Oct 02

Things Still On The Line For Mets Against Nationals


For much of this season, the Mets pointed to this weekend’s series against the Nationals as critical to getting into the playoffs. Nobody thought it might be essential to get their heads screwed on straight. After mauling Cincinnati in four games to clinch the NL East, the Mets are scrambling to regain their sharpness after being swept in three games by the Phillies.

COLLINS:  Needs to make motivate his team. (AP)

COLLINS: Needs to make motivate his team. (AP)

After sweeping the Reds, manager Terry Collins projected a lull in his team’s adrenalin flow. He said yesterday he needs to channel his inner Knute Rockne.

“If you’ve been down this path, you knew that there was going to be an energy drain,’’ Collins said. “We always have a little scout meeting before the series and I will try to give my `A’ speech.’’

It’s not as if the Mets won’t have motivation as they are can still secure home field advantage in the NLDS with the Dodgers. The Mets’ 3-0 loss Thursday in Philadelphia coupled with the Dodgers’ 3-2 victory in San Francisco, leave the teams each with 89-70 records. However, the Mets hold the tiebreaker after winning the season series with the Dodgers, going 2-1 in Los Angeles and 2-2 at Citi Field.

Collins blamed pitching for the Mets’ showing in Philadelphia, but the offense is off its game, having scored only three runs in their last 18 innings.

Friday’s game is rained out, and will be made up as part of a doubleheader Saturday. The extra day might give Yoenis Cespedes a chance for his two bruised fingers on his left hand to heal enough so he can play. He would not have played Friday. The extra day could also help infielder Wilmer Flores‘s stiff lower back. It is questionable how much he’ll play this weekend.

Collins said his starters – Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard – will be limited to 80 to 90 pitches – but will he deviate with home field on the line? Syndergaard will start the day game Saturday and Harvey the night game while deGrom goes Sunday.

Collins isn’t concerned about the possibility of having to play a doubleheader – that’s almost expected – but hopes the Mets won’t have to play a make-up game Monday.

However, in looking at the big picture that won’t matter because regardless of what happens this weekend, the Mets will still be playing next week.

Sep 24

What’s Mets’ October Thinking On Matz?

The Mets’ magic number is down to three games following tonight’s victory in Cincinnati, but getting a step closer to the postseason for the first time since 2006 doesn’t mean they are any closer to setting Steven Matz‘s playoff role.

Matz hasn’t lost in six career starts, but hasn’t been as good as he was prior to going on the disabled list in early July. Tonight the Reds hit him for three runs on 10 hits in 5.2 innings, in which he threw 93 pitches. The damage against him would have been greater had he not struck out eight.

MATZ: How will he be used? (Getty)

MATZ: How will he be used? (Getty)

Matz has a power left arm and a bright future, but does that future include a spot in the playoff rotation? He’ll make the playoff roster, but his role hasn’t been announced. We just know he’ll be there.

I’m thinking there are four potential roles for him:

* He could be one of four starters, with the others being Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. This would leave bullpen roles for Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese.

* Because of the uncertainty surrounding Harvey with his innings, Matz could be in the rotation along with Niese or Colon, with Harvey coming out to the bullpen. This would work when Harvey would come out to start an inning.

Because of the mystery surrounding this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets already know they might leave Harvey off the playoff roster, and in that case Matz would likely get the starting spot.

* Again, because of Harvey’s innings issue, if he is to pitch half-games in the playoffs, perhaps he could be used as the second arm in the game to pitch in short relief.

* Finally, because of injury questions with relievers Carlos Torres and Tyler Clippard, Matz could be utilized as a situational lefty or as the seventh inning specialist.

The wild card in all this is Harvey’s innings. Even without Harvey, or with him in a reduced role, the Mets have more of a need in the bullpen than in the rotation.


Sep 22

Who Are The Targets Of Collins’ Anger?

It was obvious manager Terry Collins is disturbed, angry and frustrated with the Matt Harvey situation, but for some writers and blogs that are writing his angst is directed at the situation and not one individual is taking the easy way out. There are plenty of people Collins should be annoyed with, but he’s not saying because he’s too low on the food chain. Let me do that for him.

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

COLLINS: Looks concerned and should be. (AP)

As I wrote yesterday, Harvey’s innings won’t keep the Mets from getting into the playoffs. After last night only a collapse of historic proportions would keep them out. Collins’ anger is justified, and some of it should be directed at himself.

Here’s where Collins’ anger should be aimed:

SANDY ALDERSON: The biggest bullseye has to be on GM Sandy Alderson’s back for not having a definitive plan for Harvey coming out of spring training. He also gets heat for not standing up to Harvey. I understand the uncertainty of innings vs. pitches and the concept of “stressful innings.” That’s not the point. The point is the Mets had a vague idea of measuring his workload with innings. So be it.

Had Alderson TOLD Harvey his limit would be six innings, this would be a moot point, including for the playoffs. With that limit, Harvey’s thrown 25.1 extra innings of his 176.2 innings (after the sixth and including the sore throat game). If the limit had been seven innings, then he’s five over (again including the sore throat game). But when your general manager is afraid to stand up to the pitcher, these things happen.

Alderson acting surprised is ridiculous, because he had to have known the limit prescribed by Dr. Andrews. Playing dumb after agent Scott Boras’ e-mail was, well, just dumb. Also, Alderson saying he didn’t think the playoffs would be an issue this year is blatantly absurd. After all, when Harvey went down for 2014, Alderson pointed to this season as to when the Mets would be competitive. And, being competitive includes making the playoffs, especially when the idea of 90 wins are thrown out.

The bottom line is Alderson’s responsibility is to put the best team on the field, and he’s not doing that by putting Harvey’s health on the line and not giving Collins the best chance to win. Collins must also be disturbed at his general manager for consistently undercutting him. While Collins was taking heat for defending the organization’s stance, Alderson was freelancing and at a public function said if Harvey’s “pitch count” was lower he could have stayed in.

On national TV, Collins told ESPN Harvey had one more inning. Yet, Alderson was counting pitches. Well, which is it? Again, “the game’s smartest general manager,” according to his biographer has complicated things.

MATT HARVEY: For being such a diva overall, and initially for not disclosing his injury in 2013. Harvey wasn’t open with the medical staff when he first suffered pain in his forearm. Not only did he hide it, but pitched with it. The result was Tommy John surgery. Sure, I understand he wants to pitch, but you have to be smart and he wasn’t.

Had the Mets immediately given Harvey an MRI at the time and shut him down, all this might have been alleviated.

Collins should also be angry with Harvey’s unwillingness to stick with the program. From the initial injury, to wanting to avoid surgery, to where he would rehab, to wanting to pitch last year, to fighting the six-man rotation, Harvey has been a pain.

And, once again, Boras works for Harvey, and the player knows what the agent is going to say. Harvey knew Boras was going to mention the innings limits, and allowed him to do so because he figured most media (SNY for example), would rip the agent and give him a free pass. Harvey was stunned at the criticism.

THE WILPONS: Harvey is one of their most important commodities, and they should have told him to stop complaining and get with a program. They could have also leaned on Alderson to give him the message. It also would have helped had ownership not been so driven to showcase him in the 2013 All-Star Game and been more concerned with the big picture.

HIMSELF: Collins is a baseball lifer and for the first time the playoffs are within his grasp, and with them a likely contract extension. He’s not going to take the shotgun approach. This isn’t the time for him to point fingers and blow this opportunity.

Here’s where this fiasco is partly Collins’ fault. Against what should have been his better judgment, Collins allowed Harvey to pitch in the sore throat game (April 19) and work into the ninth inning in a blowout win over the Yankees, April 25. He threw 8.2 innings in those two games. Had he stood up to his pitcher this could be a lesser issue, at least as far as the regular season is concerned.

SNY: They have continually blamed Boras for having an agenda, but the truth is the network also had an agenda, which was to be kind to the Mets and paint Harvey as the victim, which he is not. For as objective as the network is during its in-game coverage, all hands dropped the ball on this one.

I expected more from Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, especially since they know of the working relationship between the player and his agent. They knew Boras didn’t spring anything on Harvey.


All these forces conspired to fan the flames at Collins, The Wilpons are keeping a low profile; when he does speak Alderson does it clipped tones; and after his first press conference, Harvey is in full cliche mode.

However, Collins is there night after night. It’s going to get frustrating. The surprise is he didn’t let loose earlier. But, there’s more. The Mets haven’t announced a playoff plan for Harvey. I’m speculating they’ll hold him back or severely limit him, neither which will go over well.

Jul 15

Frazier Not Coming

Sure it would be a great story. But, I hate to rain on your parade, but Todd Frazier’s recent visit to Citi Field will be his only one this year. There’s no way the Mets will trade for Cincinnati’s All-Star third baseman.

Not happening, and for the same reasons we’ve always known. The Mets won’t trade their young stud pitchers, and without them there’s not enough chips to offer.

If the Reds were smart they’d sign him long-term, but let’s assume they aren’t and Frazier enters the free-agent market after the 2016 season. Well, he’ll be one of those guys who could break the bank. And, if the Mets live up to their reputation, they won’t be writing any checks.

Frazier, at 29, is having a marvelous season, and with David Wright, 32, having played at least 150 games only twice since 2008, he would be a terrific addition. Trouble is, a lot of other teams would think the same thing.


Jul 02

Collins Will Take Hit From Failures By Alderson And Ownership

The Mets’ Terry Collins isn’t a great manager, but far from a terrible one. The hitting slump continued today as the Mets scored only one run in being swept by the Chicago Cubs, which erased any positive thoughts garnered from sweeping the Reds.

April’s 11-game winning streak is forgotten; archived in Mets’ trivia.

ALDERSON: His manager is on the hot seat. (AP)

ALDERSON: His manager is on the hot seat. (AP)

With the Mets not hitting, there was nothing Jacob deGrom could do, although he was lucky he didn’t break his hand or a couple of fingers when he punched out a water cooler. That would have been typical Mets, wouldn’t it?

Collins told reporters after the game, “we have to lighten up a bit. … More guys fail in this game from fear than they do a lack of talent.”

Although Collins remains supportive of his team – and his players generally play hard for him – radio talk shows roast him on a regular basis, and stories are percolating about his future. One writer I greatly respect, Newsday’s David Lennon, did so in Thursday’s editions, and nailed it when he said pressure on Collins is “not fair, or right … but it’s reality.’’

Also reality is Collins isn’t getting help from ownership or general manager Sandy Alderson, who said in his book – that proclaimed him as the game’s smartest general manager – he didn’t have any confidence in his manager.

Nice, huh? What a way to instill confidence in your team. You say stuff like that when the manager is not under your employ. Do you think that didn’t go unnoticed by the players? It will certainly be brought up when the ax falls on Collins.

The Mets, a team whose rotation was largely put together by former general manager Omar Minaya, is good enough to win most games with even a little support. They haven’t gotten much, if any, this year. Of their 40 losses, 21 have been by two or fewer runs. They have been shut out nine times; and 29 times (including wins) scored two or fewer runs.

Yeah, that’s Collins’ fault.

Shouldn’t we instead dish blame on the Wilpons for not allowing for a budget needed to acquire a top-drawer hitter? Especially considering they received positive nods in the courts – not to mention a $167 million windfall – in the Madoff case.

Or, how about Alderson, whose only offensive acquisition of quality, was the project Curtis Granderson? The Mets have also had a long line of hitting coaches – they haven’t had a collective clue at the plate since firing Rick Down – with Kevin Long the latest not to reach them.

Yes, the Mets have had injuries, but all teams do. Washington has arguably been hit harder.

Ultimately it comes down to the players.

Collins can’t hit for his players, and as hard as he tries to pound fundamentals into them, it just hasn’t sunk in. Too many strikeouts, not enough walks, not enough situational hitting, and too many wasted at-bats.

The Mets’ team batting average is a league-low .232 by nine points. They have a paltry .297 on-base percentage. I don’t need any of the new sexy stats to tell me how badly they’ve hit. I see it with my own eyes.

Including today, they’ve scored 277 runs (3.4 a game). The Mets have also struck out 620 times (7.7).

No worries, things should be better when the Mets go into Los Angeles and face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Then, it’s on to San Francisco where they get Chris Heston, who threw a no-hitter at them at Citi Field, and Matt Cain.

By that time, they could be four games under .500, maybe more, heading into the All-Star break. Perhaps by then Alderson would make a trade or two, only as a seller and not a buyer.

Collins will eventually take the fall for Alderson’s inability to put a representative team on the field. Alderson wasn’t able to fill the void created by Wright’s injury. For years now, Alderson failed to bring in any quality hitters – or even one.

Instead, Alderson has worked on his comedy routine – several times at the expense of Wilmer Flores – with his latest quip calling the media and fans “residents of Panic City.’’

Of course, the condescending Alderson was telling us we’re not as smart as him. Sandy, I might not be able to build a watch, but I can tell time.

And, what you’re doing isn’t working.

If Collins goes, you should, also.