Aug 12

Mets Should Say `No’ To Puig

When I read the Forbes internet story that the Mets were considering a trade for Los Angeles’ Yasiel Puig, I couldn’t yell “NO’’ loud or fast enough. While the Mets are in desperate need of a bat, Puig isn’t the answer.

If anything, he raises more questions than he answers.

PUIG: No thanks. (Getty)

PUIG: No thanks. (Getty)

They already have an outfield headache with Yoenis Cespedes, so why would the add another one in Puig, who is now toiling in Triple-A for the Dodgers? The only splash Puig would make is to divert attention away from what we’re currently seeing.

The Dodgers are sure to want starting pitching, to which the Mets should walk away, unless the names are Jon Niese or Logan Verrett.

The thing about Puig is he’s valued more on potential than production. Even at his best, Puig’s best year was 2013 when he hit .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBI and a staggering 97 strikeouts in 382 at bats.

The following year, with 558 at-bats, he increased his RBI to 69, but hit fewer homers (16) and had a lot more strikeouts (124).

After a highlight reel rookie season, he’s regressed, and has become a problem with his partying – he posted party pictures while in the minors – attitude and lack of hustle. The Dodgers are so incensed when Puig posted party videos while he’s on the disabled list.

If you’re into the new-age numbers, his 5.4 WAR in 2014 is down to 0.8.

The Mets are trying to find playing time for Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares, who’s currently on the disabled list. They don’t need a non-productive malcontent in Puig. I might consider Puig for Cespedes straight up if for no other reason than to get out from under the latter’s huge salary ($50 million owed if he doesn’t opt out).

Puig is not a fit for the Mets. They don’t need this problem.

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Aug 10

Have Mets Cooled On D’Arnaud?

The numbers aren’t good for Travis d’Arnaud, that much can’t be disputed. Even so, Mets manager Terry Collins made a red-flag kind of move with his decision to pinch-hit for him Tuesday night.

Down by two with two outs and a runner on first in the ninth, d’Arnaud represented the tying run when his spot came up in the order. Only d’Arnaud, the Mets’ No. 1 catcher, was pinch-hit for by Ty Kelly, who would be making just his 32nd career at-bat.

D'ARNAUD: What's Mets' future? (Getty)

D’ARNAUD: What’s Mets’ future? (Getty)

Although d’Arnaud has been cold, I was surprised because he has the power to tie the game. Clearly Collins didn’t have confidence in him last night, but I wonder if he has lost all confidence.

Can you really blame him? Can you blame GM Sandy Alderson if he goes in another direction next year, and I don’t mean towards Rene Rivera and Kevin Plawecki?

The Mets have waited for d’Arnaud to not only become the player they traded for, but just stay on the field. He spent nearly two months on the disabled list this season with a strained rotator cuff, two months in 2015 and two weeks in 2014.

D’Arnaud, a lifetime .243 hitter, averages only seven homers and 25 RBI a season. Nothing at all to get excited about. More importantly, he averages just 62 games played a year. That’s something that should worry the Mets.

Defensively, the ERA of Mets’ pitchers is over a run a game higher with d’Arnaud than Rivera. Potential base stealers run at will against d’Arnaud, who doesn’t get any help with Mets pitchers’ inability to hold runners. The Diamondbacks stole five bases last night.

The Mets are in a pennant race, but at the same time keeping an eye on the future. And, right now that eye is turning away from d’Arnaud.

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Aug 09

Mets’ Lineup, Aug. 9, Against Arizona

Before the Mets can go on any winning streak they must first win two games in a row and going against Arizona’s Zack Greinke it won’t be easy. The Mets will try to get another start from Steven Matz‘s sore elbow.

Here’s who’ll go against Greinke:

Curtis Granderson – CF: It’s stunning, really. Granderson has 18 homers, but only 31 RBI. Almost incomprehensible. Batting .194 (12-64) over last 17 games.

Neil Walker – 2B: The hottest Met, hitting .476 (10-21) on the road trip. For the season is batting .260 (19-73) with 26 RBI with RISP.

Jay Bruce – RF: Seven of last nine hits have been homers, two since joining the Mets. His 84 RBI are second in the NL.

James Loney – 1B: With Lucas Duda‘s health an issue, bringing back Loney should be a priority. Has hit safely in 19 of last 22 games.

Wilmer Flores – 3B: The Mets don’t have a real place for him, and frankly, aren’t trying hard to find one. Is hitting .271 (13-48) with RISP, yet this is a team that doesn’t produce in the clutch.

Michael Conforto – LF: At one time, Mets told us he would end up their No. 3 hitter. They were also going to play him in center.

Travis d’Arnaud – C: Mets pitchers have a 3.87 ERA when he starts. Their ERA is 2.68 when Rene Rivera plays.

Matt Reynolds – SS: Looks as if he’s The Flavor of the Month at shortstop with Asdrubal Cabrera on the DL.

Steven Matz – LHP: Is 8-8 after a 7-1 start. Yes, a lot of that is because of the bone spur. Making first career start against Arizona.

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Aug 07

Three Mets’ Storylines: Will Walker Be Around In 2017 To Save Them?

Just when it looked as if things couldn’t get bleaker for the Mets, Neil Walker rescued them Sunday afternoon with a two-run, ninth-inning homer.

WALKER: Will they keep him. (AP)

WALKER: Will they keep him. (AP)

It wasn’t the first time Walker picked up the Mets by the scruff of the neck and made me wonder if Walker will be around to save them in 2017. He’s free to leave after this season and there’s been no word on what the Mets’ plans are – or Walker’s.

The Mets were lucky to get him from Pittsburgh after Daniel Murphy left last winter. Ben Zobrist was their first replacement choice, but they were never going to afford him. GM Sandy Alderson let Murphy walk for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which Dilson Herrera as their fall back. Well, Herrera now is in Cincinnati’s farm system.

If they let Walker go as they did Murphy, they will be forced to find a second baseman. Will they go outside? Will it be Wilmer Flores, whom they never want to give a fair chance? Will it be Jose Reyes? Will they bring back Kelly Johnson or try Matt Reynolds?

Whoever they choose, it’s unlikely he’ll match Walker’s production, which will become even more important should Yoenis Cespedes leave and David Wright doesn’t recover. What Walker did Sunday is to remind us how important he has been to the Mets and fragility of their offense.

As has been the case with the Mets a lot lately, the game boiled down to the late innings. Manager Terry Collins pulled Jacob deGrom with the bases loaded, two outs and a one-run lead in the seventh, but Jerry Blevins couldn’t keep Detroit from tying the game and the Mets were in danger of being swept and falling further behind in the wild-card race.

However, the Tigers ran themselves out of the eighth inning to set up Walker’s 19th homer, a drive well into the right-field seats that carried the Mets to a 3-1 victory.

After a sizzling April, Walker went into a dismal slump, but regained his stroke after the All-Star break and took a .489 stretch (22-for-45) into the game. With Cespedes basically a non-entity since early July, Walker kept the Mets afloat; he has three homers and nine RBI over his last dozen games.

Walker approached his at-bat against Francisco Rodriguez wanting to get a fastball early and stay away from the closer’s put-away changeup.

“You hope he leaves something up in the zone and that’s what I got,” Walker said. “With most closers you want to get to them early [in the count] because they have a devastating out pitch.”

Considering the Mets’ overall lack of prowess hitting with RISP and their injuries, one shudders to think where they would be without Walker. For one thing, it’s doubtful they would be three games over .500.

Walker has been crucial to the Mets’ hanging around, and as dismal as they have played, they are one good week from getting a foothold in the wild card race. They are currently nine games behind Washington in the NL East, so that boat is pulling out of the harbor. Still, the wild card is possible, as they trail the second slot by 1.5 games.

Walker’s homer was the headline of the day for the Mets, followed by deGrom’s start and my favorite Ernie Harwell story.

DE GROM START WASTED: The only real concern the Mets have with deGrom is not being able to score runs for him. Sunday marked the 11th time in his short career in which he gave up one or fewer runs and the Mets didn’t give him more than one run.

DeGrom had a 1-0 lead entering the seventh, but the Tigers loaded the bases on Justin Upton’s single, a walk to James McCann and Andrew Romine’s squibber that died near the third base line. Enter Blevins, who was greeted by Ian Kinsler’s weak chopper past the mound to tie the game and ensure deGrom’s seventh no-decision.

Collins said he thought deGrom was losing it after the walk when asked why he didn’t let him finish. For his part, deGrom said, “it was probably the right call,” to pull him.

As for Kinsler’s hit, deGrom said: “You’re trying to get weak contact there or a strikeout. It was a little too weak. It’s all part of the game.”

Fortunately for the Mets, on this day it wasn’t the definitive part of the game.

MY FAVORITE HARWELL STORY:  This series in Detroit reminds me of the late Tigers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster, Ernie Harwell, will always be one of my favorite people I’ve met in sports.

I always heard about his kindness, but experienced it first hand by his selfless gesture toward me in the Tigers’ clubhouse years ago. I was just starting out covering the Indians at the time when I ventured into the Tigers’ clubhouse to get a Kirk Gibson quote.

I waited patiently until the circle around Gibson was breaking up when I approached him. He looked at me and gruffly said, “I’m done for the day,’’ then turned his back. I was more than a little miffed when a TV guy stuck his mike in Gibson’s face. What could I do, show Gibson my resume and clips portfolio?

“What the hell?” I thought. Harwell saw this and walked up to me and said, “Don’t worry about it. That happens all the time.”

I always remembered that and remained grateful for Harwell’s compassion and kindness. He didn’t know me and didn’t have to do that, but that was Ernie.

When I was covering the Yankees I always made it a point to visit with him whenever I was in Detroit.

He was the best. The very best.

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Aug 03

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Goes From Golf Course To DL

With how the Mets played Wednesday, it’s as if they fell out of an Ugly Tree and hit every branch on the way down. The thud at the end was the sound of Yoenis Cespedes landing on the disabled list with a strained right quad, a move that should have been made weeks ago.

The Mets were counting on the combination of Cespedes and Jay Bruce jumpstarting their stagnant offense, but they went a combined 1-for-9 with three strikeouts in a 9-5 loss at Yankee Stadium, including 0-for-4 with RISP. The number I don’t have is what Cespedes shot during his 18 holes earlier in the day.

CESPEDES: Goes on DL ... finally. (AP)

CESPEDES: Goes on DL … finally. (AP)

Manager Terry Collins said prior to the game he was OK with Cespedes playing golf the day of a game despite the Mets’ efforts to keep him off his feet and preserve his energy since the All-Star break.

“Was he running on the course or was he walking? Did he ride a cart or was he jogging?” Collins told reporters “I don’t have any problem with it.”

This wasn’t the first time Cespedes’ penchant for golfing had been an issue. Cespedes golfed the day of Game 4 of the NLCS, then left the game with a shoulder injury. Collins didn’t have a problem with it then, either.

Collins and the Mets mishandled Cespedes’ injury from the beginning. The first mistake was playing him out of position in center. The injury occurred in early July when Cespedes misplayed a ball hit over his head and landed awkwardly.

Sure, it could have happened in left, but what happened later is where the Mets blew it. The Mets didn’t put him on the DL at the time and opted to wait until after the All-Star break, but did nothing when it was clear Cespedes was hurting.

The Mets weren’t hitting, but hoped Cespedes would run into a pitch, like he did against St. Louis, but that moment was lost in Jeurys Familia‘s first blown save.

Collins pointed to these five DH games as a chance to use Cespedes’ bat and keep him off the field. So, what did Collins do? He foolishly used him as a pinch-hitter Tuesday and Cespedes aggravated the quad with an awkward swing.

After Tuesday’s game, Cespedes said he felt something, so he did the responsible thing and played golf Wednesday – with the photos on the Internet – and was given a pass by Collins.

Others though different.

“You’re being rested for a reason,” said SNY analyst Nelson Figueroa. “When they are trying to give you time off, you shouldn’t be on a golf course.”

Added Bobby Valentine: “He should be worried about his RBI’s not his handicap. He’s a paid professional in one sport. … He’s in New York, he shouldn’t do it.”

Whether he used a cart or not is irrelevant. When you play 18 holes you’re still spending a lot of time on your feet and your legs get tired. Then to play a baseball game later is draining.

“I think the best option is just rest, about 10 days or so,” Cespedes told reporters through an interpreter. “Because if I continue playing hurt, I’m never going to recover.”

Too bad Mets GM Sandy Alderson, who brought up Brandon Nimmo to replace Cespedes, couldn’t figure that out weeks ago.

Cespedes injury was clearly the story of the night and will continue to be for a long time.

The other storylines were Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira being hit by a Steven Matz pitch to almost ignite a brawl, then getting in the head of reliever Hansel Robles. That came after the news Lucas Duda had a setback in his back rehab and will probably be lost for the rest of the season.

TEIXEIRA vs. METS PITCHERS:  Matz had a rough start, giving up six runs in six innings, including a homer by Teixeira. The damage was done in the first two innings, but Matz regrouped to retire 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.

The one he didn’t was Teixeira, who was plunked on the leg. It was clear Matz wasn’t throwing at Teixeira, because he immediately turned his back to the plate. When a pitcher intentionally hits a batter he doesn’t turn his back because he doesn’t want to give the hitter a free run at him.

Collins said there was no intent.

“We know Steven Matz wasn’t throwing at anybody,” Collins said. “If his command is that good we wouldn’t have been behind 6-3.”

Even so, to Teixeira perception was reality.

“I know Matz is a good kid,” Teixeira said. “`I’ve talked to him a few times. But listen, when you hit a home run and the next pitch is not even close and hits you it just looks bad. So I just told him, I didn’t appreciate it.”

And, Robles didn’t appreciate Teixeira when the Yankees blew open the game in the seventh inning. When Teixeira was on second, Robles became incensed because he thought he was stealing signs. Robles became angrier when Teixeira mocked him, even to the point where he laughed and pretended to give a set of signs.

“I’ve never gotten inside someone’s head by standing there,” Teixeira said. “After three or four pitches, I realize he’s staring at me. I was trying to have some fun with him. If you think I have your signs, then change your signs.”

Collins conceded Teixeira wasn’t doing anything, but Robles was still upset.

“I think he was trying to pick up signs,” Robles said. “That’s not the way you play baseball. … Just play baseball, you don’t need to pick up signs.”

DUDA HAS SETBACK:  Duda, who had been on the DL since May 23 with a stress fracture in his lower back, was still feeling discomfort and was re-examined by Los Angeles-based orthopedic surgeon Robert Watkins, who suggested 30 days rest. After that, figuring another two to three weeks of rehab, then you’re talking the end of the season.

Duda is making $6.75 million this year. There’s a good chance the Mets will non-tender him in December. The clear option is to bring back James Loney next season, but Alderson said it is possible Michael Conforto or Bruce might be tested at first.

Yeah, that will work.

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