it’s down to the young guy they can push around in Conforto or the veteran with the big salary and small production in Granderson. The Mets won’t touch Cespedes; GM Sandy Alderson must talk to him through “his people.”

The decision on what to do with the Mets’ outfield is a battle of egos and dollars over the potential of young talent. That’s not the way to go about turning your season around.

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Aug 17

Time To Sit Granderson

There are cold stretches, slumps and what Mets’ outfielder Curtis Granderson is currently in, which has gone on long enough.

Manager Terry Collins said if you don’t hit, you’ll sit, and Granderson hasn’t hit all season. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met around baseball, but his smile doesn’t drive in runs. Come to think about it, neither do his home runs. His 32 RBI off 18 homers is one of the most staggering statistics I’ve ever seen.

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can't. (AP)

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can’t. (AP)

So, why is he still in the lineup when Michael Conforto is in the minor leagues? Ditto for Brandon Nimmo.

Let’s look at more frightening numbers: Granderson is hitting .224 this season; is batting .127 (10-79) with RISP; and .165 (15-91) over his last 23 games.

Somehow, none on this has sunk in on Collins.

“You still look up and this guy is going to end up with over 20 homers,” Collins told reporters. “He’s not necessarily a RBI guy, so no matter where you think you should hit anybody in the order, they are going to end up coming up with guys on base at times.”

It might be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard from a manager in nearly 25 years around this game.

First of all, he has 18 homers now, so what’s two more? Secondly, and even more importantly, if you end up with runners on base your job is to drive them in. Memo to Collins: Everybody is a RBI guy.

Perhaps Granderson is spending too much time around Collins because his explanation made no sense. None.

“Initially, I was in the position where I was going to lead off and set the tone and things like that,” Granderson told reporters.

“And, I’ve mixed when to be aggressive versus when to set the tone for everybody else, so there’s been pitches I could have gone after and attacked and maybe did something with that I let go by.”

Huh?

Granderson’s responsibility as a hitter is two-fold: 1) if there’s nobody on base he’s supposed to get on base, but a .317 on-base percentage says he’s not doing it, and 2) if there are runners on base his job is to advance them or drive them in.

It’s not all that hard to understand, but obviously with Granderson this season, much harder to do.

Granderson’s job is to always be aggressive, and he hasn’t been. It’s time to get somebody in the lineup that can be.

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